video, podcastNovember 13 2019

Black Software

Charlton McIlwain

Databite No. 125

NYU Professor Charlton McIlwain shares African Americans’ role in the Internet’s creation and evolution, illuminating both the limits and possibilities for using digital technology to push for racial justice in the United States and across the globe.



McIlwain’s book Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter shows that the story of racial justice movement organizing online is much longer and varied than most people know. In fact, it spans nearly five decades and involves a varied group of engineers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, journalists, and activists. But this is a history that is virtually unknown, even in our current age of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Black Lives Matter. From the 1960s to present, the book examines how computing technology has been used to neutralize the threat that black people pose to the existing racial order, but also how black people seized these new computing tools to build community, build wealth, and wage a war for racial justice.

This event was hosted by Data & Society Faculty Fellow Anita Say Chan.

Charlton McIlwain is Vice Provost of Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University, and Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU’s Steinhardt School. Dr. McIlwain’s scholarly work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He is also the Founder of the Center for Critical Race & Digital Studies, and in addition to Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter (Oxford University Press), he is the co-author of the award-winning book, Race Appeal: How Political Candidates Invoke Race In U.S. Political Campaigns.

About Databites

Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.