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CITP Seminar: Charlton McIlwain – Dreams of (Black) Tech Futures Past

Tuesday, March 9, 2021
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
Photo Charlton McIlwain

Video available here.

This is what could have been. If the computer geeks at MIT in 1960 had just held on just a little while longer with the Mississippi freedom riders. If uprisings in Watts, and Detroit, and Newark and Kansas City did not make Black people the computing revolution’s first problem to solve. If Black people had averted the collision between civil rights and computing technology that Willard Wirtz once predicted. If Black people had bothered to seriously engage Roy Wilkins’ admonition to “computerize the race problem.” This talk will walk the attendees through the alternative black technological futures that some had already begun to imagine and design more than fifty years ago. Who, what and why were those futures foreclosed upon, and how did they impact the tech present? Can Black people still salvage our former technological dreams to imagine – and realize – a different kind of Black future?


Charlton McIlwain is the vice provost for faculty engagement and development at New York University (NYU). Charlton leads NYU’s Center for Faculty Advancement, which provides programming, resources, and special recognitions and awards that promote faculty research, teaching, mentorship, community engagement, and academic leadership development for NYU faculty, as well as those faculty with whom we collaborate through our Faculty Resource Network.

Charlton oversees the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology, which brings together NYU’s faculty experts to collaborate with each other and with partners in the public and private sectors on the ethical creation, use, and governance of technology in society, and is NYU’s Designee to the New America/Ford Foundation sponsored Public Interest Technology-University Network. In addition to these specific duties, he works closely with the Vice Provost’s team and the offices of ResearchWork LifeTeaching & Learning with TechnologyAcademic AppointmentsProgram & Project Management ServicesHuman ResourcesEqual OpportunityGlobal Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic InnovationNYU Libraries, and others to ensure that our faculty have access to all available resources at NYU to advance their professional goals.

Charlton has been at NYU since 2001. As a professor of media, culture, and communication at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, his scholarly work focuses on the intersections of race, digital media, and racial justice activism. He is the founder of the Center for Critical Race and Digital Studies and the author of the new book, Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, by Oxford University Press. He also co-authored the award-winning book, Race Appeal: How Political Candidates Invoke Race In U.S. Political Campaigns. He received his doctoral degree in communication and a master’s degree in human relations, both from the University of Oklahoma, and a bachelor’s degree in family psychology from Oklahoma Baptist University.

To request accommodations for a disability please contact Jean Butcher, , at least one week prior to the event.