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Benjamin Todd Jealous: ‘Du Bois Would Use Digital Media and Mobile Technology to Do What He Did in His Prime’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Benjamin Todd Jealous. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

W.E.B. DuBois was a communicator’s communicator. He was a master of words, but also a master of the medium. The offices of The Crisis were located in the joint home of The Nation magazine and the New York Evening Post. If DuBois were reporting to work today, he would undoubtedly recognize that the center of the media universe has now shifted to our computers and our phones.

I have no doubt that DuBois would use digital media and mobile technology to do what he did in his prime – reach out, inspire, unify and activate members of the black community and people of good conscience of all colors. This has been one of the NAACP’s priorities in recent years, and our web and mobile activists have swelled from 175,000 to 600,000. 

The digital transformation has made the world smaller and divisions more traversable. What was slow is now fast; what was closed is now open and accessible to all. This transformation has made possibilities for social change and movements both greater and closer at hand.
DuBois would have taken advantage of the ability to organize state by state rather than block by block or community by community. Rallies can now be coordinated simultaneously in cities across the country – and across the world. It is significantly more difficult for discrimination or police abuse to be hidden, and once exposed these individual cases have greater potential to be a catalyst for change.

DuBois would also have recognized that adapting to this modern world means meeting people where they are. In a conversation whose pace is set by 140-character missives, symbolism takes on new importance. How many young people became anti-death penalty activists after tweeting out #IAmTroyDavis? How many took another look at racial profiling after seeing their friends dressed in a hoodie and holding a bag of skittles?

The new digital landscape has its pitfalls. Subtlety can be a victim when messages are designed for mass consumption. Also, some people may consider their community service finished when they share a friend’s Facebook status. We must rise to the challenge in the same way that DuBois would have. First, create new activists by reaching them where they are. Next, use the age-old organizing techniques pioneered by DuBois and Walter White – and the wide network of NAACP branches that they helped create – to engage new activists one by one and create a new generation of civil rights leaders.

Finally, DuBois would have been intrigued about the prospect of a 24-hour TV news cycle but disappointed in its current form. More hours of news should translate to deeper coverage of pressing issues around race, poverty and inequality. Yet many cable news channels fill much of their airtime with sensationalism, soft news and surface-level investigations into our nation’s institutional failures, often failing in their duty as the fourth estate. Moreover, there is a severe lack of voices of color in primetime slots or Sunday shows – though Melissa Harris Perry, Roland Martin and Al Sharpton are beginning to fill that gap.

– Benjamin Todd Jealous

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the 17th President and CEO of the NAACP.

Hon. Michael Copps: ‘I Believe His Reaction Would Be One of Anger’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Hon. Michael Copps. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

I believe his reaction would be one of anger. Anger that his country is languishing within sight of the very technologies that could usher in a new era for all our citizens. Anger that we are still not much more than an outlier among the nations of the world in getting the most opportunity-creating technology since the invention of the printing press out to all of our citizens — no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives. 

Broadband is the essential infrastructure of the Twenty-first century, no matter if we are in an industrial or a post-industrial era. Citizens cannot  find work without it, educate their children without it, care for their health without it, start small businesses without it, open the doors of opportunity without it. Nor can nations compete — or regain their footing, as in our case –without ubiquitous broadband deployment and adoption. This is a civil rights issue — perhaps the preemiment one confronting us right now, because the outcome of so many other grteat challenges resides on how we deal with this one. 

Du Bois would have recognized this. We should recognize it, too. We have at our hands a tool that can create opportunity, prosper our nation, and advance democracy. We need proactive policies to make it happen–now. But it won’t happen without a lot more pressure from the grassroots, civil rights organizations, and advocacy organizations than we have seen thus far.  That sounds like a call to action to me.

– Hon. Michael Copps

Hon. Michael Copps
is Common Cause’s Senior Advisor for our Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. From 2001 to 2011 he served as a member of the Federal Communications Commission. Read recent, relevant blog posts by Copps here at the Benton Foundation website.

Manuel Castells: ‘Digital Culture, Because it is the Culture of the Youth, Offers a Tremendous Opportunity’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Manuel Castells. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

Dear Ernie,

The theme is well taken, and timely, and the substance is most interesting and to the point. As you mention, this is not only for African Americans, this is for a reconstruction of intellectual leadership in the digital age. But of course, the challenge is particularly important for the African American community, given the long history of stereotypes and exclusion in the media world.

The structure of the lecture is clear, and takes one after the other the most important issues. The last one, though, is less clear. What do you mean exactly by the new role of culture in the Google age? How this affects traditional cultural expressions? What I would add is that a critical issue for the African American intellectuals has been to be tempted by integration in the dominant white elite at the expense of communication links with their own community, particularly with the poor communities and with the youth.

Of course Black separatism has already been shown as a dead end, but the issue remains of how to create links between African American intellectual leaders, who are leaders for society at large, not just for African Americans, and their community of reference. I would argue that digital culture, because it is the culture of the youth, offers a tremendous opportunity to connect high culture of AA intellectuals with the pop culture of AA youth. In other words, there is a flexibility of language and themes in the digital culture that broadens the potential reach of cultural innovation and leadership beyond the boundaries of formatted culture in academia and traditional media. In a certain way, what [Henry] Jenkins calls transmedia can be at the same time culturally specific and bridging beyond a given cultural matrix. Flexibility, communicability, remix, hybridization, all this offers the possibility of being specifically AA and networked and mixed with cultural manifestations of all origins.

This comment is in continuity with your main perspective, this is bringing the AA intellectual into the digital age. I think this is a very original perspective, goes beyond the platitude of the digital divide for minorities (obvious, but simple as a problem to deal with in policy terms) and introduces the key question of how to tackle a much deeper divide, this is the consumption of a digital culture that does not represent the experience of the AA community except in a ghettoized expression for blacks only. The new frontier is the remix of experiences that is offered by the digital culture, so superseding the dichotomy between racialized identity and dilution of cultural specificity.


Manuel Castells is University Professor and the Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communication Technology and Society at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles. He is Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, and holds joint appointments in the Department of Sociology, in the School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and in the School of International Relations.

John Brooks Slaughter: ‘An Inability to Be an Active Participant… Is Tantamount to 21st Century Apartheid’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from John Brooks Slaughter. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

Dr. Du Bois would be astonished by the rapid growth and evolution of the information and communication technologies. He would derive satisfaction from the knowledge that black scientists and engineers like Mark Dean, holder of three of the nine original patents for the IBM PC, and Juan Gilbert, chair of Human-Centered Computing at Clemson University, are internationally recognized leaders in their fields. But he would be dismayed by the relative paucity of producers of technology and the persistent under-representation of students and practitioners in science and technology from the African American community.

W.E.B. Du Bois would view the continuing socio-economic divide that afflicts millions of people of color in America as a potentially insurmountable barrier to technological equality. The problems of limited access to state-of-the-art technology coupled with inadequate levels of skills development plagues many poor and minority communities and relegates them to a future of falling further and further behind. An inability to be an active participant in a global society in which commerce, education, employment, political engagement, and social interaction increasingly demands a level of proficiency in adapting to and using modern information and communication technologies is tantamount to 21st Century apartheid. 

He would recognize that the uneven distribution of wealth in this country has a severely negative impact upon the preparedness of the poor and many minority students for college and for their retention to graduation. They are far more likely to come from less well-educated families, to attend the worst schools, to be taught by the least capable teachers and to suffer from the low expectations imposed upon them by society. Fewer than half of them will graduate from high school and those who do go on to college are far more likely to enroll in a two-year school than a four-year one.

Du Bois would be greatly disappointed to realize that there is an absence of a nationwide dialogue among African American communities on raising awareness and developing strategies to reverse the trend leading to a bigger and deeper digital divide. He would engage himself in efforts to counter the indifference and reluctance of could-be leaders, the “talented tenth”, in the African American communities in order to mobilize them to assist those communities in gaining access to information and communications assets, training in their use, and resources for entrepreneurship in the production of relevant and marketable content and artifacts. 

He would encourage these communities to take full advantage of the current national commitment to STEM education (which will not last forever as we learned from the post-Sputnik experience) and guide K-12 students toward more math and science courses in order to prepare them for college educations and possible careers in science or engineering. 

This latter effort will help to serve as an antidote to the reality that only four percent of African American high school graduates have taken sufficient numbers and levels of math and science to pursue one of the STEM disciplines when they reach college.

– John Brooks Slaughter, Ph.D., P.E.

John Brooks Slaughter was the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Chancellor of the University of Maryland, and the President of Occidental College. He is a Professor of Education at Rossier School of Education and Professor of Engineering at Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California.

Adam Clayton Powell III: ‘What a Post-Obama Era Means for African Americans — and Not Just in Technology’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Adam Clayton Powell III. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

Hi Ernie,

Especially for lecture 2, but across all of them, you could claim to launch a discussion of what a post-Obama era means for African Americans — and not just in technology.

Obviously the President is term-limited, and there are no black Presidential candidates in sight. But beyond that, his political victory — and coalition — is dependent in large part on the incompetence of his adversaries. For example, note Andy Kohut’s assertion that Romney is the weakest presidential candidate in recent history (see this column).

In the future, which starts with the 2013 elections, African Americans cannot count on such weakness among those who would impede or reverse our interests.

Add to that the growing political strength of Latinos. And there are now more Asian American voters than African American voters in California, Oregon and Washington. Both groups abandoned the GOP this year but could return to a pre-2012 in the future. And the percentage of African Americans voting will presumably decline with a white candidate at the top of the ticket.

So what does that mean for African Americans and for America?

I look forward to your exploring this question!


Adam Clayton Powell III is a Senior Fellow, USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy University Fellow, USC Center on Public Diplomacy University of Southern California

Taj Frazier: An Evolving Media Environment Open To Black Republicans, Crunk Feminist Collectives And Many Others

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Taj Frazier. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

In his last decade, Du Bois conveyed an extreme frustration with the state of American dominant media. He argued that by way of “suppression of truth, omission of facts, misinterpretation of news, and deliberate falsehood on a wide scale,” media institutions misled the American public and cultivated a media environment monopolized by private corporations and political dole. “Mass capitalistic control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution, radio, cinema,” he asserted, “den[ied] knowledge of truth to the average man” and rendered “democratic government nearly impossible.” These shifts were producing an American public “with no opinions…not prescribed by the gospel, according to Life, Time, and Fortune.”

Du Bois maintained that this media landscape alongside the increasing power of American big business, and Americans’ adherence to discourses of American exceptionalism and US globalism abroad was vanquishing the radical politics of black cultural production and political critique. The defense of black Americans’ civil and more importantly human rights required a global outlook and a commitment to ensuring both social and economic justice. But Du Bois added that this could only come through the development of a global proletariat movement led by the “darker races of the world,” a collective body that came to embody Du Bois’s historical materialist, Third World, “global model of race. In this formulation, people of Asian and African descent were encouraged “to close ranks against” into “Pan-Colored” partnership.   

Considering this argument from a contemporary view compels an investigator to rethink what the call for a “pan-colored partnership” and more robust, global black public sphere might mean in an age of digital technologies, the Internet, and social media. Du Bois’ “pan-colored” proposal brings into question what is meant by “black issues”? For instance, does this mean only issues that impact bodies identified as black? Over the past two decades, as black Americans have become an ever more active and knowledgeable demographic within the use of the aforementioned communication technologies the intellectual spaces of past media formations of the black public sphere have experienced vast change. Numerous black sites and sources of information and exchange are now dominantly reliant on multinational capital for outreach, finance, and distribution—an industry model that to some extent clashes with past generation black media’s goals of autonomy, self-reliance, self-determination, and public service and which suggests that increasing numbers of these media sources are not black owned.

As various scholars have noted, black production, adaptation, and usage of Internet technology alone have nonetheless led to a boom in numerous black virtual communities, communal spaces organized along more plural axis of membership and what blackness constitutes. What emerges is an evolving media environment open to different formations of race, gender, and class, where black Republicans, diasporic hip hop activists and journalists, black baby boomer bloggers, Crunk feminist collectives, Afro-punk musicians and fans, radical black political standpoints, and scholars and writers interested in the intersection of race and media, and others can be in dialogue and can engage in grassroots and international organizing. Also significant is that these spaces are organized around what Anna Everett describes as the “technological hybridization of speech or orality (conversation) and literacy (writing),” as well as visuality and sonic aesthetics, where neither is privileged over the other but rather operates through aesthetical fusion. Through this system, black users and producers, she explains, build on “various traditions of black technocultural syncretisms.” 

Moreover, Du Bois’ “pan-colored” push for a transnational geopolitics of race suggests a landscape of information and knowledge where black Americans are concerned about world relations, that is to say where they view the global terrain as composed of collectives whose problems are not disconnected but rather interrelated and shared. It is the cultivation of a global praxis, namely a politics and critical consciousness grounded in developing an evolving analysis and engagement of the interaction and imbrications of the local and the global. Despite corporate domination and expansion of this evolving digital and social media landscape, the aforementioned contemporary examples are part of growing waves of efforts to demystify and diversify the racial and cultural landscape of digital media and engage the reality of a multicultural world. As Everett again notes, “Not only do national borders increasingly disappear in cyberspace, they are replaced by new kinship structures.”  But it is also important to interrogate the role the Internet’s participatory culture plays in enabling particular problematic ideas about race, racial difference, and the nation to proliferate and become widely accepted. As scholar Yuezhi Zhao notes, the Internet has played a leading role in “the reemergence of nationalistic consciousness” throughout the world. Critical reflection over how individuals and groups perform their national, racial, gender and class identities online can thus produce more meaningful opportunities to unpack how cybernationalism, racism, and hegemony are articulated and legitimized.

– Taj Frazier

Robeson Taj P. Frazier is an assistant professor in the School of Communication at USC Annenberg.  His research and teaching examine race, cross cultural exchange and traffic, social movements, and popular culture.

Essay References:

Anna Everett, “The Revolution Will Be Digitized: Afrocentricity and the Digital Public Sphere,” Social Text, 71 (Volume 20, Number 2), Summer 2002, pp. 125-146.

Yuezhi Zhao. Communication in China: Political Economy, Power, and Conflict. (Lanham: Maryland, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008).

Patricia Aufderheide: Du Bois Would Revise His Famed Sentence From ‘The Souls of Black Folks’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Patricia Aufderheide. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

1.What do you think Dr. Du Bois’ reactions would be to our transition from an industrial to a post-industrial, networked knowledge society? How has the introduction of new social media and other communication technologies affected the African American community?

“I think he would note that technology merely reinforces inequalities that no one calls out or challenges.” 
2. What impact is this transition having on the internal conversations within African American communities? Have they contributed to, or detracted from, a vibrant ‘black public sphere’?

“I would love to know what he would say about this. I hope he would be a huge fan of Michael Eric Dyson and his use of a wide range of media both to energize African-Americans and to cross cultural boundaries. I think he would admire African-American public media talents like Glynn Washington, Al Letson, and Michel Martin, and online talents such as Jay Smooth and LaToya Peterson. At the same time, I think he would note the significant barriers, which are not technological, that Dyson and others face in being national voices recognized beyond African-American communities.” 
3. What have been their impacts on African American engagement with other communities – other communities of color, and with the larger national society?

“I hope he would say, ‘Not nearly enough.’ I think he would return to question one answer.” 
4. Finally, to what extent are the trends we are seeing within the black community simply the local manifestation of changes occurring the world over? What, if anything, is unique to the changes in the African American community?

“I would need to have much greater confidence in my knowledge of African-American communities’ cultural and communication habits, although I think Angela Tucker’s Black Folk Don’t webisode series does a good job of introducing non-African-Americans to some diversity there. However, I do think that Du Bois would revise his famed sentence from The Souls of Black Folk, ‘The problem of he 20th century is the color line,’ to the 21st century.” 

– Patricia Aufderheide

Patricia Aufderheide is University Professor in the School of Communication at American University, and director of the Center for Social Media. Her books include Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford), The Daily Planet (University of Minnesota Press), and Communications Policy in the Public Interest (Guilford Press).

Davan Maharaj: William Gorman Wrote…

Davan Maharaj is the Editor of the Los Angeles Times

During a recent exchange regarding Digital Du Bois, Maharaj pointed out as relevant this essay from 1950 by William Gorman.

Maharaj cited the following excerpt from the piece as being of particular interest:

“Yet even in this unpropitious environment Du Bois found a means of expression. The sponsors of the NAACP had limited their plans mainly to legal action and enlisting the big names of liberalism. Du Bois, almost completely on his own, emphasized the need for a Negro magazine. The Crisis proved to be a great success, reaching over a hundred thousand circulation in less than ten years. Monroe Trotter’s Boston Guardian had by its militant policy prepared the Negro public years in advance for their protests against Booker T. Washington’s Boston speech in 1905. J. Max Barber’s militant Voice of the Negro, published in the South, had reached a phenomenal 17,000 circulation when the Atlanta riot drove the editor out of town. The Negro migrations North provided a ready-made audience, while the revolutionary implications of the Negro struggle were an immediate stimulus to bold and effective propaganda. At the height of The Crisis’ success, the government tried to ban it from the mails.”

Photo via Los Angeles Times

Lee A. Daniels: ‘A Provocative Claim’ About The Internet and the Civil Rights Movement

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Lee A. Daniels. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

I’m reminded of a comment the late John Payton, the director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and one of the greatest civil rights lawyers of our time, made to me in mid-2009 after the visceral nature of the white-racist surge against President Obama had become apparent.

Payton said the quick mobilization and impact of that fervent hatred made it clear that if the Internet had existed in the 1950s and 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement would likely have been defeated.

His point was that – at a time when nearly all Southern whites declared themselves fiercely eternally opposed to Southern blacks’ demands for basic citizenship rights and the overwhelming majority of Northern whites felt blacks were “moving too fast” in seeking them — the Internet’s ability to almost instantaneously transmit information, coagulate the immediate reaction of individuals to that information, and then, transmit that reaction to the world at large (thus drawing an ever-widening circle of people to the event) would have produced the virtual equivalent of the violent white mobs that gathered in Montgomery and Birmingham, and hundreds of Southern cities and towns during the Movement days.

That dynamic, he suggested, would have overwhelmed the patient, disciplined, self-sacrificing effort the Movement had to forge to turn just a minority of the country’s white citizenry against the continuation of White Supremacy.   

It was a provocative claim, as Payton well knew, and well worth considering, not least for the counter-argument to it, which, unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to discuss.

The counter-argument goes something like this: The claim doesn’t ring true because, Payton would be the first to agree, you can’t “take” the only Internet out of the present and put it in the past. You’d have to take almost everything else that surrounds, so to speak, the Internet, too. That would include the American society that we have now – and that is an American
society vastly different in many respects from the one that existed before 1965.

I’ll mention just one point of difference – the major one, in my view. That is that the American society of today is not a black-white society, as it was then but a multicultural one. It is one in which the mosaic of Americans of color, and gays and lesbians, and “uppity” white women – just by their determination to be themselves, whatever they think that means — have provoked a racist surge among the minority of whites who remain committed to a nation ruled by a white-supremacist code and are driven to act out their racist impulses.

The difference between the American society of today and that of the early 1960s has given the dwindling segment of white-racist America many new targets for their venom. Given that bigots don’t hate just one group; they hate and will attack every other group that’s “different” once they perceive it to be a threat, the bigots, and their political arm, the Republican Party, have in the past decade opened a front against multiple groups of Americans. That has had the effect of shaping the sometimes-quiescent, sometimes-highly active multicultural progressive coalition – which, of course, includes many whites who recoil at acts of white racism in the society — that pulls the voting lever for the Democratic Party.  

Payton also omitted, for the purpose of being provocative, acknowledging that those on the right side of the social justice issue are now, if they weren’t before, as skilled as the racist/conservative forces in utilizing the Internet to argue their side of the issues and mobilize public opinion.

So, in fact, one has to conclude that if the Internet were to have existed in that America, the outcome would have been the same: the decent people – who in those years battled an opposition that at the time seemingly controlled almost all the society’s levers of power — would still have won.

Just as the forces of right are going to win the current battle – the battle of the color line of the 21st century. Du Bois would surely remind us that “the problem” is still with us, having expanded its boundaries to include the class line and the cultural line, too.

He would be tremendously excited by the evidence that the Internet can be a mechanism for transmitting information and “propaganda” that helps Americans understand, as has become more apparent during this decade, that problems labeled “black problems” in order to let them fester, are actually problems that other Americans are facing or will soon face.

He would say, having loosened up enough to appreciate the words of Marvin Gaye, “Let’s get it on!”

– Lee A. Daniels

Lee A. Daniels is the author of, “Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America.” He has served as Director of Communications at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, as a reporter for The New York Times and Washington Post, and as editor of the National Urban League journal, The State of Black America.

Mark Lloyd: ‘Perhaps We Should Pay Some Heed to Both the Younger Hopeful Scholar and the Older Radical’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Mark Lloyd. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

From Prologue to a Farce: Communication and Democracy in America, Mark Lloyd, Univ. of Illinois Press, 2007:

W.E.B. Du Bois, who had suffered through the disappointment of Wilson and Roosevelt, who was hounded during the communist hysteria years of Truman, had now heard President Eisenhower in 1958 urge blacks to be patient in pressing for full citizenship.  Du Bois would soon declare himself a Communist, a certain sign that this ardent Victorian democrat had given up all hope that America was capable of overcoming its racism or achieving democracy.  And one reason for this, he was now convinced, was the dominance of one faction over all other sectors in American society – big business.

The organized effort of American industry to usurp government surpasses anything in modern history. . . . From the use of psychology to spread truth has come the use of organized gathering of news to guide public opinion, then deliberately to mislead it by scientific advertising and propaganda . . . Mass capitalistic control of books and periodicals, news gathering and distribution, radio, cinema, and television has made the throttling of democracy possible and the distortion of education and failure of justice widespread.

If most black Americans would not join Du Bois and turn their backs on American capitalism, neither would they be patient . . . and with the help of a new medium, they would work to alter the racist regime of the American south forever.  And in their protests and litigation they would also come to alter communications policy.    

“The elder Du Bois, the hard-headed, if not always clear eyed, communist who split even from the organization he helped to found, despairing that the ‘color-line’would ever be resolved in America without the deliberate and unlikely effort of the power elite would have seen the prerogatives of that elite at work in the advance of ‘information technology.’ 

“He would warn us today, as he did then, of the ‘throttling of democracy’ and would have cited the inequality evident in the communications capability of women, minorities and the poor. 

“The younger Du Bois, the man who stood in opposition to Jim Crow and Booker T., the man whose research inspired Ralph Bunche to guide Gunner Myrdal, the man who urged ‘colored’ men to war to demonstrate their fitness to be called American in the magazine he called CRISIS … that Du Bois would have urged us to press on, to gather the facts, to be smarter about our analysis of the problems, and to use every tool available (from posters to Twitter) to spread the word that the forces that keep blacks in crisis in America will be exposed and conquered. 

“Perhaps we should pay some heed to both the younger hopeful scholar and the older radical.”

–Mark Lloyd
Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer of the Federal Communications Commission

**W.E.B. Du Bois, “Negroes and the Crisis of Capitalism in the United States,” Monthly Review 4 (April 1958) 478-85; also quoted in David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Fight for Equality and The American Century, 1919-1963 (New York: Henry Holt, 2000) p. 570.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger: How Du Bois Would View the Power of the Information Revolution

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Irving Wladawsky-Berger. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]


While far from an expert on the life of W.E.B. Du Bois, here are some thoughts on how he would view the power of the Information Revolution. I think he would appreciate the power of the information revolution in three key areas: communications; community organization; and education.

1. Communications: Above all, Du Bois would celebrate the power of Social Media to fight racism, by shining sunlight on the horrible things that were going on throughout the country, including overt discriminations, lynchings, Ku Klux Klan activities, propaganda like Birth of a Nation, etc., etc., etc.

2. Community Organization: He would appreciate the power of the Information Revolution as a tool for community organization, political action, etc., that is, a way of engaging communities and groups to get actively things done.

3. Education: Finally, as I understand his life, he was a huge advocate of education, and he would very much appreciate the potential for the Information Revolution to help provide a high quality education to all the groups that are now being left behind by the system, as well as a tool for life-long learning.

These are just some perhaps overly simplistic thoughts. I am sure others my have deeper comments.

– Irving Wladawsky-Berger

Here is information about Irving Wladawsky-Berger. Also, read his blog. And watch video of him speaking while serving as the USC Annenberg Innovator in Residence.

Alberto Ibargüen: ‘If Du Bois Were With Us Today…’

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply, from Alberto Ibargüen. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]

If Du Bois were with us today, he’d see equality and justice still need advocacy. And he would still need platforms and ways to get his message across. He would still need ways to engage his audience. 

He’d probably marvel at the chance to reach anybody – almost literally, anybody. Anybody with a computer. Anybody who could walk into a library. Anybody with a cellphone, never mind, anybody with a smart phone.

My bet: he’d call together the staff at his magazine, The Crisis, which still exists today. He’d tell them the way to organize is to shift from “I write/you read” to “We tell it the way we see it while inviting everyone to participate. Why? Because we now can…and figure out ways to make it easy.”

And he’d be amazed and delighted at the power and possibilities of the medium nobody can stop.

– Alberto Ibargüen
President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

‘Hispanic Broadband Access’ — Mobile Future Sends Links to Recent Paper


On behalf of Jonathan Spalter, I would like to share with you a recent paper by Mobile Future and The Hispanic Institute in advance of your upcoming lecture series.

The paper, “Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future” takes a closer look at what mobile connectivity means for Hispanics in today’s wireless world and illustrates how Hispanics are increasingly turning to mobile devices — not traditional wired broadband — as their primary means of accessing the Internet. The report details how Hispanics have embraced mobile technology as they are 17 percent more likely than non-Hispanic whites to use mobile phones to access the Internet and 20 percent more likely to watch video on mobile devices.

The paper be found here, along with the news release:
Emily Talbot

Dr. Nagy K. Hanna’s Reponse to the Four Questions

[I recently asked these four questions. Below is one reply. Please join the conversation either by tweeting @Digital_Du_Bois or by leaving a comment at the bottom of this or any other post on]


Dear Ernie,

Glad to see you reconnecting with your past issues of digital divide and doing this prestigious series.

Du Bois would/should say that the information revolution has transcended the race divide, but has not overcome the socio-economic divide (reaching those at the bottom)!

In fact, it may have reinforced the advantages of those with existing educational and other economic assets, raising the prospect of supporting the growing income inequality, regardless of race, at least for the short to medium term.

Policy responses to digital inequality will have to focus on the economic factors, where they can make a real difference.

I know this may be a controversial statement, but Du Bois would have the courage to say it!

Keep Connected!

Dr. Nagy K. Hanna
Author, Advisor, Academic.
Innovation and e-Transformation.
Senior Fellow,
Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies.
Senior Advisor & Lead Strategist (former),
World Bank.

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