Spotlight on Black Digital Work

Made possible by the generous funding of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the AADHum Initiative brings together a dynamic community of scholars, practitioners, and learners working at the intersections of African American history, culture, and digital humanities. We recognize, however, many others face significant obstacles in advancing and engaging with black digital work because they lack access to similar support.

AADHum’s new Spotlight series provides one platform to support current and future African Americanists by bringing more voices into the conversation. The series will showcase scholars and projects making significant and innovative contributions to black digital work. These brief profiles will enable scholars, practitioners, and learners to immerse themselves in the work being done in the field, while opening doors for collaboration and connections across space and place.

We invite you to submit scholars or projects for a future Spotlight to help us grow our AADHum community and extend the dialogue beyond UMD and the D.C. metropolitan area. Click here to tell us more about a deserving scholar, or here to share an exciting project! Self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged. 


Photo used with permission from Dr. Moya Bailey.

Dr. Moya Bailey — Northeastern University; Allied Media Conference; Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network

Expertise & Interests: feminism; disability studies; history of medicine; digital humanities; social media; social justice; student activism; race, gender, sexuality; queer theory; pop culture; Black Studies

Dr. Moya Bailey is an assistant professor in the Department of Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies and the program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Northeastern University. Her work focuses on Black women’s use of digital media to promote social justice as acts of self-affirmation and health promotion. She is interested in how race, gender, and sexuality are represented in media and medicine. She currently curates the #transformDH Tumblr initiative in Digital Humanities (DH). She is a monthly sustainer of the Allied Media Conference, through which she is able to bridge her passion for social justice and her work in DH.

She is a graduate of the Emory University Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. She is the founder and co-conspirator of Quirky Black Girls, a network for strange and different black girls and now serves at the digital alchemist for the Octavia E. Butler Legacy Network.

She attended Spelman College where she initially endeavored to become a physician. She fell in love with Women’s Studies and activism, ultimately driving her to graduate school in lieu of medicine. As an undergrad she received national attention for her involvement in the Nelly Protest at Spelman, a moment that solidified her deep commitment to examining representations of Black women in popular culture. She also coined the term misogynoirwhich describes the unique anti-Black racist misogyny that Black women experience.

Selected Works:

As of April 2017, Dr. Bailey is currently open to collaboration.


Dr. André Brock — Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

Expertise & Interests: Black Twitter; race and the digital; social networks; video games; Critical Race Theory; digital research methods

Dr. André L. Brock is an interdisciplinary scholar, with a master’s degree in English and Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His scholarship includes published articles on racial representations in videogames, black women and weblogs, whiteness, blackness, and digital technoculture, as well as innovative and groundbreaking research on Black Twitter. His article “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation” challenged social science and communication research to confront the ways in which the field, in his words, preserved “a color-blind perspective on online endeavors by normalizing Whiteness and othering everyone else” and sparked a conversation that continues, as Twitter in particular continues to evolve as a communication platform.

The author of numerous journal articles and book chapters, Dr. Brock’s writings have appeared in prominent journals like “Media, Culture, and Society,” New Media and Society, Journal of Broadcast and Electronic Media, and Information, Communication and Society. Dr. Brock is currently working on a book titled Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures.

From July through December 2016, Dr. Brock was a visiting rsearcher with the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England and he is currently an assistant professor in communication studies at the University of Michigan.

Selected Works:

  • Brock, A. (2016). Critical technocultural discourse analysisNew Media & Society, 1-19.
  • Brock, A. (2012). From the blackhand side: Twitter as a cultural conversation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 56(4), 529-549.
  • Brock, A. (2011). “When keeping it real goes wrong”: Resident Evil 5, racial representation, and gamers. Games and Culture, 6(5), 429-452.

As of April 2017, Dr. Brock is currently open to collaboration.


Dr. Sarah Florini — Assistant Professor of Film & Media Studies at Arizona State University

Expertise/Interests: digital media, critical race theory, social media, critical/cultural studies, Black Twitter, podcasting, online social movements

Florini is a leading scholar whose research focuses on the intersection of emerging media, Black cultural production, and racial politics in the post-Civil Rights Movement landscape. Her work has appeared in New Media and Society, Critical Studies in Media Communication, and Television and New Media. She is currently working on a monograph titled Blackness. There’s an App for That: Racial Politics and Black Digital Networks, which examines Black cultural production and political engagements across a network of podcasts, messaging apps, and social media. The project explores users’ everyday practices and their relationship to larger social and cultural issues with particular attention to the intersection of digital technologies (how these users strategically employ the affordances of different media and platforms) and historic continuity (how users extend and adapt longstanding practices of cultural production into digital spaces).

Selected Works:

  • Florini, S. (2015). The podcast “Chitlin’ circuit”: Black podcasters, alternative media, and audio enclaves. Journal of Radio & Audio Media, 22(2), 209-219.
  • Florini, S. (2014). Recontextualizing the racial present by retelling the past: Intertextuality and the politics of remembering online. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 31(4), 314-326.
  • Florini, S. (2014). Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: Communication and Cultural Performance on “Black Twitter.” Television and New Media, 15(3), 223-237.

As of April 2017, Dr. Florini may be open to collaboration. 


Photo used with permission from Dr. Kishonna Gray.

Dr. Kishonna Gray — Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

Expertise & Interests: intersectionality; social interactions in digital communities; digital ethnography

Dr. Kishonna Gray is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.  Professor Gray previously served as a MLK Scholar and Visiting Professor in Women and Gender Studies and Comparative Media Studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Her most recent research explores Black Twitch users in particular exploring their cultural production. She specifically explores the struggle with legitimacy, ideology, and economic inequalities. Her work broadly intersects identity and new media, although she has a particular focus on gaming. Her most recent book, Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), provides a much-needed theoretical framework for examining deviant behavior and deviant bodies within that virtual gaming community. According to Dr. Tressie M. Cottom, “Gray argues that video games perpetuate narratives that rationalize the racial hierarchy, obscuring ‘real world’ inequalities through immersive experiences of those inequalities as real, natural, and unseen. “ Her critical insights are strengthened by a nuanced approach to research and method. As Dr. T.L. Taylor has exclaimed, Dr. Gray’s work weaves “together a combination of close reading with qualitative empirical work…exploring how race and gender are constructed an enacted within the digital gaming space.” Taylor also added, “[Gray’s] attention to both critical issues and platform dynamics speaks to the sophisticated and unique approach she brings to her work.”

Selected Works:

  • Gray, K. (2016). “They’re just too urban”: Cultural production, colorblindness, and racialized discourse surrounding Black gamers streaming on Twitch. In J. Daniels, K. Gregory, & T.M. Cottom (Eds.), Digital Sociologies (355-367). Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Deaf Gamers, Gaming With Gamers Series.

As of April 2017, Dr. Gray is currently open to collaboration.

Connect:; @KishonnaGray;


Logo used with permission from Shellée Haynesworth.

Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project —

Executive Producer/Creator: Shellée M. Haynesworth

Project Staff: Michelle Delino, VP of Communications

Launched in February 2014, Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project is a groundbreaking multi-platform story and public history initiative created to chronicle, preserve, and enhance the under-told story and cultural legacy of Washington, D.C.’s marginalized Black community along the historic greater U Street community when it was known as “Black Broadway,” a city within a city.

This transmedia story represents several distinct, yet interconnected multi-platform (digital media and immersive) components. Through the use of interactive and social media content (including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), educational resources, mapping, archival photos, traveling, pop-up museum exhibit, short films, oral histories and stories, and our website (aka a “living digital history book”), the project seeks to connect today’s, future, and greater audiences to the “unsung” social, economic, historical and cultural influence and civic impact of this Black U Street community—and its “Black Broadway” trailblazers—on Black America and America at-large. They are “our ancestors, our torchbearers” who overcame our nation’s and its capital’s racial and social barriers, making considerable, significant contributions to enhance the civic and cultural fabric of America. Most importantly, the project will shed light on the “hidden history” that lies beneath the surface through the lens and voices of native Washingtonians who remember it best.

The aim of this project is to use cross-platform and “cultural storytelling” techniques and user experiences to amplify these black community voices and their “first hand” memories to preserve a truer, “authentic” narrative of this historic American moment in time. Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project uses a humanities approach to foster knowledge and civic engagement around the important role of social justice, arts, history and culture—thus allowing communities of color to “learn from their past to REIMAGINE and REDEFINE, from the ground up, the twenty-first century African American experience” amid today’s rapidly changing demographic and cultural landscape in urban America, specifically in Washington, D.C.

Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project is a fiscally-sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit arts service organization and public charity. Contributions for the charitable purposes of Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project must be made payable to Fractured Atlas and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.

As of April 2017, Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project is open to collaboration and is seeking funding and/or other forms of support.

Connect:, @BlkBroadwayonU (Twitter); @blackbroadwayonu (Instagram); @blackbroadwayonu (Facebook)