Department of Media, Culture, and Communication


Charlton McIlwain

Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, Director of Graduate Studies

Charlton McIlwain

Phone: 212.992.9495

As a researcher, writer and teacher, my primary interests focus broadly on issues of race and media, particularly within the social and political arena. My previous work centered on how political candidates construct, mobilize, benefit or suffer damage from race-based appeals. In 2011 I co-authored the book Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press). In 2012, the book won the prestigious Ralph Bunche Award, given by the American Political Science Association for the best book addressing ethnic pluralism. The same year, the American Library Association recognized the book as one of the Best of the Best books among academic publishers. In addition to authoring/coauthoring four additional books and close to thirty scholarly journal articles and chapter in edited volumes, and regularly providing expert commentary for local, state, national and international media, I continue to pursue research about racial appeals through collaborative work focused on analyses of individuals’ real-time perceptions of race-based appeals in political advertising, as well as a variety of cognitive/physiological responses to racialized communication. You can stay informed about my ongoing work in that area at the RaceProject.

My recent interests, however, have turned to the intersections of race and digital media, principally as they relate to three primary questions: to what degree can/has the internet and other forms of digital media use lead to increased political participation, voice and influence for people of color?; in what ways might internet use provide greater access to social, professional and economic mobility for people of color?; and in what tangible ways do forms of racial discrimination, disparate treatment and denial of opportunity take place in online environments? I’m currently working on a number of projects in this area, including:

  • A pilot study comparing the racial composition of, and degree of social capital present in Black and White users' professional networks built on LinkedIn. You can read a bit more about that here  
  • A book project titled The Racial Web: A History of Black Politics, Organizing & Activism on the Internet, where I develop an alternative history of race and racial minorities online. This narrative focuses on: a). the ways that racial minorities – particularly African Americans – have engaged in the critical work of racializing the Internet (countering the race-neutral framing of the medium) over the past two decades; the way that black and other users of color built identifiable, and simultaneously dense and open networks of race-based journalists, academics, legal agents, community organizers, activists, activist organizations, artists and public officials; and c). the ways that these networks have mobilized online and through digital communication tools to promote race-based political agendas and challenge systemic racial injustice.
  • Another fun book project titled, Good Feelings: The Story of Race & Barbecue in America with my friend Kathleen McElroy.
  • A final book project with my friend and longtime research partner Stephen Maynard Caliendo titled Nigger 2.0: The Turbulent Transformation of a Still Troublesome Word.
In addition to these projects, Robin R. Means Coleman and I edit the Routledge Transformations in Race & Media book series for Routledge. 



Selected Publications

  • McIlwain, Charlton D. & Caliendo, Stephen M. (2011). Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns. Philadelphia: Temple. (link)
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2011). Racialized Media Coverage of Minority Candidates in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary. American Behavioral Scientist.
  • Caliendo, Stephen M. and McIlwain, Charlton D. (2010). The Routledge Companion to Race & Ethnicity. New York/London: Routledge. (link)
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2009). "Leadership, Legitimacy and Public Perceptions Of Barack Obama." In Andra Gillespie (Ed.) African American Politics in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge, 155-172.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. & Caliendo, Stephen M. (2009). "Black Messages, White Messages: The Differential Use of Racial Appeals by Black & White Candidates." Journal of Black Studies, 39, 732-743.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2007). "Perceptions of Leadership & the Challenge of Obama's Blackness." Journal of Black Studies, 38:64-74.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2007). "Race, Pigskin, and Politics: A Semiotic Analysis of Racial Images in Political Advertising." Semiotica, 167-1/4: 169-192.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2007). "Racial Identity, Ideology and the Youth Vote: Observations From the 2004 Presidential Campaign." American Behavioral Scientist, 50: 1231-1238.
  • Caliendo, Stephen M. and McIlwain, Charlton D. (2006). "Minority Candidates, Media Framing, and Racial Cues in the 2004 Election." Harvard International Journal of Press Politics, 11: 45-69.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (2005). When Death Goes Pop: Death, Media and the Remaking of Community. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Mcilwain, Charlton D. (2003), Death in Black & White: Death, Ritual & Family Ecology. New Jersey: Hampton Press.
  • McIlwain, Charlton D. (Editor; In Press). Philosophy, Method and Cultural Criticism. New Jersey: Hampton Press.


•   NPR/ON POINT, African Americans and the GOP, January 16, 2012.

•   CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, After Herman Cain, GOP has a Credibility Crisis with Black Voters, December 5, 2011.

•    NEWSDAY, Biden comes to NYC to address Sharpton's group, by Michael Frazier, April 6, 2009.

•    A & E Network/Biography Channel, Different Strokes, first aired April 1, 2009.

•   Le Monde, "Pour les Africains-Américains, l'impensable s'est produit," Propos recueillis par Sylvain Cypel November, 5, 2008.

•    NYU Magazine. Race-ing for Office: Are We Closer to Judging a Candidate by the Content of His, or Her, Character? Written by Courtney Martin. Fall, 2008.

•    CNN, Race in the Presidential Race. With Jason Carroll. October 10, 2008. 

•    National Public Radio (News & Notes), Inside the Art of Political Speech Writing (Reflections on Obama Acceptance Speech). Roundtable with Susan Estrich & Chriss Winston, September 4, 2008.

•    CNN, Hillary v. Michelle Obama. August 29, 2008. With Deborah Feyerick.

•    National Public Radio (News & Notes), Inside the Art of Political Speech Writing (Reflections on Obama Acceptance Speech). Roundtable with Susan Estrich & Chriss Winston, August 28, 2008.

•    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Video Commentary, August 27, 2008. What Will Obama Say About Race Tonight?. Bill Lambrecht.

•    New York Post, Video Commentary, July 22, 2008. Satire Gone Too Far? With David Desario.

•    CNN, July 11, 2008. Comment on Obama Supprters’ Criticisms Of His Move to the Center. With Deborah Feyrek.

•   NTV New York, (Japanese Televsion News) April 6, 2008 ???????????????????? [On Obama’s speaking style].

•    Rise Up Magazine [appearing in the New York Daily News, Houston Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post & Cincinatti Enquirer].   May 22, 2008. On the political ramifications of the word “articulate” to describe Black candidates.

•    Baltimore Examiner, April 28, 2008. “Youth Vote Here to Stay.”

•    La República (Perú), March 21, 2008. “La arriesgada apuesta de Obama.”

•    Sveriges Radio [Swedish Public Radio], March 6, 2008. Clinton och Obama i ny viktig duell.

•    Op-Ed, Newsday, February 25, 2008. “Clinton Veering Close to Stereotypes.”

•    Corpus Christi Times-Caller, February 24, 2008. “Rallies Could Make the Difference in a Close Race.”

•    O Globo (Brazil), February 10, 2008. “Benevolente com Obama, crítica com Hillary”

•    WABC News, December 8, 2007. The impact of Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama.

•    WNBC News, September 17, 2007. Interview about racial division in perceptions of O. J. Simpson. Michael Gargiulo.

•    Sveriges Radio [Swedish Public Radio], July 28, 2007. Fler unga i USA bryr sig om framtiden. (Interview on Obama/Clinton).

•    Santa Fe New Mexican, May 5, 2007. 2008 Presidential Election: Richardson race to gain Hispanic recognition. Barbara Ferry.

•    The Gulf Times (Qatar). April 28, 2007. “Democrats Show Courteous Side.”

•    Agence France Presse (France). April 27, 2007. “U.S. Democrats Show Courteous Side.”

•    New York Journal News, March 5, 2007. Debating the N-Word. Suzan Clarke.

•    Toronto National Post, March 2, 2007. New York City Council Bans the N-Word. Mary Vallis.

•    WNBC News, February 24, 2007. Border’s Bookstore Segregation of African American Authors. Monica Morales.

•    St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 9, 2007. Obama: Full of hope on a Tough Road. Bill Lambrecht.

•    Columbia Journalism Review, January 22, 2007. Forget America, Is Journalism ready for a Black President? Tony Dokoupil.

Degrees Held

  • Ph.D. University of Oklahoma 2001
  • M.H.R. Human Relations, University of Oklahoma 1996
  • B.A. Oklahoma Baptist University 1994
    Family Psychology