Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Blogging with Blackprof.com: Black Professors Launch Internet Blog to Discuss Race, Law and Culture

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Blogging with Blackprof.com: Black Professors Launch Internet Blog to Discuss Race, Law and Culture

Article excerpt

Frustrated by what they saw as a lack of expertise and informed opinion on "race, law and culture" by Internet bloggers, a group of nine African-American law professors launched in mid-September "Blackprof.com," a blog which lets the professors express their opinions and expertise while allowing readers to have their responses published on the blog. Spencer Overton, a Blackprof.com founder and a George Washington University law professor, says the blog helps fill an intellectual space left vacant by the growing community of American law professors who blog on legal issues.

"What became apparent to me was there were numerous law professor blogs, but none of them were dealing with issues of race, nor were they specifically addressing people of color," says Overton, an expert on campaign finance and election law.

The blogging phenomena has been compared to the pamphleteering of 18th-century America when activist-minded Americans, such as patriot and abolitionist Thomas Paine, cranked out on inexpensive printing presses the equivalent of newsletters to trumpet political and social causes. Just as pamphleteering gave ordinary Americans an opportunity to spread their ideas beyond their home communities, blogging has turned the Internet into a medium by which Americans not working in the mainstream media can cheaply share their thoughts and ideas with mass audiences. The key 21st-century innovation is that blogs invite feedback from their readers, and reader responses can be quickly posted and linked to original blog entries.

The idea to fill the race and law discussion void with a Black-focused blog initially sprung up in conversations between Overton and Paul Butler, a fellow George Washington University law professor, earlier this year, Butler says. This past summer, the pair decided to launch the blog and invited other noted Black law professors to join in as founders.

"It came into being after Hurricane Katrina. There was an obvious need for it," says Butler, recalling that readers were hungry to read about and discuss the issues generated by Katrina's devastation.

In addition to Overton and Butler, the law school professors responsible for launching Blackprof.com were Devon Carbado, at the University of California at Los Angeles; R. Richard Banks, at Stanford University; Sherrilyn Ifill, at the University of Maryland; Darren Hutchinson, at American University; Tracey L. Meares, at the University of Chicago; Adrien K. Wing, at the University of Iowa; and Dorothy E. Roberts, at Northwestern University. The blog, managed daily by a research assistant, cost less than $200 to launch, Spencer says. …

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