If you’re looking for a different angle on Black History, speak to NJIT Assistant Professor Allison Perlman. Perlman, a young professor in the NJIT Federated History Department, has much to say about the complicated relationship between media and the civil rights movement. Her forthcoming book, which explores a history of media activism in the U.S., includes chapters on the complex relationship between media policy and struggles for racial equality. The book examines these issues during the height of the Civil Rights Movement and during the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
Perlman is the first Fellow through this academic year of the inaugural Verklin Program in Media Ethics and Policy at the University of Virginia.
Next month, she’ll expand on her current research in two talks. Catch her at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference (March 10-13, 2011) in New Orleans or at the first Media and Civil Rights History Symposium March 18-19, 2011 at the University of South Carolina.
(ATTENTION EDITORS: Perlman is available for telephone interviews. Call Sheryl Weinstein, 973-596-3436, for more information.)
You can also learn more about Perlman’s theories on a video produced by NJIT which is now available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4B4D8wH1ZY. The Verklin Program supports academic research on the ethics of media policy, the reciprocal relationship between the media and the law and the political and social impact of media regulation. The Fellowship also supports the completion of Perlman’s manuscript: Reforming Television: Media Activism, Media Policy, Media History.
“Very few people are aware that media regulation continues to be a critical battleground in the struggle for racial equality in this country,” said Perlman. “We often tend to understand the relationship between media and civil rights through the lens of representation, how newscasts reported on civil rights or how entertainment programs depict people of color.”
In the 1960s and 1970s, policy-makers and activists increasingly recognized how media policy had operated to exclude African American perspectives from the public sphere, said Perlman. At the prompting of federal courts, the FCC enacted policies to expand the participation of people of color in broadcasting.
These policies landed in the crosshairs of a number of concurrent trends in the 1980s and 1990s, including a paradigm shift in broadcast policy that embraced a marketplace approach to regulation.
The repeal of these policies also resulted from the ascent of a color-blind discourse that equated all forms of race consciousness with racial discrimination. As the FCC and the federal courts stripped away such policies, their justifications frequently hinged on a reconstruction of U.S. civil rights history.
“The new interpretation restricted the ambitions and scope of the movement,” said Perlman. “The dismantling of minority media rights policies during the 1980s and 1990s should be understood both as an affront to the speech rights of people of color and as a site where the whitewashing of civil rights history was codified into policy and practice.”
Perlman received her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Texas in 2007.