Integrating critical media literacy into media history

12 Apr 2021 3:26 PM | Autumn Linford (Administrator)

By Nathaniel Frederick II

As a member of AJHA and the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), I support the officer’s goals to emphasize media literacy. The timing is perfect to broaden our scope and introduce our work to a new audience.

I attended the NAMLE conference for the first time in 2013, with the intention of learning new pedagogical techniques for a restructured of course I was scheduled to teach. There, I met educators, academics, activists, and students with a passion for understanding media messages and the role of media in our culture. The most surprising aspect of my experience was observing the international scope of media literacy efforts.  In 2015, NAMLE and the UNESCO Media and Information Literacy Alliance held concurrent meetings. Attendees were able to meet with educators focused on raising the profile of media and information literacy in countries across the globe.

The goal of NAMLE is for people to be critical thinkers and media producers, using all forms of communication. Similarly, media history involves critical analysis and comparisons that help evaluate contemporary media systems.

In a course titled, “African Americans in Media and Culture,” I incorporated critical media literacy (Kellner & Share, 2006) which focuses on ideological critique and analyzes the politics of representation of gender, race, and class, and sexuality, while incorporating alternative media production.  This perspective suggests that media can be tools for empowerment when marginalized or misrepresented people in the mainstream media receive the opportunity and tools to tell their stories and express their concerns.

By incorporating the work of media literacy scholars and exploring new pedagogies, we can facilitate active media citizenship by providing historical context to public health crises, social movements, and misinformation in journalism. Before the pandemic, Winthrop University collaborated with a number of stakeholders to organize a media literacy series titled, “News Literacy and the Future of Journalism.” The series included eleven events over eight months that sought to deepen the public’s knowledge and appreciation of the vital connections among democracy, the humanities, journalism, and an informed citizenry. Topics included the history of fake news; editorial cartoons; investigative journalism; and the future of journalism. By collaborating with other departments to recreating a similar media literacy events, a virtual program and would be inexpensive and a worthwhile endeavor.

I look forward to the research and pedagogical insights that come from alliances between AJHA and NAMLE. This interdisciplinary exploration will make media history engaging to students and highlight the relevancy of different subjects.


Nathaniel Frederick II is an Associate Professor at Winthrop University. He studies African American magazine history, representations of masculinity in television and film, the American Civil Rights Movement, and African American sacred music. 

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