Black Pioneers Behind Today’s Technology
Toni Morrison said, “if you’re not finding the book you want to read…you should write it.”
N.K. Jemisin’s short story collection, How Long ‘til Black Future Month? highlights some key Black tech pioneers that have come before. However, those stories don’t shed light on the pioneers who are in the trenches now, paving the way for future generations.
So, today, we wanted to highlight some of the world’s modern Black tech pioneers, whose contributions have helped shape the tech space as we know it today. This might not technically be a book like Morrison suggested, but it’s our way of documenting the stories we want to read.
12 Black Tech Pioneers: Then and Now
From the first PC to the first Gigahertz microprocessor to the Cloud, there is a human, and a name, behind the tech. That person may not be a household name you’d recognize, but without them, our technology would likely look quite different than it does now.
Below are twelve Black tech pioneers who are making a difference in today’s tech sector, and shaping the future of the tech industry. Some of their achievements include breaking into the highest levels of academia in Computer Science, making STEM fields equal to all children, and more.
- Robert Frederick. Meet the technical co-founder of AWS. With 41 patents under his belt, it’s no wonder his work is the basis for many cloud services.
- Marsha Rae Williams. Meet the woman who laid the foundational components for cloud services and cybersecurity with her work in Data queries and Data user experience.
- Rediet Abebe. Meet the UC Berkley professor opening doors for black people in the artificial intelligence field as the Co-founder of Black in AI.
- Latanya Sweeney. Meet the Harvard Kennedy School professor and founder of the Data Privacy Lab studying discrimination in facial recognition.
- Mark Dean. Stepping back in time a bit, meet the chief engineer on the team that invented the first IBM PC and the first Black engineer to be named an IBM fellow.
- Charlene Hunter. Meet the woman behind Coding Black Females and Black Codher Bootcamp, organizations focused on empowering Black women to enter the tech industry and support Black female developers.
- Marian Croak. Meet the woman behind Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technologies which powers much of the software we use today.
- Herman Chinery-Hesse. Founder of the largest software company in Ghana, SOFTtribe — affectionately known as the “Bill Gates of Ghana”.
- Lisa Gelobter. Meet the woman behind tEQuitable, focused on ensuring employees and employers have a place to discuss diversity, equality, and inclusion as well as a place to address issues such as discrimination and bias for better inclusivity.
- James E. West. Meet the man who co-invented the prototype of what would become the microphones we use today.
- Ayah Bdeir. Meet the woman who has turned the erector set on its ear and is inspiring young people to become inventors. Her aim with littleBits is to make STEM activities accessible to all regardless of socioeconomic status by producing modular electronics and small magnets for prototypes.
- Kimberly Bryant. Meet the woman behind Black Girls Code which provides education in coding, game design, and computer science to encourage young girls to get involved in the STEM field.
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