Tech's Best: Celebrating Black History Month's Visionary Leaders
In this article, we will shine a light on some of the prominent figures in the Black community who have made groundbreaking contributions to technology through their discoveries, innovative approaches, and transformative theories.
Granville Woods: The "Black Edison"
Known as the "Black Edison," Granville Woods was an African American inventor who left an indelible mark on technology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Woods held more than 50 patents, with notable contributions in the field of electrical engineering. His inventions include the multiplex telegraph, a device that allowed multiple messages to be sent simultaneously over a single wire, laying the groundwork for modern telecommunications.
Mark Dean: Co-Inventor of the Personal Computer
Dr. Mark Dean, a computer scientist and engineer, is a trailblazer in the world of technology. Dean played a pivotal role in the development of the IBM Personal Computer (PC), and he holds three of IBM's original nine PC patents. His innovations extend beyond personal computing to include advancements in the creation of color monitors and the first gigahertz chip.
Dr. Shirley Jackson: Pioneer in Fiber Optic Communications
Dr. Shirley Jackson is a theoretical physicist and the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT. Her groundbreaking research laid the foundation for the development of fiber optic cables, a technology crucial for high-speed internet and modern telecommunications. Dr. Jackson's contributions have been pivotal in shaping the digital landscape we navigate today.
Dr. Mae Jemison: The First Black Woman in Space
While Dr. Mae Jemison may be best known for her achievements as an astronaut, her impact on technology extends beyond the confines of our planet. Dr. Jemison, the first Black woman in space, is also a physician and engineer. Her multidisciplinary contributions highlight the intersectionality of science, technology, and innovation.
Kimberly Bryant: Founder of Black Girls CODE
In the contemporary landscape, Kimberly Bryant stands out as a force for change. As the founder of Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering girls of color to become innovators in STEM fields, Bryant is actively addressing the diversity gap in technology. Her work fosters the next generation of Black leaders in technology, ensuring a more inclusive and equitable future.
Dr. Otis Boykin: Inventor of Control Devices for Guided Missiles
Dr. Otis Boykin, an African American inventor and engineer, made significant contributions to the field of technology through his work on electrical resistors. His innovations in control devices for guided missiles and other electronic devices have played a crucial role in modern electronics, impacting everything from consumer electronics to military applications.
Celebrating Black Excellence in Technology
From inventors and engineers to astronauts and educators, these pioneers have shaped the technological landscape in ways that have had a lasting impact on society. Their stories serve as a reminder of the rich diversity of talent and innovation that continues to drive progress in the world of technology. Let us embrace and celebrate the legacy of these trailblazers, acknowledging that their achievements pave the way for a more inclusive and dynamic future in technology.
We spoke to the Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Informa Tech, Evelyn Aning-Nkrumah, to understand the importance of Black History month within business, what it means to celebrate these key historical figures, and the impact they have had on the transformative tech landscape:
"For me, Black History Month is a time I cherish, owing to the well-deserved recognition of the remarkable contributions that Black leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs and more have made, and continue to make, to our society and the wider world. However, the essence of this celebration should not be confined to a specific period. Rather, these positive attributes should be recognised throughout the year in mainstream media, in the same way we honour all contributions made within technology and other industries.
Within the Black community, there's a range of sentiments about Black History Month. It's a period of rightful acknowledgment, yet for some, it highlights an uncomfortable truth, that this may be the only time Black achievements are spotlighted positively. This perception can give rise to concerns that some observances might lean towards performative allyship, or PR rather than genuine actions aimed at dismantling barriers that block Black advancement within organisations. It is imperative that the awareness and education around systemic racism and inequality become a year-round commitment, rather than a fleeting moment of annual attention. It’s about holding ourselves accountable and challenging the deep seated biases and the status quo every single day.
While we rightly honour the luminaries of Black history, it's just as critical to recognise our colleagues—the day-to-day champions of diversity within this sector and the corporate world overall. Those who were once 'the only' in their space and have become the pioneers, they are the ones forging paths for others to follow. These trailblazers ensure their 'first' is not the last, cultivating an environment where diversity is not just an occasional highlight but the everyday norm. This month should reinforce our resolve to not only reflect on the progress made but also to continue the journey towards a truly equitable workplace. It’s a reminder to celebrate and support the achievements of Black individuals all year round, ensuring inclusion is not an exception—it's the standard."
Find out more about our Inclusion & Diversity initiatives at Informa Tech here