Black History Month – Race and Computing
Black History Month during the 75th anniversary year of the Computer Society provides a great opportunity for examining the history of race and technology within the computing profession, and contemplating how those lessons may inspire the future. Relevant to the subject, we are making available from our archive an article from IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (Annals), published by the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS), which takes an in-depth look at how black scientists suffer “almost complete invisibility in most of the history of computing literature.”
Published in the January/February 2017 issue of Annals, R. Arvid Nelsen’s “Race and Computing: The Problem of Sources, the Potential of Prosopography, and the Lesson of Ebony Magazine” begins to correct the “whiteness” of historical records. Nelsen’s findings came in the wake of Hidden Figures, a movie inspired by a nonfiction book of the same name about black women mathematicians working for NASA during the space race.
“Over the past few decades, historians have increasingly recognized the need to examine the intersection of race and technology,” Nelsen writes in his article. “Although recognition of this need has grown, scholarship itself has not kept pace, especially compared with the relative success found in explorations of gender. The lack of source material on race and computing in traditional archival collections needs to be faced,” he adds.
In the years since this paper was published, “A profound shift has occurred, with more recent programs being founded by as well as for communities of color themselves and demonstrating an appreciation for the inherent talents and potentials of individuals to contribute to computing and to society at large, rather than approaching communities from the outside and hoping to rescue communities defined by their obstacles,” R. Arvid Nelsen, said in a recent exchange with Computer Society President Forrest Shull.
Community and national organizations aiming to support the African American community in the United States are doing so in a variety of ways, by providing tools and resources best suited to the individuals they are working to support. Originally listed in an article published by Full Stack Academy, these organizations provide tools, support, and resources to individuals within the Black community to pursue careers and opportunities in Tech.”
All Star Code
All Star Code is an organization that teaches computer science skills to young Black men and aims to create “economic opportunity by developing a new generation of boys and young men of color with an entrepreneurial mindset who have the tools they need to succeed in a technological world.”
The organization was founded in 2013 by Christina Lewis, who was inspired by her experiences as a business journalist to create an organization that increases the representation of Black people in tech.
Black Female Founders
Black Female Founders is a global membership community for Black women in leadership roles within the tech industry. The organization aims to bridge the racial divide in tech by providing Black women with the information, resources, and opportunities they need to succeed as entrepreneurs. Expert-led workshops, networking events, and introductions to venture capitalists are available to all members. The organization also amplifies the voices of Black women entrepreneurs and provides a platform where they can discuss the issues they face.
Black Founders seeks to empower Black tech entrepreneurs by creating an ecosystem of advice, mentorship, and funding. Founded in 2011 by Chris Bennett, Hadiyah Mujhid, Nnena Ukuku, and Monique Woodward, the organization’s mission is “to increase the number of successful Black entrepreneurs in technology.” To that end, the organization runs a number of programs. One of these is HBCUHacks, a weekend hackathon that gives students from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) the opportunity to test their programming skills.
Black Girls Code
Black Girls Code is a nonprofit that seeks to introduce a new generation of young Black girls to technology in general and programming specifically. The organization was founded by Kimberly Bryant, who was inspired to start and then lead the program by her own feelings of isolation as a Black woman in programming.
Blacks In Technology
Blacks In Technology is a global network open to any Black person who works in tech. It is the largest community and media organization dedicated to increasing the representation of people of color in the tech world. The organization is making good on this mission by creating events, activities, and media to serve as resources for and provide guidance to members. The Blacks In Technology community is split up into geographic chapters with independent meetings and activities.
Black Tech Nation
Black Tech Nation is the only organization committed to building a Black tech ecosystem in Pittsburgh. The chapter is open to any person of color involved—directly or indirectly—in STEM, from founders to tech professionals and parents of STEM students. Black Tech Nation defines its strategy as “Gather. Connect. Affect.” Under that guiding principle, the organization runs local meetups, partners with tech companies to introduce new policies, and teaches Black students in Pittsburgh how to code. It is run by Founder and CEO Kelauni Cook.
Black Tech Unplugged
Black Tech Unplugged is a podcast created to empower and inspire Black people in tech.
It was created by Deena McKay, who was herself inspired to spread the word of Black achievements in technology after experiencing first-hand—much like Kimberly Bryant—the isolation that came with being a Black woman in tech. In each episode of the podcast, McKay interviews a leading Black technologist about their accomplishments and current projects, how they got where they are today, and what aspiring professionals can do to follow in their footsteps.
Blacktech Week is an immersive weeklong series of events in Miami that brings together innovative young Black minds to learn, exchange ideas, and address common issues in workshops and discussions.
Black Women Tech Talk
Black Women Tech Talk is a collective of Black women tech entrepreneurs that aims to identify, support, and encourage Black women interested in building tech companies. Created by TresseNoir cofounder Regina Gwynn, CoSign cofounder Esosa Ighodaro, and Fundr cofounder Lauren Washington, the organization boasts more than 500 members and 10 local chapters. The organization also runs the nation’s only conference for Black women founders—the Roadmap to Billions conference—which offers entrepreneurs the chance to learn, network, and get access to funding opportunities.
Code2040 is a nonprofit that places software engineering students of color into internships at major tech companies and startups. The year 2040 is symbolic because it’s the start of the decade in which Black and Latinx people are projected by the US Census Bureau to make up the majority of the U.S. population.
These groups together in fact already make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, yet only 10 percent of tech executives hail from either. Code2040 means to change this. In just eight years, the organization has grown to more than 6,000 students, partners, volunteers, and allies. In 2017, 132 students were paired with companies seeking tech talent as part of the organization’s summer-long internship program.
digitalundivided is a social enterprise that seeks to encourage women of color to own their economic security through innovation-focused entrepreneurship. Based in Atlanta and founded in 2013, the organization has since helped Black and Latina founders raise more than $25 million in outside funding.
digitalundivided also launched ProjectDiane, a biennial demographic study on the state of Black female founders. Data from this study informed the organization’s decision to launch its BIG Incubator program, which provides a direct pathway for women of color to enter the tech world.
/dev/color is a nonprofit networking organization that empowers Black software engineers to become industry leaders. The organization’s A* Program is an on- and offline community of like-minded Black software developers who grow their careers by learning from and supporting their peers.
Whatever Black coders want to achieve—whether it’s finding a new job, learning a new skill, or starting a company—the /dev/color/ community can help them get there.
The Hidden Genius Project
The Hidden Genius Project trains and mentors young Black men to become tomorrow’s tech leaders. It was founded in 2012 by five technologists who wanted to leverage the huge number of career opportunities to solve for high unemployment among young Black Americans.
NewMe Accelerator is a one-week accelerator program that helps Black tech entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable, profitable businesses. The organization was founded in 2011 by Angela Benton and today runs accelerators in five cities: Cincinnati, Columbus, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Miami. It has had a hand in the launch of more than 100 businesses that collectively have raised more than $47 million in funding. For entrepreneurs who can’t attend in person, NewMe also offers an online service that has helped train thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide.
#YesWeCode is a nationwide Dream Corps initiative aimed at helping 100,000 young men and women from underrepresented backgrounds find success in the tech industry. The organization was co-founded by CNN political commentator Van Jones and is led by Vien Truong. It runs a variety of programs to teach kids and teens the skills they need to succeed in tech. Those programs include hackathons; the #YesWeCode scholarship fund, which works to remove the financial barriers to a tech education; and a job training program called The Coding Corps.
Are you aware of other programs and organizations that should be added to this list? Please email email@example.com with your recommendations.