Honoring Black History
We dedicate this article to all Blacks and African Americans in support and celebration of achievements in computer science. In this article, we will be shining a light on Black Computer Scientists and Engineers that have made astonishing contributions, big or small in the STEM world.
Black History Month is a very significant and important celebration in the history of not only America, but the world. This is because prejudice and discrimination against many black people for their skin color has happened since years long ago and still continues to this day. They are paid less than white people in similar positions and were historically separated in society. For example, they couldn’t drink, go to the bathroom, or eat in the same places white people could.
When it comes to math and computer science/engineering, math has been key to the development of modern technology. You probably think that to be a good computer scientist, you need to be a master with math, but to at least be successful, you should be able to understand the calculations that the computer is performing…so knowing Algebra really is helpful.
If you’ve read our article on the evolution of computers, then you’ll know that computers weren’t really used for the same purpose that they are commonly used for now. In fact, computers weren’t even for home use yet!
Starting in the year 1953, Katherine Johnson was working as what was called a “human computer” at NASA. Several African Americans who worked for NASA were human computers. These “computers” did mathematical calculations for NASA. These calculations were essential and helped make early missions successful.
Katherine was then asked to work on Project Mercury where she helped ensure that the calculations from digital computers at NASA were correct.
Katherine Johnson died very recently, on February 24th, 2020. She is remembered for her contributions to NASA projects. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, awarded to her from former president Barack Obama.
Clarence “Skip” Ellis
As many people know, neither African Americans nor women were expected to get an education in the 1800s and early 1900s. Clarence “Skip” Ellis was the first African American to acquire a Ph.D. in Computer Science which he received in 1969 from the University of Illinois at the Urbana Champaign. In addition, Ellis was also the first African American named to the Association of Computing Machinery (or the ACM).
Ellis not only made history, but he also made many contributions to the computer science field of technology and programming. For example, he contributed to the success of the ILLIAC IV supercomputer, along with the development of icon based GUI (Graphic User Interface), groupware technology, object oriented programming languages, and lastly operational Transformation (OT).
Kimberly Bryant grew up as one of the only women of color in her computer science and programming classes. She then came up with the idea to start her own organization called, “Black Girls Code” in 2011. Her mission was “to introduce programing and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and their own futures.” says Kimberly on her organization’s website: www.blackgirlscode.com.
Her astonishing activism and dedication to her organization won her the title of one of the 25 most influential African Americans in Technology from Business Insider. In addition, Kimberly was also Honored by the White House in 2013 as a “Champion Of Change for Tech Inclusion.”
John Henry Thompson
John Thompson is the creator of Lingo, a programming language that renders visuals for computer software. When he was a chief scientist at Macromedia, he created a program called Macromedia Director, which is a multimedia application authoring platform.
Thompson’s work helped bridge the gap between art and technology, creating a foundation for modern video games, web design, animation and graphics.
Evelyn Boyd Granville
Evelyn Granville was one of the first African American women to acquire a Ph.D. from Yale in 1949 in Mathematics. Seven years later, she joined IBM as a computer programmer, developing software programs for the IBM 650 computer.
Evelyn also worked on many diverse projects at IBM’s Aviation Space and Information Divisions for NASA’s Apollo space program, including digital computer techniques.
Thank you for celebrating Black History Month with us! We hope you remember the meaning for which this month was named after. In this article and around the world, we come together to celebrate those who fought for the rights of their people. – Sincerely, Gwen Barrett and Destiny Johnson