Portions of this article were originally published in June of 2020. We’ve refreshed this article with new information and fresh ideas on ways you can honor and celebrate Black History Month.
The History of Black History Month
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.
Today, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society—from activists and civil rights pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks to leaders in industry, politics, science, culture and more.
At Talent Tech Labs, we are proud to recognize and celebrate Black History Month by shining a spotlight on Black innovators who have made profound contributions to the fields of computer science and technology. Join us in honoring these pioneers, many of who have impacted the field of technology in ways that affect you every day. Read this inspirational article from educative.io for more information on each of these visionaries.
Roy L. Clay is an American inventor and computer scientist who played a significant role in the development of Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Valley as we know it today. In fact, some call him the “godfather of black Silicon Valley” because of his contributions to the field.
Gerald Lawson was an American electronic engineer known for designing the Fairchild Channel F video game console. He spearheaded the team the invented the commercial video game cartridge. Due to his contributions, he is sometimes called the “Father of Modern Gaming.”
Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson retired as the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2022 after a 50 year career. She is both the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate degree from MIT and the second African-American woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in physics. She is known for advancing telecommunications research at AT&T Bell Laboratories, leading to the creation of the touch-tone phone, portable fax machine, and caller ID technology.
Jacqueline D. Woods served the Chief Marketing Officer for IBM Global Business Partners. She lead with a focus on IBM Cloud and AI technologies, helping to bring these technologies to the public stage. Woods was features by Fortune Magazine as one of 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America and has been identified by several notable magazines, including NY Times and Wall Street Journal, as a unique, powerful leader in the tech space.
James E. West is known for developing the foil electret microphone that is still used in modern microphones. West has over 250 patents for the design of microphones and techniques for creating polymer foil electrets. In 1999, he joined the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2006, he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his foil electret microphone.
Valerie Thomas is the former Associate Chief of NASA Space Science Data Operations. She is known for inventing the illusion transmitter during her long career at NASA, which is still used today. She spearheaded NASA’s first satellite to send images from outer space and received a patent for the illusion transmitter in 1980.
Mark Dean, an IBM computer engineer and inventor, helped to build the IBM PC in 1981 and built the architecture that connects printers and monitors. He currently holds three of IBM’s nine PC patents. Amongst his other successes, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1997, and April 25 was officially deemed “Mark Dean Day” in Knox County, Tennessee.
Katherine Johnson – If you have seen the film Hidden Figures, you’ve heard of the pioneering work of Katherine Johnson. She was a former Engineer at NASA, known for her calculations that enabled humans to achieve space flight. President Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015, and NASA named a facility after her in 2016: the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility.
Three Ways You Can Honor Black History Month
Curious about how you can commemorate Black History Month? We’ve taken the time to highlight a few different ways you can spend your time in February to reflect on and honor the historic and important month:
1. Learn the Full History
One of the most meaningful actions you can take during Black History Month is to dedicate time to learn about its significance, providing a deeper understanding of the struggles and triumphs that have shaped the African American experience. Before we can enact positive change, it’s crucial to educate ourselves on the historical challenges faced by Black individuals throughout our nation’s history.The Harvard Graduate School of Education has curated a list of ten resources for reflecting on Black history and culture here.
2. Support Black-Owned Businesses
One of the most common ways people celebrate and honor Black culture is through supporting Black-Owned businesses. Often, major retailers partner with Black-Owned companies to promote products and services from Black working professionals. Supporting Black-Owned companies goes beyond simply contributing to their profits. When individuals shop and support Black-Owned Businesses, they are advancing and contributing to economic and entrepreneurial equity for historically underserved communities. In many cases, this serves as a means for lower-income families and populations to move up in economic prosperity. Below, we’ve created a list of a few different Black-Owned organizations you can support this February:
- Blk Market Vintage — Providers of vintage home goods aimed at preserving Black culture.
- Blk & Bold — A Black-Owned coffee and tea company with a commitment to supporting at-risk youth.
- Puzzle Huddle — A company that promotes inclusive imagery on puzzles for people of all races and ethnicities.
- MahoganyBooks — A family-operated bookstore providing a culturally diverse space for people to share and learn.
- Black Girl Sunscreen — A sunscreen brand specifically catered to Black women’s skin.
- Black Girls Breathing — Mental health is highly important, and so is feeling safe and comfortable in your environment. This organization creates a safe space for Black women to focus on their mental health and mindfulness.
- Jungalow – Colorful, limited edition home goods that are inspired by nature.
- Estelle Colored Glass – Uniquely colored, hand-blown glasses. Available at West Elm and Food52.
Clearly, this list is nowhere near exhaustive of the countless Black-Owned businesses around the United States and the globe. Spend some time researching which organizations exist within your own communities, so that you can help contribute to equal opportunities for all.
3. Donate To Supportive Organizations
Another way to honor and celebrate Back History month is through donating and supporting organizations that support and uplift Black communities. This is a great way of providing help and making the difference we’re unable to on our own. There are countless great organizations to consider. We’ve created a shortlist of a few different organizations to help start you on your way:
- American Civil Liberties Union — A nonprofit created to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country.
- Audre Lorde Project — A Brooklyn, New York-based organization for LGBT people of color that organizes nonviolent community activism.
- Bail Project — A nonprofit that aims to pay bail for people who are not financially capable of doing so themselves, to reunite families and preserve the notion of presumed innocence.
- Black Journalists Therapy Relief Fund — An organization that provides assistance for Black journalists facing financial hardship, so they can access the mental health resource they need.
Once again, this list is not exhaustive. There are countless other organizations that work to support and uplift people of color. Take some time to do some research on the various charities and nonprofits that exist, so you can make an informed decision on whom you donate to.
How Talent Tech Labs Can Help
In celebrating Black History Month, we have the power to make a significant impact in the workplace. By educating, engaging, supporting, and fostering inclusivity, businesses can honor this month in a way that resonates deeply within their internal community and company culture. This month and beyond, be inspired to continuously find ways to further implement inclusivity within your organization. Make it a place where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated meaningfully and with intention.
Leveraging innovation and technology can be instrumental in bolstering your workplace diversity and inclusion initiatives. Talent Tech Labs stands ready to advise on technological solutions tailored to meet your specific needs. Contact us today!
Additional Sources: History.com