February 27, 2023

Black History Makers of Today: Leading Innovation in Computing and Tech

This year’s Black History Month theme, chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), is ‘Black Resistance.’ Celebrated every February in the U.S. and throughout the month, each year, during Black History Month organizations and individuals come together to honor the immeasurable impact of Black Americans throughout history. The month of February was chosen to celebrate black history because it includes the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. 

Breaking Barriers in Science, Technology, and Computing

There are many Black Americans who embody “Black Resistance”, continuing to pave the way for future generations.  We celebrate the work of Julieanna Richardson, the Founder and Leader of The History Makers, the largest national collection effort of African American video oral histories on record since the WPA Slave Narratives. The archive includes oral histories from areas such as business, art, education, law, medicine, religion, politics, and of course science.  We encourage our community to review these histories for inspiration to continue innovating and paving the way for future generations. 

Here are just a few examples of pioneers breaking barriers in computing today from History Makers ( 

  1. Dr. Andrea Lawrence – A computer scientist and teacher from Asheville, North Carolina, Dr. Lawrence earned a PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology in computer science. Today she teaches computer science classes on wide-ranging topics from artificial intelligence to programming languages, and is committed to increasing the number of women and minorities working in science. Her work today includes using satellites to gather information about remote areas of Antarctica. 
  2. Dr. Ayanna Howard The founder of Zyrobotics, Dr. Howard is the first woman to serve as dean of The Ohio State University College of Engineering. Nationally, only 17% of engineering deans or directors in the U.S. are women. Ayanna was also the program director of the first multidisciplinary robotics PhD program in the country. She worked previously at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, including on the development of SmartNav, an autonomous, next-generation Mars rover. 
  3. Dr. Brian Blake – Dr. Brian Black is President of Georgia State University. He was also the first African American tenured professor in Notre Dame’s College of Engineering. Before entering academia, Brian worked as a software architect, technical lead, and expert developer at General Electric, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and The MITRE Corporation.
  4. Dr. Odest Jenkins – Odest Chadwicke Jenkins is an American computer scientist who is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Michigan. Jenkins works on human–computer interaction and the design of robotic systems that learn from demonstration. He is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. At Brown University he leads the Robotics, Learning and Autonomy Group, working on human-robot interactions and robot learning with graduate students and faculty. He was named to the ‘Brilliant 10’ list in 2010 by Popular Science Magazine.

CMD-IT Fosters Innovation through Inclusion 

Improving representation at the highest levels of academia and the corporate world in the areas of science, technology, and engineering are just one way that pioneers like Andrea, Ayanna, Brian, and Odest serve as Black Resistance leaders today. Increasing diversity in science, technology, and computing fields is essential to building an equitable future for all Americans. In the footsteps of W.E.B. Du Bois, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, and other Civil Rights leaders who fought against discrimination, today’s technology leaders like Lawrence, Howard, Blake, and Jenkins continue to fight for inclusion in the workforce of the future.