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The DEV Team

Tell us about the Black technologists that inspire you!

thepracticaldev profile image dev.to staff ・4 min read

Happy Black History Month!

Every February, the United States celebrates the achievements and central role of Black Americans in our culture and history. Black History Month is recognized in many other countries, too including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and The Netherlands across various months.

As in many fields, the inclusion and elevation of Black people in software development is nowhere near what it needs to be — and one month of recognizing the achievements of Black people won't do a thing to change that. What will? For starters, educating ourselves on systemic racism, recognizing and addressing biases, hiring and promoting Black people, and putting money into programs that benefit Black students and workers.

But the importance of celebrating Black brilliance, joy, and history (in every field) can't be overstated. So today, we'd like to take a moment to recognize several contemporary Black American technologists who are making history today and inspire us deeply...

Majora Carter

Majora Carter
source: Heather Kennedy/Getty Images

Where do we even start? Among many other hats she has worn, Majora Carter is an urban revitalization strategist and sustainability advocate. She is also responsible for helping to expand the tech-inclusion economy in the South Bronx, New York where she introduced MIT's first digital fabrication laboratory and co-founded several tech incubators and education centers. Through this work, Carter helped connect tech industry pioneers including Etsy, Google, and Cisco with diverse communities at all levels.

Majora Carter also founded the Bronx Tech Meetup, which has over 700 members today.

John Henry Thompson

John Henry Thompson
source: JohnHenryThompson.com

John Henry Thompson is a Jamaican-American software engineer and the inventor of Linguo: a verbose object-oriented scripting language (the primary programming language on the Adobe Shockwave platform). Formerly, John Henry Thompson was the Chief Scientist at Macromedia: a graphics, multimedia, and web development software company.

He is also passionate about art and studied drawing and painting at The Art Students League of New York. Throughout his career, John Henry Thompson has dedicated himself to bridging the gap between computing and the arts and helping others use the computer as an expressive instrument. Today, he works as a software consultant.

Mark Dean

Mark Dean
source: Black EOE Journal

Mark Dean holds three of the nine existing personal computer patents — which makes sense, considering the fact that he co-created the IBM personal computer in 1981. Dean was also the first African-American to become an IBM Fellow and is a card-carrying member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the United States (— well, if those in the N.I.H.F. don't carry cards, they should!).

Dean is responsible for a number of landmark computing technologies including the color PC monitor, the first gigahertz chip, and the Industry Standard Architecture system bus.

Timnit Gebru

Timnit Gebru
source: The Verge

Timnit Gebru is an Ethiopian-born computer scientist and expert in the critical fields of algorithmic bias and data mining. She is the co-founder of Black in AI, a group of Black computer scientists working in artificial intelligence. Throughout her career, Gebru has done some truly important work to shed light on the biases that exist in software development and how it impacts AI. We believe this is some of the most important ethical work we face as technologists today.

Kimberly Bryant

Kimberly Bryant
source: nrkbeta on Flickr

Kimberly Bryant is an electrical engineer and founder of the incredible Black Girls Code: a not-for-profit education center that teaches basic programming concepts to Black girls. Bryant has been recognized for her contributions to technology and inclusion by the United States Government, the Smithsonian museum, Business Insider, and many other institutions. More importantly, Black Girls Code has helped teach and empower many Black girls ages 7-17 about computer programming and digital technology.

We'd love to hear what Black tech history-makers inspire you in the comments below!


As we said above, Black people in tech, specifically in the United States, have had their work minimized and their opportunities suppressed for far too long, and it's long past due that we confront this and explore the reasons that exist within ourselves as people of this industry.

One practical way to address racism and bias in tech is to learn about and support Black-run tech organizations and projects. A few of our favorites are All Star Code, Black Female Founders, Blacks In Technology, /dev/color, Data For Black Lives, and of course, Black Girls Code and Black in AI. Share others that we should all know about below!

P.S. Check out this awesome discussion around historical Black technologists via CodeNewbie Community

Discussion (37)

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Krrish Dhaneja

I don’t know a tech history maker but one black person who teaches tech using YT, is Dagogo Altraide or famously known as Coldfusion on YT, he is the best person on earth according to me who teaches tech and science in a very interesting and documentary type videos!!

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Hrishi

Thank you. Subscribed his channel. Been there for a couple of hours and ordered his book. Quality stuff.

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krrishdhaneja profile image
Krrish Dhaneja

Yeah quality is at its highest level!

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Carnotfr

Wow, he's a black person!!! I love that!!

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Obakeng Gafoai

The fact that he's black makes me more of a fan! Thank you for this insight 🤯

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Till Sanders • Edited

MKBHD
Marques Brownlee / MKBHD – not because he's a genius programmer or something, but for his thoughtful and calm way of communicating criticism, which I really admire.

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Adi Polak • Edited

Angie Jones

Angie Jones is a Java Champion and Principal Developer Advocate
who specializes in test automation strategies and techniques.
She shares her wealth of knowledge by speaking and teaching at software conferences all over the world and leading the online learning platform, Test Automation University.

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Angie Jones

🙏🏾

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Luke Westby • Edited

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarence_Ell...

Dr. Ellis was one of the first researchers in collaborative systems and co-created OT

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Alvaro Montoro • Edited

Maybe not at a "history maker" level, but Angie Jones is definitely a leader and inspiration for many developers. She became the first Black female Java Champion, she is an amazing presenter, and shares her knowledge and a ton of interesting information on her Twitter account.

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Angie Jones

thank you 🙏🏾 I also am the inventor of 26 patents so lil bit of a history maker 😊

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Alvaro Montoro • Edited

I stand corrected. That's really impressive! And I learned that I have to add inventor to the list of amazing things you do 🙂

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Casey Strouse • Edited

Kelsey Hightower! What a great teacher and devops engineer. Inspired me to get better with automation. He's really the only person who comes immediately to mind.

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Jacob Bresciani

scrolled through the comments looking for his name, glad I found it already here

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Nathan B Hankes

Big shout out to @jeromehardaway , founder of the non-profit, @vetswhocode. He's changing lives!

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OHCubsFan

I'd love to give a shout-out to Leon Noel! leonnoel.com/about/ Leon is the Managing Director of Engineering @ Resilient Coders and Distinguished Faculty @ General Assembly. I encountered Leon last summer when he offered a short boot-camp for POC and people affected by the pandemic to begin learning Full Stack Web Development. When his short camp was successful, he ramped things up and began offering #100Devs, a 30-week full stack online bootcamp. The offerings in #100Devs are very similar to what he offers with his day job at Resilient Coders - everything is 100% free (always) and he takes people with no (or little) technical background and teaches them everything they need to know to get a wonderful job in the software engineering field, including interview prep, resume reviews, networking advice and training, and anything they might need on both the soft-skills as well as technical side of the table. His success rate at RC is over 85% placement within 3 months of graduation, including many graduates who were hired at FAANG companies. Leon is one of the most giving people I have ever known, and I am proud to be one of his students.

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Ineza Bonté Grévy

A portrait of Astronaut Victor J Glover

For me it's Astronaut Victor J Glover. Who is currently on the ISS

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Henri Helvetica

I was thinking about NASA just a few weeks ago as that was the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy in 1986, which was carrying astronaut Ron McNair. ✨🙏🏾✨

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern

Some of the guests we've had on the DevDiscuss podcast happen to black engineers who inspire countless developers.

Here are a couple episodes highly worth checking out:

play pause DevDiscuss
play pause DevDiscuss

How we represent and show respect to our BIPOC tech contributors in general is not one-size-fits-all, but in terms of excellence in contribution to tech in general, Kelsey and Courtland in the above shows are hugely influential by any measure.

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Jesse Warden • Edited

John Henry Thompson's Director is how I got started in programming. Without him inventing and building Lingo, I wouldn't be where I am today. It's frightening to think what my life would be without programming, without him doing what he did. I'm eternally grateful he built his dream, and empowered so many to start their careers with a MUCH easier bar of entry via less intimidating concepts like animation, sound, and video... where programming was more in the background. To this day, if you know Director and find out someone else knows of it too, you immediately can say "go to the frame" or "on startMovie" and you immediately have this strong camaraderie with a random stranger. Before there was internet, there were CD-ROM's and desktop software, and Director got you in with MUCH smarter people, but your stuff looked soo much cooler than theirs with custom window chrome, alpha channels, animation, sound, video, reading files... it was super powerful, super fun, and made you feel like a rockstar.

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Nikhil Chandra Roy

Happy black history 2021

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Henri Helvetica

There are so many to cover, but I'll bring them up throughout the month as I make some time to post. But one of the earlier companies in this web we love was called Network Solutions. They were the 1st and sole domain name provider to offer .com, .org and .net. domains. The company was co-founded by an African American Emmet McHenry. Network Solutions was a significant commercial enterprise that was at the very start of all business opportunities and presence on the web. Possibly too early for many or most to realize. Happy #BlackHistoryMonth

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Koray Biçer • Edited

For a long time, i did not know what racism is because there was none in my country. One day, a new government came and everythings is chaged. The people were divided within themselves. The words "you are with us or not" has spread. I am afraid to live in my own country now that I am a "alevi". Learning firsthand how bad racism is, I began to better understand what Americans were going through.

We cannot be proud of how these people stand out and gained these achievements in the society they live in. I thank all of them wholeheartedly.

My only wish, one day humanity will learn that there are no skin colors, no languages, no differences... We are all humans living on fragile planet.

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33nano profile image
🇵​​​​​🇰​​​​​🇳​​​​​

Shout to Jabrils, an indie game developer with loads of content on YouTube.

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Ryan McCallum

Happy Black History Month! ✊🏿

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marcellothearcane

Garrett Morgan, who invented loads of things, including the orange part of a traffic light, which saved countless lives 🚦

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marcellothearcane

And now I've just found out about James West, inventor of the electret microphone 🎤 (honestly, that's a big deal)

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Abod Micheal (he/him)

wow really glad we celebrating black tech , I don't know why but i feel so alive .
Ezra Olubi one of the CEO of paystack , glad it was a success

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Maureen T'o

I'm definitely really inspired by Joy Buolamwini! She created the Algorithmic Justice League and she was featured in the film, Coded Bias!

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stephen

Marques Brownlee and Mrwhosettheboss are probably one my favs. They have a lots of entertainment for technology which makes me watch even 5 hours about it.

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Patrick R

Shout out to my web and game developer friend Cedric (dev.to/tuskat) !

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Rolf Streefkerk

Great achievers are everywhere, Morgan Freeman gets the point across clearly.
youtube.com/watch?v=GeixtYS-P3s

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Keith

That doesn't quite help though, it just tell us to forget about those who are doing something different and daring regardless of the demographic around them.

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Rolf Streefkerk

it helps a lot, it tells us we need to focus on culture and not demographics. This rabbit hole will lead to nothing but issues down the line. Let me ask you this. When is White people month? When is yellow people month? When is X people month?
You get where I'm going with this, if you start separating achievements based on how someone looks, we're at the start of a society that is judged on appearance and not on achievement.

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Kedus Leji Yared

Yes, we got one Ethiopian in the list.

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Carnotfr

Shout out to all those who're trying to make it!!! We got this!!