to be black, in tech, in 1947

September 25, 2019
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It is important that we share the previously unwritten histories of our unsung heroes to keep their legacy alive. These accounts can then serve as a blueprint for future change-makers. Those who cement these people and their stories in history have a job as important, and deserve to be celebrated as well.

From 1971 to 1977, Clyde W. Ford was an IBM software engineer. On September 17th, 2019, he published Think Black: A Memoir, that is also a tribute to his father John Stanley Ford, IBM’s first Black stems engineer in 1947. His father’s time at the company was difficult, as you can imagine for a Black man in an otherwise all-white American industry. In addition to a challenging job, he had to overcome a workplace environment in which he was isolated and regularly conspired against. Though passed over for promotions, discriminated against (in pay and otherwise), and presented with a hostile work environment, Ford persevered, knowing how important it was for him to take this job and eventually use his position to open the door for more Black employees.

While racism and lack of diversity in the tech world remain extremely prevalent, Ford’s impact can still be felt. By personally coaching Black men and women on the IBM exam and interview, he ensured their entrance into the company. Today, because America’s Black tech community that has grown because of people like John Stanley Ford, there exist incredible community-based organizations like Black Girls Code and the Technology Access Foundation. 

Purchase the memoir HERE.