Black History Month: Notable Achievements In STEM

The month of February is coming to a close and I wanted to end Black History month with one final celebration of the successes of Black Americans in the United States.

As an African American lawyer, law professor and eSafety consultant, I thought it would be timely to write a post on Black achievements in technology and science to inspire all children of color.  Several Black tech pioneers laid the groundwork for technological advances that are proving beneficial in the digital environment as well.

Here is a sample list of remarkable achievements:

  • Lewis Latimer (inventor and draftsman) helped draft the patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and he worked for Thomas Edison as well.
  • Mae C. Jemison (Astronaut) was the first African American woman space traveler in 1992 aboard the shuttle Endeavor.
  • Dr. Shirley Jackson (theoretical physicist) was the first African American woman to earn a PhD in nuclear physics at MIT.
  • Marie Van Brittan Brown (inventor) created the first home security system.
  • Dorothy Johnson Vaughan (NASA mathematician) was a “human computer” who did the math calculations that launched satellites into space.
  • Otis Boykin (inventor) had 26 patents and helped with the development of IBM computers.
  • Charles Drew (physician and medical researcher) developed the first large-scale blood banks and blood plasma programs.
  • Marian R. Croak (inventor at AT&T) has over 130 patents primarily in voice-over Internet protocol.
  • Lisa Gelobter (Chief Digital Service Officer with US Department of Education) was involved in the creation of Shockwave, the technology that was the beginning of GIFs and web animation.

This list is by no means exhaustive and it is just a glimpse of some remarkable achievements in science and technology.  You can continue to research pioneers in technology by performing a simple online search, visit your local library or science museum.

You can inspire your own children in science and technology with the many books, movies and spaces dedicated to STEM.  Be sure to consider the activities available in your local communities or in online spaces.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Museums, science centers, planetariums and more – many have technology-based collections.
  • National Geographic Kids – for science explanations on how things work.
  • Black Girls Code – inspiring young Black girls to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math professions.
  • Summer Technology Camps – a listing of camps around the world with suggestions on how to find the best camp.
  • Connected Camps - online coding classes and camps for boys and girls.

All of our children can benefit from exploring science, technology, engineering and math activities; the resulting critical thinking and problem-solving skills will inevitably help them with the digital skills of the future.

A shorter version of this post originally appeared as a article for the Family Online Safety Institute.

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