Black History Month: A Look at Leaders in Tech

Black History Month is a great time, but certainly not the only time, to celebrate and further inform ourselves on the deep and intricate history and culture of Black Americans. Black history is just as much about the historical black figures, who paved paths and reached back, as it is about today’s black history-makers. 

Let's dive deeper into black history in tech specifically and highlight those that open doors, blaze entirely new trails, expand collective knowledge and uplift others along their way. We’re sharing what we know and learn about Black tech leaders and historical facts on our social pages! If you have other black tech leaders to talk about, share them with us! 

BHM_Frank S Greene Jr
Meet Frank S. Greene Jr., a true tech trailblazer. Greene studied electrical engineering at Washington University in #StLouis (where he was among the first black students), Purdue University, and Santa Clara University. He later served as an Electronics Officer for the U.S. Air Force where he helped develop high-performance computers. In 1971, Greene founded Technology Development Corporation and later, Zero One Systems, Inc, but he didn't stop there!

In 1993, he rose as a Silicon Valley pioneer when he became the founding General partner of New Vista Capital, a venture capital firm focused funding businesses started by women and minorities.

Read more about Dr. Green in Purdue's Alumni Spotlight




Dr. Shirley Jackson was the first black woman to earn a PhD from MIT. Her research brought about inventions like touch tone, fiber optic cables, and caller ID. After being called away from academia when President Bill Clinton asked her to serve as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Jackson returned in 1999 as president of Rensslaer Polytechnic Institute. Her previous service on the boards of Rutgers and MIT prepared her to lead the charge in transforming RPI into a world-class technological research university. 

In many spaces, Dr. Jackson has been the first, but she continues to ensure that she's not the only.

Read more about Dr. Jackson's in the MIT Technology Review 

BHM_Dr. Kortney Ziegler

Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler is a film maker, writer and serial social entrepreneur using his platforms to create and hold space for the LGBTQ+ and black communities in tech. After writing and directing an award-winning film: STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen, Dr. Ziegler founded @transh4ck to leverage his growing interest in tech for transadvocacy.

What began as a hackathon, but has since grown into a space of resources and support for trans people in the tech industry! “Trans*H4CK has set a new precedent and has started discussions in tech about trans representation”
Dr. Ziegler has gone on to co-found a number of other social ventures including @appolition and ZamLabs Tech Incubator.
Read more about Dr. Ziegler in this feature

BHM_Valerie Thomas


Valerie Thomas was passionate about math and science from a young age, but was only able to explore that passion when she attended Morgan State University. During her time there, she was one of just two women to study physics.

After graduating she accepted a position at NASA, where she managed the development of the image-processing systems for Landsat, the first satellite to send images to the Earth from space. In 1980, she received a patent for the illusion transmitter. The technology is still used by @nasa today and has since been adapted for use in surgery and 3D screens.

Read more about Valerie Thomas on Massive Science

BHM_Guion Bluford Jr
Before becoming the first African American to travel into space, Guion "Guy" Bluford, Jr. spent his life in the aerospace field. After earning a Master's and PhD in aerospace engineering, he went on to become a decorated Air Force pilot. In 1979, he began his career as an astronaut and spent 688 total hours in space. Today, Guy is the president and founder of The Aerospace Technology Group which provides engineering support, business development, risk assessment, and engineering analysis within the aerospace industry and he occasionally leads public conversations, particularly relating to the contributions of marginalized scientists and thinkers toward today's complex problems.
 Read more about Dr. Bluford on this Penn State timeline

BHM_Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae Jemison was the first black woman to travel into space where she spent 190 hours...and that was her second career!
Before becoming an astronaut, Jemison began studying chemical engineering and Afro-American studies at Stanford (at age 16!), then later practiced medicine and was a Peace Corps medical officer in Sierra Leone and Libera. After her career as an astronaut, she founded the Jemison Group to research, develop and market advanced technologies. "Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations...If you adopt their attitudes, then the possibility won't exist because you'll have already shut it out ... You can hear other people's wisdom, but you've got to re-evaluate the world for yourself."
Read more about Dr. Jemison on 


These individuals are small sample of the #BlackInTech legacy. When you see another example coming up out in the wild, shout them out! It's important to show the next generation of tech-curious to see all the amazing things they can do!  ✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿