February 8, 2023

Black History Month: The Tech Pioneers You Need To Know About (Part III)

To commemorate Black History Month, we have been spotlighting the Black pioneers in tech who have paved the way for up-and-coming Black technologists.

From completely revolutionizing the technology world to creating the everyday tech items we can’t live without today. As a collective, this group has helped inspire a whole generation of Black professionals in tech. So, let’s meet them. 

Frank Greene 

Frank Greene was one of the first Black technologists who broke new ground for Black engineers to break into Silicon Valley in the 1960s. 

Greene wore many hats throughout his career, including working as a venture capitalist, scientist, teacher, innovator, engineer, and researcher. The jack of all trades made his official mark in the industry after completing the first high-speed semiconductor computer-memory system. 

In 1993, Greene founded NewVista Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to helping Black women and minority founders scale their businesses. 

As a consummate innovator, he worked to create two software firms and launched several startup companies with a particular focus on helping women and minority entrepreneurs. The firm went on to fund over 26 IT startups led by Black and brown founders. 

Greene was credited for his work by the Silicon Valley Hall of Fame in 1999. Additionally, he was also awarded the title of the Purdue University Outstanding Electrical Engineer Award that same year. 

Annie Jean Easley

Annie Easley is an American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. Easley began her career after reading an article about NASA’s quest to find people with strong math skills in Birmingham, Alabama.  

Her career – which spanned 34 years – began in 1955, Easley as a “human computer.” The scientist became the brains behind numerous programs as a computer scientist and was credited for her participation in multiple outreach programs. 

Easley was one of the first to break down barriers for women and Black and brown people in science. The mathematician was also passionate about her outreach efforts at NSA and took part in school tutoring programs to help female, and minority students pursue careers in STEM. 

In addition to her technical and outreach activities, Easley became a champion of employee morale and even spent a few years working as an equal employment opportunity counselor. 

Valerie Thomas 

When we’re talking about Black history, Valerie Thomas cannot be left out of the conversation. The inventor and scientist, known for being the brains behind 3D imagery, is one of the many Black women in history who helped shift the culture today. 

Thomas, who joined NASA in 1964 as a data analyst, worked on translating data captured by Orbiting Geophysical Observatory satellites. 

Thomas also worked on “Landsat,” the first satellite program to send images from space to scientists to help connect scientists with the data they need to understand our planet and Earth’s surface further.

Alongside her work at NASA, Thomas is widely recognized for inventing the illusion transmitter – also known as a 3D image – which has become one of the most immersive aspects of modern technology. 

Thomas spent much time educating and inspiring up-and-coming Black scientists like herself. In an interview with REVOLT, she discussed the importance of sharing her knowledge with the younger generation to help them elevate to the next level. 

“I want [people] to think back on me, first of all, as a lifetime learner. I want [young people] not to run away from challenges. I like to share knowledge with young people. And I would like to see them take the knowledge to the next level,” Thomas said.

Get to know more Black tech pioneers here!

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.