February 16, 2023

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

To commemorate Black History Month, we have been spotlighting the 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. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown 

Marie Van Brittan Brown

How safe would you feel if home security systems didn’t exist? Well, thanks to Marie Van Brittan Brown, that isn’t something you have to worry about. 

Marrie Brown is an American nurse and the inventor of the first video security system, which helped pave the way for the modernized security systems we use around our homes today. 

The New York native spent the first few years of her career as a nurse while her husband worked as an electronics technician. But, according to reports, Brown’s irregular working pattern saw her spend much of her time alone in their home. 

Brown felt vulnerable in their home at night, especially in their high-crime neighborhood. She would get fearful whenever someone she did not recognize showed up at her door and decided to come up with a solution to this, which is when the first video security system was born. 

A drawing of Marrie Brown’s home security system

In 1966, with the assistance of her husband, Brown designed a security system that included a sliding camera, television monitors, two-way microphones, and four peepholes. Each item formed a closed-circuit television system – which we now refer to as CCTV – which helped her capture images of people who walked past her home. 

The two-way microphones made it easier for Brown to communicate with people outside her home at a safe distance. Additionally, the emergency button – if triggered – would send an automatic alarm to the police.

Marie Van Brittan Brown’s idea has since developed to become popular modern security systems we all know and love today, such as Ring doorbells, Google Nest cams, and Apple Homekits. 

Mae Jemison 

Mae Carol Jemison NASA

Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut who inspired an entire generation of Black astronauts. 

The Alabama native discovered her love for science at a very young age and aspired to build her career as an astronaut but was disheartened to see that many of the astronauts she looked up to were men. 

However, once Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, Jemison decided to make her dreams a reality by applying for the astronaut program at NASA. 

In 1992, Jemison broke records as the first Black woman to travel to space after spending more than a week orbiting the earth in the space shuttle Endeavour. 

After serving six years as an astronaut, Jemison left NASA and started her journey at a consulting company specializing in science, technology, and social change. She also featured in an episode of Star Trek as Lieutenant Palmer. 

Marques Brownlee 

Marques Brownlee

If you’re a part of the tech community on YouTube, chances are you have already subscribed to Marques Brownlee’s channel or come across his work before. 

Marques Keith Brownlee – also known as MKBHD – is an American YouTube known for his technology-focused videos. Brownlee’s platform focuses on tech development and how it has evolved to become our current reality. 

Additionally, his gadget-focused YouTube channel MKBHD consists of reviews on everything from video games to drones and smartphones. 

The 29-year-old influencer has sat down with iconic faces, including Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Kobe Bryant. So it’s safe to say Brownlee’s work rate is undefeated. 

Last year, the YouTuber hit over 16 million subscribers on his channel with just over 3 billion total video views.


Dr. James E. West 

James E West

From podcast creators to musicians, everyone is using microphones. Although audio recording on smartphones has become a trendy alternative for many, electret microphones are still the most popular way of audio recording today. 

If you’ve spoken on the telephone or used a camcorder, baby monitor, or hearing aid, you have Dr. James West to thank for that. 

In 1962, the scientist and inventor designed the first electret transducer technology – which included permanently charged material – while working at Bell Laboratories. West’s invention soon replaced the carbon microphone and became widely used in contemporary microphones worldwide. 

The microphone grew in popularity due to its high performance, reliability, lightweight and low cost. Today, the electret transducer can be found in many modern-day sound and music recording types of equipment. 

West has received several awards for his work, including the Golden Torch Award in 1998. He was also inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. 

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.