Achieving success in technology has not been easy for African Americans in the United States. In many cases, African American engineers and IT executives have had to work twice as hard as their non-minority counterparts in order to receive equal treatment in the workplace. This is because they are a part of a cultural group that has experienced prejudice, marginalization, and outright terror for hundreds of years.1       

Even though diversity and inclusion in the workplace has become a top objective for employers in the United States, many firms have been unable to fully accomplish it despite their best efforts.2 The difficulties are still present today, but there are African Americans who have managed to make it to the top of the tech field despite all of these challenges. Their contributions to the area are no less significant, even though their names might not be as well-known. 

This article will look at a few African Americans who were forerunners in the field of computer science and contributed to the sector’s development.2,3

Katherine Johnson


Have you ever heard of Katherine Johnson? Her contributions as a mathematician and “human computer” were crucial to the success of NASA’s U.S. Space Program. Her research on the use of geometry in space flight, which she did as part of the human spaceflight project, eventually helped with the transportation of people to the moon.4

Mrs. Johnson was one of hundreds of highly qualified, supremely brilliant, but mostly unnoticed women who worked as NASA mathematicians far before the feminist movement. President Barack Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on her in 2015, saying, “Katherine G. Johnson refused to be limited by society’s expectations of her gender and race while expanding the boundaries of humanity’s reach.” 5

Mark Dean

Mark Dean

Mark Dean worked at IBM for over 30 years and was a key pioneer in the invention of PCs and their capacity to interface with other devices. His efforts also led to the development of computer accessories like disk drives and printers, which opened up computing to everyone. Dean led a group that developed a 1GHz CPU in 1999, and is now a professor at the University of Tennessee.6

Kimberley Bryant


Did you know that hundreds of young women of color have Kimberley Bryant to thank for their careers in technology? She founded Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization that inspires and empowers Black women to pursue careers in technology. Bryant started Black Girls Code after learning that there were no suitable courses for her daughter to study coding. She wanted to encourage girls, especially those from minority populations, to pursue careers in STEM. The organization, which has already taught 3,000 students to code, aims to teach one million Black girls how to code by 2040.7 9

Roy Clay


Due to his contributions to the sector, programmer Roy Clay is frequently referred to as the Godfather of Silicon Valley. Through the creation of the HP 2116A minicomputer in the 1960s, his work helped to shape technology. He also started several initiatives to support and inspire minorities to pursue careers in science and technology.2

Marie Van Brittan Brown


The first home security system was developed by African American inventor Marie Van Brittan Brown, who paved the way for a much safer society today. She created the first closed-circuit television security system, which set the stage for today’s sophisticated home security systems. Marie needed a home security system because she was afraid of living in a high-crime area of New York. The security system was the foundation for contemporary security’s two-way communication and surveillance features. Additionally, she is credited with developing the first closed-circuit television.8

There are a great number of other African American pioneers who have made significant contributions to the technological world. Children today who want to pursue a career in technology may find inspiration in these great minds who challenged and overcame barriers that came in their path. To read more such inspiring articles, visit BYJU’s FutureSchool Blog.


  1. Black Workers Really Do Need to Be Twice as Good – The Atlantic. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  2. Hidden figures: 7 Black programmers you should know | InfoWorld. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  3. Celebrating Black Pioneers in Computer Science [Infographic] – Lireo Designs. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2022, from 
  4. Katherine Johnson | Biography, Education, Accomplishments, & Facts | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  5. Katherine Johnson, pioneering NASA mathematician portrayed in “Hidden Figures,” RIP | Boing Boing. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  6. Dr. Mark Dean: Computer Inventions — Famous Black Inventors. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  7. Kimberly Bryant | U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  8. Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) •. (n.d.). Retrieved September 14, 2022, from 
  9. Black Girls CODE – Love Our Girls. (n.d.). Retrieved September 20, 2022, from