In the spirit of celebrating Black History Month this October, we are excited to shine a spotlight on the remarkable contributions of black individuals in the world of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This week we are reflecting on contributions made by members of the black community through literature in the STEM fields, amplifying those that are often overlooked despite their hard work.

More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech by Meredith Broussard

In this book, Meredith Broussard challenges the conventional notion of technological glitches as mere incidental errors that can be easily fixed. Instead, she delves into a critical examination of how racism, sexism, and ableism are not just occasional bugs in an otherwise functioning tech ecosystem but are deeply ingrained within the very systems themselves. Broussard presents a compelling argument, suggesting the concept of neutrality in technology is, in fact, a myth. She contends that algorithms, which underpin various facets of our lives, must be held accountable for the biases they perpetuate. This groundbreaking perspective has far-reaching implications, spanning across diverse fields such as jurisprudence and medicine.

By exploring the core ideas in ‘More than a Glitch’, readers gain a profound understanding of the systemic issues that plague the tech industry. Broussard’s insights are not only a wake-up call but also a call to action for those committed to constructing a more equitable future. This book is essential reading for anyone who is deeply invested in addressing and rectifying the inequalities embedded within technology and society itself.

Technology and the African American Experience: Needs and Opportunities for Study edited by Bruce Sinclair

Sinclair delves into a previously unexplored intersection of American history: the dynamic relationship between race and technology. While both race and technology have independently played pivotal roles in shaping the nation’s narrative, their connection has often been overlooked. This thought-provoking collection of essays uncovers this intersection, shedding light on the various social and technological contexts where the two converge.

The book offers an insightful examination of the realities of black technical creativity. Through meticulously researched essays, it highlights the ingenuity of African Americans, as evident in patented inventions that have significantly contributed to American progress. Moreover, the book unveils how African Americans harnessed ‘invisible technologies’ such as the cultural significance of sea chanteys and other non-obvious tools to navigate their unique experiences. The essays also explore the mastery of complex new technologies by African Americans, showcasing their ability to adapt, innovate, and excel in fields that have often been exclusionary.

The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another by Ainissa Ramirez

Within the pages of ‘The Alchemy of Us’, scientist and accomplished science writer Ainissa Ramirez embarks on a captivating journey to explore the profound impact of eight key inventions on the human experience. These inventions encompass a diverse range, including clocks, copper communication cables, light bulbs, hard disks, and silicon chips. Through her meticulously crafted narrative, Ramirez unveils how these creations have not only shaped the way we live but also fundamentally transformed our interactions with the world.

What sets ‘The Alchemy of Us’ apart from other works on technology is its dedication to bringing to light the stories of lesser-known inventors. Ramirez shines a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of individuals, particularly people of colour and women, who made significant contributions but have long remained obscured by myths, bias, and societal norms. These untold stories serve as a source of inspiration, challenging the conventional narrative and offering fresh perspectives on the intricate relationships we share with the technologies that have become an integral part of our lives. In this thought-provoking book, Ramirez not only unveils the incredible stories of these inventors but also provides readers with a deeper understanding of the intricate ways in which innovations and materials have influenced our world. ‘The Alchemy of Us’ is a testament to the transformative power of human ingenuity and its enduring impact on the ever-evolving tapestry of technology and society.

A Hammer in Their Hands: A Documentary History of Technology and the African-American Experience edited by Carroll Pursell

‘A Hammer in Their Hands’ offers a groundbreaking exploration at the crossroads of African American history and the history of technology. In this remarkable collection, scholars reshape our understanding of technology, broadening it to encompass the contributions of skilled artisans and the inventive spirit of self-taught innovators. This book reveals their enduring engagement with a diverse array of technologies, dating back to the colonial era.

Within the pages of this comprehensive work, ‘A Hammer in Their Hands’ compiles a rich tapestry of primary sources, including newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements related to runaway slaves, personal letters, folklore, protest pamphlets, and more. These sources collectively illuminate the often-overlooked technological accomplishments of African Americans. This book serves as a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of a community that, despite historical challenges, has left an indelible mark on the world of technology.

These authors help illuminate the deep-rooted biases, uncover the ingenuity of underrepresented inventors, and celebrate the transformative power of human ingenuity. These authors remind us that diversity enriches our understanding of technology and the world, and their works are a guide for building a more inclusive and equitable future. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us continue supporting diversity in STEM and honouring the legacy of innovation from all backgrounds.