In the United States, during the month of February, we recognize the impact and contributions African Americans have had on U.S. history. This is known as “Black History Month”. The terms “Black” and “African American” are used interchangeably. (In the UK, Black History Month is celebrated in October.)
Specific to the field of technology, some of America’s most amazing innovations have come from Black people, although they often don’t get the recognition they deserve. To get a sense of why that may be, it’s important to understand the history of what we now call the United States from the perspective of the Black experience.
In the year 1619, approximately twenty Africans were kidnapped from their villages near what is known today as Angola and arrived in the state of Virginia. The current year, 2019, marks the 400th anniversary of the first time slaves arrived in what we know today as the United States. For over two centuries, Africans were hijacked from their homeland, forced on ships where 250–600 of them were chained in the cargo area, and sold across Europe and throughout the Americas. Once these humans were purchased, they were bred to primarily perform manual labor where they suffered physical abuse.
The U.S. Constitution originally considered African Americans 3/5th of a citizen. Later, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th Amendment granted former slaves full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted Black Men the right to vote. Soon after, African Americans were considered “separate but equal”. This forced segregation meant that African Americans could not attend the same schools, eat at the same diners, and drink from the same water fountains as White Americans. During the mid-1900s, segregation in the United States began to end, and the Civil Rights era brought forth the process of greater fairness and inclusiveness for all minorities.