Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Reviewed by Serena Haroian, Collection Librarian for Business and Public Affairs
In his book, The Black Digital Elite, John T. Barber profiles twenty-six African Americans who have made significant contributions to the advancement of technology over the past four decades. From inventors to CEOs, educators to policy-makers, the compilation of perhaps unfamiliar names and faces adds richness to the history of technological innovation. Beyond the biography, each profile includes an insightful discussion about the digital divide, its persistence and how African Americans can create new paradigms for themselves in order to bridge the gap.
A common thread throughout the book is that African Americans have proven to be willing consumers of technology but they have not generally been the benefactors of the economic opportunities brought about by technology, especially the Internet. One clear path to changing this, says William Kennard, former Chairman of the FCC, is to ensure racial equality in education and access to technology.
The long-term solution is not new. It’s as old as Brown v. Board of Education. We must ensure racial equality in education. But the new twist is that technology is dramatically transforming education in this society and, if we don’t make sure that all kids have equality of access to technology, the digital divide will only widen.
Those profiled express a central message that, in order to prosper and drive social change in a period of technological and economic growth, African Americans must have the abilities to participate at all levels of technology, from developing software to creating cyber-networks.