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Black Pioneers in journalism and technology

As we celebrate this year’s Black History Month, we pay tribute to those who told compelling news stories and made some of the technology still used today. This time we put the spotlight on pioneers in journalism and technology. These are the forgotten trailblazers that have helped pave the way for modern media and technology according to Nava Atlas and Vince Dixon.  

Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) – A former slave, Ida was known for investigative writing using data and research to back up her claims. She was best known for spearheading a national anti-lynching campaign. There have been journalistic awards established in her name, scholarships in her honor, and even a museum celebrating her legacy in Holly Springs, Mississippi, her hometown.  

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) – a sociologist, a civil rights activist, and Harvard educated professor that hand drew beautiful data visual charts long before 3D graphics and photoshop. His graphics were cutting-edge, using research and statistics to showcase the achievements and diversity of African Americans, and challenge widely held stereotypes about them. 

Dr. Gladys Mae West (1931) – the Mother of GPS Technology. The United States Navy hired Gladys Mae West as a mathematician in 1956 for the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, where she came up with the algorithm that would later be known as GPS. Her contributions earned her the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers award in 2018. 

James E. West (1931) – The inventor of the modern microphone, West co-invented the foil electret microphone in 1962 with Gerhard Sessler. If you like podcasts, tape recorders, laptops, and most mobile phones use West’s invention.  

Alice Allison Dunnigan (1906–1983) – the first black woman correspondent to have White House credentials, Dunnigan was also the first black female member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives press galleries. President Eisenhower feared her tough, forthright questions at his press briefings and often avoided calling on her. 

Marvel Cooke (1903 – 2000) – The first black woman to write for a mainstream newspaper. She was one of the first female journalists of color allowed to write in a white male-dominated newsroom, and was also the only woman on staff at the time. She made significant contributions to the labor and Civil Rights movements and helped found one of the first New York chapters of the Newspaper Guild, a union for journalists. 

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