Panel: African American Histories in Silicon Valley

Archiving the innovations of Black Americans in the Bay Area’s tech industry
Tuesday, 3/8/2022
12:00 - 1:30

Silicon Valley is recognized as a global center for scientific and technological innovation. Less known, and often absent from the public record, are the Black American innovators who were a vital part of its development. In this panel discussion, Kathy Cotton, a filmmaker documenting Black contributions to the South Bay technology industry, members of the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford Libraries and esteemed Black Silicon Valley innovators discuss why it is important these histories are documented. 

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Kathy Cotton is working to bring the history of African Americans in Technology past and present to light. Mrs Cotton began her career as a human resources professional working first for several startup companies and ending her career at Hewlett Packard. Before Mrs. Cotton retired from Hewlett Packard she began studying digital presentation at the Digital Media Academy on the Stanford University campus. Mrs. Cotton has completed three documentaries and numerous vanity videos for friends and family as well as short promos for organizations. Her latest documentary is A Place at the Table, a documentary featuring the African American pioneers of Silicon Valley.  


Rodney Carter began working at Stanford in 1986. In 2019, he became the first Program Lead for the People of Color in Technology (POC-IT) affinity group under the IDEAL IT initiative. Today he is the Emeritus Lead for the Program and is focused on moving the needle on the jointly released CIO Council and POC-IT Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Action. Two efforts that have come out of the Commitment to Action are the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) and the Explore Careers in Technology Event (ExCITE)


Henry Lowood is the Harold C. Hohbach Curator at Stanford University, responsible for history of science & technology collections and film & media collections in the Stanford Libraries. He has combined interests in history, technological innovation and the history of digital games and simulations to head several long-term projects at Stanford and is the author of numerous articles and books on the history of Silicon Valley and the development of digital game technology and culture. He is part of the oral history team for the “Histories of African Americans in Silicon Valley” project at Stanford Libraries. 


Alesia Montgomery, Ph.D, is an ethnographer who works as the subject specialist for sociology, psychology and qualitative data at Stanford Libraries. Her book, Greening the Black Urban Regime: The Culture and Commerce of Sustainability in Detroit (Wayne State University Press, 2020), tells the story of the struggle to shape green redevelopment in Detroit. She is currently part of the oral history team for the “Histories of African Americans in Silicon Valley” project at Stanford Libraries. 

Connect to engaging discussions and performances related to the Black community.

More Than a Month recognizes important events in Black history, honors community and national leaders and fosters steps towards collective change. Programming features authors, poets and craft classes. 

This program is sponsored by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

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