Celebrating Black Inventors in Modern Technology


February is Black History Month. Connection is honored to take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been as a nation and where we are today. As a company, our core values are respect, excellence, teamwork, integrity, and corporate citizenship. Together, we strive to be a socially responsible company that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion in our communities.

This year, we are featuring Black inventors who created technologies that changed the world for the better and set the stage for future innovations—some of which we use every day and provide to our customers!

Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson 

Dr. Shirley Jackson’s groundbreaking scientific research in physics led to the inventions of the portable fax, touch-tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, caller ID, and call waiting. She was the first Black woman to receive a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She later served as the co-chair of President Barack Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2016. She became the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest technological research university in the United States. Hear Dr. Jackson’s story:

Dr. James Edward West

More than 90% of the microphones today, including those in phones, cameras, and hearing aids, use technology co-invented by Dr. West. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Dr. West developed what is now known as a foil electret microphone, an invention that enabled the transfer of sound to electrical signal. This became one of his 200 patents. After a long career as an acoustical scientist, West became an educator and has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Hear Dr. West’s story:

Otis Boykin 

Otis Boykin attended the Illinois Institute of Technology but had to withdraw because he couldn’t afford tuition. That setback didn’t stop him from inventing a resistor that was used in computers, television, and radios—and eventually holding 26 patents for related technology. Boykin’s patented wire resistor became highly sought after by the U.S. military and IBM, and a version of his resistor was also used in the invention of the pacemaker that has helped to extend the lives of thousands of individuals. Read more about Mr. Boykin’s story.

Dr. Marian Croak

Could you imagine not having Zoom, Teams, or Skype? Videoconferencing and other Internet-based audio/video and text communication applications wouldn’t be around if not for voice over IP (VoIP) technology. VoIP was invented by Dr. Marian Croak. Dr. Croak holds over 125 patents in VoIP technology and managed more than 2,000 engineers and computer scientists responsible for AT&T’s enterprise and consumer wireline and mobility services. She is currently serving as Google’s Vice President of Engineering. Hear Dr. Croak’s story:

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Marie Van Brittan Brown was a nurse who wanted to feel safer at home after working odd hours at the hospital. She developed a home security system using peepholes, cameras, and a radio-controlled wireless system. The system relayed images to a monitor and enabled the person watching the monitor to communicate with the person being filmed via two-way microphones. A remote control also allowed Marie to lock or unlock the door at a distance and featured a panic button that would call the police. This paved the way for modern closed-circuit television and home security as we know it. Hear Ms. Van Brittan Brown’s story:

Jesse Russell

Cell phones would not be possible without the research of Jesse Russell. He discovered a way to digitize speech to reduce bandwidth in the 1980s, which played a critical role in cell phone communications. Russell holds numerous patents in broadband wireless networks, including 4G, and was inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Engineering for his work. Hear Mr. Russell’s story.

Dr. Gladys West

GPS technology helps us navigate, track weather patterns, and plays a critical role in military operations. Working for the Navy, Dr. West was involved in astronomical studies, and in the 1970s and 1980s, she programmed early computers to better model the actual shape of the earth using data from satellites. This work laid the foundation for modern GPS featuring accurate models of the earth’s surface. Dr. West was inducted into the U.S. Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018. Hear Dr. West’s story:

In February—and throughout the year—there are many more opportunities to support one another. We encourage you to support Black-owned businesses, donate to charities that support equality, participate in DEI committees, and learn more about Black history