Getting lost in a great book is one of the best ways to broaden your worldview and develop empathy for people whose perspectives are different from your own. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of great books written by thought leaders in the tech industry.
In honor of Black History Month, we’ve put together a list of books about tech that are all written by Black authors. Whether you’re looking for a way to learn more about iconic Black technologists and programmers who have paved the way throughout history, or just want a thought-provoking book to read on your commute, here are the books you should pick up next — with links to Black-owned bookstores where you can buy these titles.
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1. Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter
Tech has provided new ways to amplify voices of the civil rights movement, with all forms of organizing and activism found across every social media platform. And while you might think digital activism started with the #BlackLivesMatter movement circa 2012, its roots actually date much farther back.
In Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, Charlton McIlwain traces the roots of (Black) digital activism from modern hashtags to Black digital spaces from the 1990s and Afrocentric message boards from the 1960s to illustrate how tech has been used to address (and uphold) racial injustice. Buy here.
2. Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code
As tech becomes more and more integrated into our society, the need for diversity in the industry becomes more urgent. In this book, sociologist Dr. Ruha Benjamin explains how technology can subtly reinforce societal biases if we’re not careful, using modern examples of problematic software. Dr. Benjamin’s inspiration for the book came from recognizing data-driven discriminatory practices in healthcare, education, and even hiring, she told The Guardian. Buy here.
3. Unstoppable: The Unlikely Story of a Silicon Valley Godfather
Unstoppable tells the story of Roy Clay — who, despite being born in 1929 and facing discrimination throughout his life, rose to become known as the Godfather of Silicon Valley. After becoming one of the first Black graduates of Saint Louis University, Clay found himself turned away from several companies due to his race. Everything changed when he taught himself to code and got hired as a programmer at a federal research facility. Later, he led Hewlett Packard’s computer science department, where he oversaw the development of their first computers and led several initiatives to support Black people in tech. Buy here.
4. It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage
Arlan Hamilton is a venture capitalist who featured in our list of inspiring LGBTQ+ people in tech last year. Backstage Capital, her investment fund, primarily supports minority-owned startups — an initiative she led after recognizing discriminatory behaviors in venture capitalism. Her book, It’s About Damn Time, tells her personal career story, including her experiences with homelessness. She also shares invaluable lessons and tips for entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups who aspire to rise to success. Buy here.
5. Algorithms of Oppression
In Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble points out the racial and sexist biases hidden in search engines and outlines how they help reinforce white supremacy. Dr. Noble connects the issue to “technological redlining” and explains how algorithms can veil and reinforce discriminatory practices. “I hope my book puts a spotlight on how these algorithms lead to further oppression and marginalization of, primarily, women of color,” she said in an interview with the University of South Carolina. “But they also do a disservice to understanding complex ideas about society.” Buy here.
6. Sasha Savvy Loves to Code
It’s never too early to start coding, and Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is perfect for young programmers. The book tells the story of how Sasha Savvy and her friends learn how to stamp out (computer) bugs at their coding summer camp. It’s a great way to introduce children to the world of opportunity that coding provides, and serves as a reminder of why representation matters. With Black Americans comprising only 7% of the U.S. tech workforce, books like Sasha Savvy Loves to Code help show underrepresented groups that there’s a place for them in the field. Buy here.
7. Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures
Black culture’s mainstream (and global) impact is undeniable, and it’s especially prevalent on social media platforms as AAVE (African-American Vernacular English), rap, and hip-hop dominate TikTok and Twitter. Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures examines the relationship between Black culture and technology. Scholar André Brock’s book sheds light on how Black culture helped popularize and influenced social media (and has been influenced in return). It’s a must-read, whether you’re super active on Black Twitter or just a casual scroller. Buy here.