Blog Posts by Clyde W. Ford

A blog about writing, race, and technology.

High Tech and High Holy Days

Yom Kippur is upon us, ending the "High Holy Days," of Judaism. A shofar, or ram's horn, is blown at Rosh Hashana, beginning a time of personal reflection. Yom Kippur ends these days with a period of atonement and repentance. Recently, news reports emerged of a shofar blown in Auschwitz during World War II, at great personal risk. During these...
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The 2019 Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

Think Black: A Memoir by Clyde Ford, published by Amistad Press, a division of HarperCollins has been shortlisted for the 2019 Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice. The Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize celebrates the power of the written word to create change in the name of justice for all people—a value shar...
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Working for the CIA?

While working at IBM as the first black software engineer in America, my father would occasionally be gone for months at a time on projects that he called "hush hush" or "top secret." When I asked him what he was doing, he would simply say that he was sworn to secrecy about his work. While working on my book about my dad, I came across a copy of an...
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In Love With A Starlet

My father never bragged about his life prior to my mother. But when it came to Ruby Dee, he seemed to get uncharacteristically mushy. And his personalized, autographed pictures of a beautiful young starlet hinted their's might be more than just a friendship between two young people growing up in the same Williamsbridge...
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Black in High-Tech Before Software

When my father was hired at IBM in 1946, there was no real concept of software. He actually worked as the first black "systems engineer" in the company. Over the course of a few years, software came into being but the title "systems engineer" stuck at IBM even though systems engineers worked mainly with software. What was it like before software? N...
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First Black Poet of the Digital Age?

Debit Memo By John Stanley Ford Hail to thee, trite paper! O nightmare of a clerk! The cause of many a caper Of some pencil-pushing jerk. Comes night when I am sleeping, And resting peacefully, I see you plainly weeping, And begging, "Please code me." I blow a fuse, more or less, And nasty words I mutter; But truly, I will confess You are my bread ...
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Being the First Black Software Engineer Took Its Toll

I wish I could say that my father never relented to the pressures he felt as the first black software engineer in America. However, that would not be true. Sometimes, he turned the racism he faced at IBM inward, blaming the color of his skin for being passed over for promotions or forced to train others who would then become his superiors. This par...
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The "Willie Lynch Letter"--A Hoax?

A letter I cite in Think Black, known as the "Willie Lynch Letter," may, in fact, be a hoax. The screed, supposedly written in the eighteenth century, is a racist rant exhorting slave holders to use various means to break and control their slaves, among these methods: to set at each other slaves of different skin colors. The letter's been around si...
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Backstory: How Does a Book Really Happen?

Many people believe that a lot of forethought goes into writing a book. Not so with THINK BLACK. This book has much more humble, mundane, even surprising origins. With THINK BLACK about to be published next week, I got to thinking about how this book really begin; about the backstory to THINK BLACK . For months, Susan, a writer friend and me, had b...
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Author Debuts New Technology for Latest Book

When Amistad/HarperCollins publishes Clyde W. Ford's latest book, THINK BLACK , on September 17, 2019, Ford will roll out new software for readers at the book's companion website. THINK BLACK is a memoir about the Ford's father, John Stanley Ford, a hidden figure in computers and the first Black software engineer in America, hired by IBM in 1946. G...
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Servants or slaves? How Africans first came to America matters

This month, we celebrate the quadricentennial of the arrival of the first Africans to America. Many chose to mark this occasion as the beginning of slavery in America. Earlier this year, when embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam appeared on CBS This Morning , he said, "We are now at the 400-year anniversary—just 90 miles from here in 1619. The fir...
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The First Black Software Engineer in America

It was the late 1940s, post–World War II America. Anything was possible! Duke Ellington swung jazz. Jackie Robinson swung a big-league bat. Brown v. Board of Education swung through the courts. Nowhere were new possibilities and promises felt more deeply than in Harlem, which was then Black America's gravitational center. In a City College classroo...
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Rounding the Cape: Race and the allure of technological progress

Rounding the Cape: Race and the Allure of Technological Progress By Clyde W. Ford Progress in technology is given. Progress in race relations is not. The last half-century, witness to an explosive rise in technology, has seen no such progress in race relations. From economic inequality to educational inequality to incarceration inequality to polici...
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Upcoming Seattle Area Events for Think Black

SEPTEMBER 18 at 12 NOON KUOW is one of Seattle's premier public radio stations. I'll be on host Bill Radke's noontime show, "The Record." Bill leads in-depth conversations about what matters today in Seattle and beyond, so I'm looking forward to our discussion about THINK BLACK . Even if you don't live in Seattle, tune-in to “The Record”&...
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A Literary Lion

On August 16, 2019, author Clyde W. Ford was named a "Literary Lion," by the Seattle-area King County Library System (KCLS) for 2019/2020. Each year KCLS chooses Northwest authors of merit, as "Literary Lions." This year, twenty authors were selected. Ford was named for Think Black , a memoir about his father, John Stanley Ford, the first Black sof...
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Life on the Rails: Finding My Grandfather

John Baptist Ford, my paternal grandfather, passed away five years before my birth. For many years, I knew only two facts about him: he'd been a Pullman porter and one of the first Black men to speak at Dartmouth College at the beginning of the 20 th century. In college, I dug into his history, finding one reference to the talk he'd given at Dartmo...
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Three Days of the Lion: Escaping the Grasp of the CIA

Spring 1968 drew out violence like a poultice drawing out poison from a snakebite. Two months after King's assassination in Memphis, Robert Kennedy was killed in Los Angeles. And only a few weeks after King's death, Columbia University erupted in student protest. At the time of the Columbia University uprising, I was a senior at Stuyvesant High Sch...
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Do You Really Want Me As A Houseguest?

In writing about her recent novel , Rules for Visiting , author Jessica Francis Kane asks, "Is it a good idea to invite someone into your home whose occupation it is to observe everything?" As a writer, and a trained psychotherapist, I need only ponder my time spent as a houseguest to apprehend the full meaning of Kane's insights. For my hosts, I j...
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Digital Literacy, Social Justice, and Race -- Part II

This is the conclusion of my blog on Digital Literacy, Social Justice and Race. When Microsoft released Tay, an artificial intelligence social media chatbot built to interact and learn from Twitter users, within a span of twenty-four hours the bot went from benign to anti-Semitic, racist, and misogynistic. When asked, "Did the Holocaust happen?" Ta...
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Digital Literacy, Social Justice and Race -- Part I.

Navigate to Microsoft's Bing search page ( www.bing.com ), and type in the phrase "black on white crime" (be sure to include the quotes to keep the words together in that order). When I did this on August 6, 2018, I received results very similar to those received by Dylann Roof, when he typed these same key words into the search engine on his brows...
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