Amistad: HarperCollins. Sept. 2019. 304p. photos. notes. ISBN 9780062890566. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062890580. MEMOIR
This memoir intersperses stories from Ford’s (The Hero with an African Face) experiences growing up as a young black man in the 1960s and memories of his father, John Stanley Ford, the first black software engineer at IBM, with reflections and analysis on the intersections of race, prejudice, and technology. Hired in 1946, John Stanley faced biases at work and struggled with misguided beliefs about the relationship between skin color and intelligence. He began teaching his son computer programming and advanced mathematics when Ford was young. Ford, who later worked briefly at IBM, points out that science, math, and technology aren’t value free; that their applications are often predicated on exploitation and prejudice. He describes companies using positive diversity history for PR benefit while ignoring incidences of discrimination. He further examines the ways supposedly neutral technologies have been put to nefarious purposes by those seeking racial purity and reviews how internet search results can be manipulated and misunderstood, noting the prejudice ramifications of algorithms used for job screening and policing. VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in histories of computing and business, and black history, especially regarding STEM.