Think Black : A Memoir
by Clyde W. Ford


Overview -

"Powerful memoir. . .Ford's thought-provoking narrative tells the story of African-American pride and perseverance."

-Publisher's Weekly (Starred)

"A masterful storyteller, Ford interweaves his personal story with the backdrop of the social movements unfolding at that time, providing a revealing insider's view of the tech industry. . . simultaneously informative and entertaining. . . A powerful, engrossing look at race and technology."

-Kirkus Review (Starred)

In this thought-provoking and heartbreaking memoir, an award-winning writer tells the story of his father, John Stanley Ford, the first black software engineer at IBM, revealing how racism insidiously affected his father's view of himself and their relationship.

In 1947, Thomas J. Watson set out to find the best and brightest minds for IBM. At City College he met young accounting student John Stanley Ford and hired him to become IBM's first black software engineer. But not all of the company's white employees refused to accept a black colleague and did everything in their power to humiliate, subvert, and undermine Ford.

Yet Ford would not quit. Viewing the job as the opportunity of a lifetime, he comported himself with dignity and professionalism, and relied on his community and his "street smarts" to succeed. He did not know that his hiring was meant to distract from IBM's dubious business practices, including its involvement in the Holocaust, eugenics, and apartheid.

While Ford remained at IBM, it came at great emotional cost to himself and his family, especially his son Clyde. Overlooked for promotions he deserved, the embittered Ford began blaming his fate on his skin color and the notion that darker-skinned people like him were less intelligent and less capable--beliefs that painfully divided him and Clyde, who followed him to IBM two decades later.

From his first day of work--with his wide-lapelled suit, bright red turtleneck, and huge afro--Clyde made clear he was different. Only IBM hadn't changed. As he, too, experienced the same institutional racism, Clyde began to better understand the subtle yet daring ways his father had fought back.

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    Think Black (Paperback)
    Published: 2020-12-08
    Publisher: Amistad Press
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More About Think Black by Clyde W. Ford
 
 
 
Overview

"Powerful memoir. . .Ford's thought-provoking narrative tells the story of African-American pride and perseverance."

-Publisher's Weekly (Starred)

"A masterful storyteller, Ford interweaves his personal story with the backdrop of the social movements unfolding at that time, providing a revealing insider's view of the tech industry. . . simultaneously informative and entertaining. . . A powerful, engrossing look at race and technology."

-Kirkus Review (Starred)

In this thought-provoking and heartbreaking memoir, an award-winning writer tells the story of his father, John Stanley Ford, the first black software engineer at IBM, revealing how racism insidiously affected his father's view of himself and their relationship.

In 1947, Thomas J. Watson set out to find the best and brightest minds for IBM. At City College he met young accounting student John Stanley Ford and hired him to become IBM's first black software engineer. But not all of the company's white employees refused to accept a black colleague and did everything in their power to humiliate, subvert, and undermine Ford.

Yet Ford would not quit. Viewing the job as the opportunity of a lifetime, he comported himself with dignity and professionalism, and relied on his community and his "street smarts" to succeed. He did not know that his hiring was meant to distract from IBM's dubious business practices, including its involvement in the Holocaust, eugenics, and apartheid.

While Ford remained at IBM, it came at great emotional cost to himself and his family, especially his son Clyde. Overlooked for promotions he deserved, the embittered Ford began blaming his fate on his skin color and the notion that darker-skinned people like him were less intelligent and less capable--beliefs that painfully divided him and Clyde, who followed him to IBM two decades later.

From his first day of work--with his wide-lapelled suit, bright red turtleneck, and huge afro--Clyde made clear he was different. Only IBM hadn't changed. As he, too, experienced the same institutional racism, Clyde began to better understand the subtle yet daring ways his father had fought back.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062890566
  • ISBN-10: 0062890565
  • Publisher: Amistad Press
  • Publish Date: September 2019
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Personal Memoirs
Books > Business & Economics > Leadership
Books > Social Science > Ethnic Studies - American - African American Studies

 
BookPage Reviews

Think Black

“My father used chess as his guide: Black begins with a disadvantage. You have to look farther ahead, work extra hard, rely on cunning, and assume everyone else is your opponent.” 

John Stanley Ford was proud of his position as the first black systems engineer at IBM. Founder Thomas J. Watson hired Stanley himself in 1946, extending an invitation that would shape the young accounting student’s life. Stanley invested his life in the job, often passing his computer knowledge along to his son, Clyde. But Stanley was passed over for promotion again and again. Although Stanley and his wife marched on Washington in the civil rights era, Stanley had internalized some of the racism around him. He believed he was inferior, and he saw his lack of advancement at IBM as confirmation.

Clyde resisted following the path his father had paved. He was more radical and refused to adjust himself to the white business world’s expectations. Even so, Clyde too ended up at IBM—sporting a wide-lapel suit and an afro. 

The Ford men ultimately took different paths, with Stanley spending his career at IBM and Clyde leaving to pursue other dreams. But his years at the company helped Clyde understand his father. After Clyde left IBM to become a chiropractor, he learned that his father—and many others—gave up their dreams for the financial security of IBM. 

In Think Black, Clyde blends personal experience with technological and racial history to reveal how these things influenced one another. This wide-ranging memoir includes complex details about software and hardware as well as an exploration of IBM’s ties to oppressive regimes. While his examination of the past can’t change his relationship with his father, Clyde Ford’s words powerfully honor his father’s dreams and contributions to the digital age.

 
BAM Customer Reviews