When John William Templeton arrived in San Jose in 1987 to take the job as editor of the San Jose Business Journal, he’d never met an African-American corporate executive.
Within a week, he attended a breakfast where a third of the technology
executives were African-Americans. It alerted him to a hidden phenomenon, the growth of high technology as a career field among blacks.
In 1989, he began the Black Executive Forum in Silicon Valley, a monthly gathering which explored key factors for success in cutting edge fields. That led to the book Success Secrets of Black Executives in 1992.
In 1998, he joined Kevin Hinkston, Jacqueline Anderson, Henry Hutchins, Harvey Pye and Dr. Keith Jackson to form the Coaliton for Fair Employment in Silicon Valley, which created a national coalition including the National Urban League, AFL-CIO and Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers-USA to advocate for equal opportuity in high technology. Members of the coalition have testified several times to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on equal opportunity in high technology.
Roy Clay Sr. and Dr. Frank Greene, both members of the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame, asked Templeton in 1998 to create an exhibition on the contributions of African-Americans to technology for the Tech Museum of Innovation. The exhibit Turning the Century: African-American Innovators from the Industrial Age to the New Millennium profiled 20 19th century inventors and 20 Silicon Valley pioneers.
The next year, Templeton created the first 50 Most Important African-Americans in Techhnology list, bringing selectees together at the California African-American Museum in Los Angeles. Since then, the gathering has moved to Howard University in Washington, D.C. , Baltimore with the Black Engineer of the Year, Oakland, San Francisco, Las Vegas and last year in the Palo Alto City Hall, where the City Council paid
tribute to Clay, Greene and the late Ron L. Jones during a special council session following the opening reception.
The year also marked two other traditions; the annual publication of the Silicon Ceiling report on equal opportunity and high technology; and the annual Black Students Internet Guide.
The Black Students Internet Guide is a digital book which includes hundreds of online locations with culturally responsive content for students of African descent. These resources are critical to inspiring students to pursue demanding subjects which can prepare them for the careers of the future.
Paired with the documentary Freedom Riders of the Cutting Edge, BSIG can expose students to a wide world of careers which they never imagined. Thanks to the book and video, they’ll be able to identify with pacesetters who have faced and overcome similar challenges to their own lives.
In 1999, the goal of the observance was to inspire a 50 percent increase in black technology employment, which was just over 400,000 then. The 2009 Silicon Ceiling report shows that the number has grown to 616,000, despite a lack of national attention to the issue. It is a measure of the intense interest among African-Americans in innovation.
The 50 Most Important African-Americans in Technology is an annual roster of the 50 African-Americans making the most significant impact on the global technology scene as innovtors, executives, educators or public policy drivers.
In 2010, the annual symposium is the launching pad for a national innovation competition which includes online courses and training for participants, who can then be linked with professional resources and funding as the process moves to conclusion during National Black Business Month in August.