"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.
About the Author
A Seattle7Writers project for literacy, this novel was written by Kathleen Alcalá, Matthew Amster-Burton, Kit Bakke, Erica Bauermeister, Sean Beaudoin, Dave Boling, Deb Caletti, Carol Cassella, William Dietrich, Robert Dugoni, Kevin Emerson, Karen Finneyfrock, Clyde Ford, Jamie Ford, Elizabeth George, Mary Guterson, Maria Dahvana Headley, Teri Hein, Stephanie Kallos, Erik Larson, David Lasky, Stacey Levine, Frances McCue, Jarret Middleton, Peter Mountford, Kevin O'Brien, Julia Quinn, Nancy Rawles, Suzanne Selfors, Jennie Shortridge, Ed Skoog, Garth Stein, Greg Stump, Indu Sundaresan, Craig Welch and Susan Wiggs. Foreword by Nancy Pearl. Introduction by Garth Stein.
Leon Nixon is a professional actor, playwright, and filmmaker. A Los Angeles native, he has performed in short films, web series, and on stage in dramatic and comedic roles. He is also an improviser and part of the group that appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Continuous Improv Show.