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African American Culture  May 5th, 2014

My cultural research project for Gender and Technology WGSS 320 is about Valerie L. Thomas, an African American woman scientist born February 1, 1943 (Sullivan, 2002) in Baltimore, Maryland. From a time perspective, she was born In the middle of World War II, as the US entered this war in 1941 and in 1945, World War II ended. I have read nothing about any kind of social and economic barriers she encountered, other than her being a girl. However, she did graduate from Morgan State University in the midst of the national debate on civil rights, which was a movement to gain equality for African Americans.  As a  curious and enthusiastic eight year old, not bothered by gender preconceptions,  she checked out a book from the library The Boy’s First Book on Electronics. She learned about electronics from her father, who encouraged her by showing her how to take a radio apart and how to fit the parts, such as the wiring and the tubes. Her neighbors were a little concerned when she was not playing dolls and jump rope, but they brought her their broken radios to fix. When TV’s became popular later in the 1950’s, she also learned about how the pictures were transmitted through electrodes and other tubes, and learned how to fix them as well. She was always at the top of her classes and liked to study math and science. It was during this same time period that computer programming language became standardized and user friendly.
Valerie L. Thomas

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