With thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for funding support to process the collections of African-Americans in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), the Amistad Research Center is pleased to present the Black Data Processing Associates collection.
The Black Data Processing Association (BDPA) was formed in 1975 by Earl A. Pace Jr. and David Wimberly as a local organization to help educate and train minorities working within the information technology industry. In 1979, it was restructured as a national organization with chapters in Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1995, its mission statement was to "sustain a network of information technology professionals that is a positive influence in the information processing industry; a network which shares information, provides education, and performs community service.”
While the BDPA collection at Amistad is small, it gives a glimpse of the type of work the organization did within the Black community in the 1990s. By the time I finished arranging the collection, I was definitely left wanting for more, because the materials were very fascinating. The collection contains informational materials that explain what the WEB is, as well as how to navigate the "NET."
The collection also contains newsletters from the BDPA chapters in Silicon Valley, northern New Jersey, and Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the more intriguing items I found was a brochure for United States Black Online, the first nationwide black-owned and operated internet service provider.
Today, the BDPA boasts forty-five chapters across the United States. As they did in the past, the organization still trains minority professionals and offers technology based workshops to the public, among other services. It offers scholarships and mentorships to students as well and continues to hold annual conferences.
Amid the proliferation of coding programs and other STEM programs aimed towards African Americans, it was interesting to look at an organization formed in the 1970s aimed at boosting the participation of Blacks in information technology and create a network of professionals across the country.
Images from the Black Data Processing Associates collection, Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.