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Think Black: A Memoir of Sacrifice, Success, and Self-Loathing in Corporate America

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  142 ratings  ·  32 reviews
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 acco
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published September 17th 2019 by Amistad
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC at BEA 2019!

I really liked this memoir from Clyde Ford, telling the story of his upbringing in NYC while his dad became the first black systems engineer at IBM, and their constant clashes with their different perspectives about work, politics, and social issues. Ford came of age amidst the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement, radicalized by the injustice that surrounded him and willing to lean into his Blackness, while his dad took a more conservative approa
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be a very interesting look at the experience of a father and son who were hired during different time periods at IBM. Ford gives us a lot of information regarding his father and how he felt about his job, however I wish that we had gotten more insight into what both men did from day to day at IBM. We got little snippets of their work and certain examples of how their race played into the way in which their coworkers treated them but I never felt like I got a full account of ...more
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Think Black by Clyde W. Ford was a compelling story about Ford, his father, and his family background.

Some of the histories I took away from this book, including IBM’s federation with the Nazis and its involvement with other injustices, were affecting.

I liked the contrast between Ford and his father when it came to their approach to dealing with the prejudices surrounding them both. It is admirable how Ford’s father made it his objective to teach his children about two main components that wou
Kimberly Hicks
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Kimberly by: BookBub
One of the reasons I enjoy reading memoirs is because you learn so much about a person and their journey, their trials and tribulations, what made them who they are and the like. I’ve read just about every type of memoir from all walks of life and I was so excited when this little jewel entered my inbox from BookBub. This is a story I knew nothing about and I was quite intrigued to find out more.

Before I delve into the jaw-dropping information I gleamed from Clyde Ford’s book, let me just say th
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I felt a personal connection to this book as I am also an engineer and my first job was at IBM. This is the story of the first black engineer, John Stanley Ford, who was hired by Watson Sr. himself. This memoir was written by and through the eyes of his son who also ended up working for IBM. This book touched on A LOT of things: misconception of diversity in the workplace, professional racism, eugenics, the "first" blacks, IBM and the Holocaust, IBM and Apartheid, and a history of technology tha ...more
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I could not read this book as quickly as I'd hoped. I kept stopping not only to underline, tab, and make notes, but to catch my breath. The way in which Dr. Ford weaves together America's history with race, his own familial history, and that of IBM's, it all required me to step back a few times to take in all the information. This is a great read, and Dr. Ford is a compelling storyteller. I feel as if this book hasn't received the marketing and attention it deserves. ...more
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Well, I'm going to be THAT person who thinks this would have been better as an article or a podcast interview than an entire book. The general idea of how IBM treated the author and his father similarly but how each of them handled it differently was interesting but I often felt the book was struggling to stretch out to full book length without enough material (some of this certainly is because IBM refused to release employment records to the author) to really fill that space.

When we finally got
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter starts with a memory of the author's father, the first black engineer at IBM, but what follows is so much more. Ford goes into his genealogy, brief history of computing, and social movements that led to his father working at IBM and eventually himself. I really loved so many things about this memoir, coming from someone that doesn't usually read them. While only a short section this story is also a reminder to be authentically yourself in the face of being "the first" regardless of ...more
Jonathan Alfaro
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read.
Aqura (engineersreadtoo)
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
lyde Ford writes a memoir for his father, John Stanley Ford, the first Black software engineer at IBM, interweaving their experiences at IBM while also unveiling the role of technology itself as a tool to facilitate racial oppression worldwide.

Clyde really just scratches the surface on the day to day life at IBM but from what is revealed, I can tell that it not much has changed. Large engineering corporations are still overwhelmingly white, male dominated. Blatant racism may have disappeared som
Allan Olley
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting memoir of the author's interactions with IBM but even more a remembrance of his father's time with IBM. It also has meditations on larger social issues both general ones of the experience of blacks in American society and specifically the way the IBM corporation handled those issues and played a roll in various historical incidents and injustices. While neither brilliant or definitive in either its technological or social insights the book does touch on and make engaging v ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. An enjoyable and informative book with an interesting perspective on a whole range of issues relating to the author and his father's experiences as Black men working for a giant technology corporation in the mid 20th century. I thought the author did a great job at contextualising his family experiences and linking to the wider civil rights movement and global events. It would have been great to go deeper into some of that context - I felt like that there was scope to explore even mor ...more
Chris Bailey
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up on a whim from the new biographies shelf at the library. I was fascinated by the computer history details (some components of which I am intimately familiar with from my almost 50 years of computer experience). The IBM mystique was a huge part of my experience and details about the company were also interesting (for example I never knew about the holocaust and apartheid connections). And the details of the lives of two black men were eye opening for me. I do not argue my white p ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully written book by a black man who explores his relationship with his father, their careers at IBM, systematic and institutional racism within IBM and in USA and more. Ford shared incredibly insightful information about the workplace, how it differed for him and his father who were in different generations of how USA viewed people of color. The sheer amount of examples of racism, whether in 1:1 or on a larger global scale was astounding. Scary, really.

Highly recommend this for anybod
Shannon Callahan
Technology and racism

The book was reasonably interesting when the author wrote two parallels of the evolution of technology and how racism stuck to it but more insidious. I did learn some information that I was unaware until now. Thanks to him and I know about it now. The history is a trove of treasure, but it might not what you want it to be...aside from that, I was bothered by a small portion by the author when he added personal lives and I wasn’t sure if it was making sense...maybe just me.
Avrora Moussorlieva
May 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excelent read! I picked it because I was interested in a memoir about one's father and I got so much more! This is a glimpse in the life of three generations of African-American struggle to join the middle class and achieve the American Dream with sacrifices, pitfalls, success and disilusionment. In addition this is a very well researched view of the racist past of the IBM corporation. I reccomend it highly! ...more
Betsey Stahler
Sep 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Really a 4.5 but I rounded up...

The WSBA winner for creative nonfiction, Think Black is about a father, the first Black systems engineer at IBM and a son who also went to work for IBM. And, it is a revealing book about how this American company used its new technology to help Nazi Germany round up Jewish people and later, used its technology to assist the South African government categorize its citizens by race, in order to enforce apartheid.
Mar 13, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to me because of the black experience, both Clyde Ford & his father's; computing history; learning about IBMs collaboration with the Nazis and later Apartheid South Africa and a thought counter argument that technology is value free and makes everyone's life better -- no so much given how search algorithms work in practices. ...more
David Czuba
Clyde Ford’s autobiography Think Black is as much a biography of his father, the first Black systems engineer at International Business Machines, as it is his own memoir. Clyde himself worked at IBM for a few years, but found its machinery too stiff to budge further on inclusivity in its ranks. Yet, the extended and personal histories of IBM take up the brunt of the book. The curious will wonder, if he were seeking to get away from the convoluted constriction of his father’s influence, why Clyde ...more
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss, biography
This book is full of food for thought and tells an interesting and engaging story.
I loved the story that made me reflect and the style of writing.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it liked it
I learned about IBM’s very checkered past and when the book focused on this I was fascinated. Unfortunately I found much of the book choppy and personally was not that interested in the geek facts about IBM.
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Super interesting about the dark history of IBM and the lack of diversity in tech. The author wrote an op-ed in the LA Times talking about IBM's role in the Holocaust and the Apartheid, and what he and his father did at IBM to try to right the path. ...more
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
Well written enough, but something was missing for me to like it better. I skimmed a lot of the techie parts. Interesting that his father felt it necessary to help black candidates for hiring at IBM by bribing co workers for the interview questions in advance.
Marna Tisdel
Ford's father was the first black systems analyst hired by IBM just after WWII. He faced hostility and sabotage from some of his coworkers. Ford went to work there 20 years later and faced some of the same problems. This book is part memoir, part IBM expose.
Diane Madlon-Kay
Oct 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
1 star
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting memoir, biography, autobiography, and a primer on technology. Very thought provoking book! Highly recommend.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I learned a ton from this book.
May 11, 2020 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: kindle-or-other
It was too laborious to read. Just couldn't hold my interest. ...more
Apr 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really loved the weaving of personal narratives of both him and his father with history. A few parts got a little too technical for me, but overall I really enjoyed this memoir.
Aug 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I got this book as an arc at a library conference. It was so insightful as to the history of race and technology, especially as told through the experiences of the author and his father, who was the first Black software engineer hired at IBM back in the 1940s. I love how the author unapologetically traces IBM’s racist past, from its degradation of Black employees to its close involvement with the Nazi regime leading up to and during WWII, to its business ties to apartheid in South Africa. I also ...more
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Clyde W. Ford is a software engineer, a chiropractor, and a psychotherapist. He’s also the award-winning author of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction, whose most recent book, THINK BLACK: A Memoir will be published in September 2019 by Amistad/HarperCollins.

Clyde W. Ford earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Mathematics from Wesleyan University in 1971, then worked as a systems engi

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