This past Friday I attended an amazing talk entitled “The Black Revolution In Data Science” given by Dr. Talitha Washington, inaugural director of the Atlanta University Center Data Science Initiative. Dr. Washington discussed the genesis of the AUC Data Science Initiative (AUC DSI), highlighted work that’s happening there now, and then give a roadmap for what’s ahead.
It is an engaging and inspiring talk.
I’ll just highlight some points that really stood out to me. First, the potential impact of AUC DSI is tremendous especially given the unique position of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Historical data, summarized in talk slide below, tells us that HBCUs have mastered the art of graduating Black scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. We’d expect similar success rates in data science.
The second and perhaps most relevant point is that the program is unapologetic in its mission focus
In courses like Data and the African Diaspora (now being taught), the program centers the lives of Black people in addressing the technology. The statistics course highlighted in the slide draws upon data and frameworks developed by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois — sociologist, civil rights activist, historian, visionary, and Atlanta University professor — who made groudbreaking innovations in data visualization during the 20th century. As a sample of the wealth of this heritage, here is one of DuBois’ visualizations of Black property holdings over the post Civil War era
The impact of the AUC DSI is evident also in the scope of its current set of graduate Data Science Fellows
If you have an interest or curiousity about making data science work on behalf of Black folk, I would urge you to check out the video and reach out to people at the AUC Data Science Initiative.