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Celebrating Black Innovators in the Industry During Black History Month

As many of you know, February is Black History Month, an annual celebration that is recognized in both the U.S. and Canada. During Black History Month, we celebrate the achievements of Black people across North America and recognize the important role these individuals have played in the history of our countries.

At ACCO Brands, we want to wrap up Black History Month by discussing the contributions of Black inventors and trailblazers in our industry. These historical innovators helped pave the way for the community, by creating some of the most widely used tools in our industry, and by changing the face of professionalism. Have you heard of them?

John Lee Love, who died in December 1931, invented the Portable Pencil Sharpener. Love was best known for inventing two simple, yet practical, products during his life - the plasterer’s hawk and the portable pencil sharpener. While neither of these products are technologically advanced, Love’s ideas aimed to make everyday tasks easier. Before the pencil sharpener, people commonly used a knife to sharpen their pencils, but Love’s invention offered a more straightforward, affordable, and practical solution.

Before flat screens and high-definition LCD monitors were the norm, P.C.’s were limited to monitor screens with no color, and computers with limited processing power. That all changed when Mark Dean began working for IBM as their Chief Engineer in the early 1980s. He was one of 12 employees at the time. Mark helped to develop a number of landmark technologies for IBM, including the color PC monitor, the first gigahertz chip and the Industry Standard Architecture system bus that he engineered with Dennis Moeller. He holds three of IBM’s original nine patents.

Millie Burgess was the first Black woman to teach in the Ontario, Canada school system, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s records. Burgess was born in Bermuda and made the decision to become a teacher at the age of five. She would practice teaching with her eight siblings. Eventually, she received a scholarship to go to school to become a teacher in Toronto, bringing her to Canada. She paved the way for the next generation of educators!

Lastly, Jerry Lawson helped develop the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. The Fairchild Channel F was a home entertainment machine that allowed people to play a variety of games like blackjack, bowling, checkers and slot machine, in their homes. This invention paved the way for systems such as PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo. Without Lawson’s work, we might not have today’s high-graphics titles or consoles. Because of that, Lawson has been dubbed the father of modern gaming.

ACCO Brands is proud to support diversity within our industry, and we hope you had an inspiring Black History Month!