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5 Black innovators in Maryland you should know

Here's a look at Baltimore-area trailblazers at the nexus of tech, business and education.

February is Black History Month, providing a chance to reflect on the figures from the past who have shaped the present. In our coverage at, it’s clear that the Baltimore region has leaders walking among us now who are shaping the future across tech, education and business.

Here’s a look at five Black innovators making history today:

Dr. James E. West

(Photo courtesy of Johns Hopkins University)

A prolific inventor who holds more than 250 patents, West was the co-inventor of the foil electret microphone. It’s a type of condenser microphone upon which 90 percent of all microphones used today. Now 90 years old, as the JHU Hub reported earlier this month, he is still an active inventor and teacher at John Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering. His lab was the source of technology behind Baltimore startups like digital stethoscope company Sonavi Labs and nanofiber manufacturer DiPole Materials.

Stephanie C. Hill

(Photo via Lockheed Martin)

Hill is the vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s Ship & Aviation Systems business and executive leader at one of the world’s biggest defense contractors. She is among Black executives that make up 3.2% of leaders of large companies in the U.S. An innovator in engineering and a trailblazer, the UMBC alumna was the first Black woman to chair the Greater Baltimore Committee. Check out her TEDx Talk from 2018, titled “The Superpowers of STEM”:

Eddie C. Brown

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons/by Eddie C. Brown)

Brown is the founder of Brown Capital Management, the second-oldest Black-owned money management firm in the country. The firm manages $13 billion in assets. An innovator in business, Brown’s philanthropic giving to Baltimore institutions has supported the arts, education and more.

Carla Hayden

(Photo via Library of Congress)

Hayden is first Black woman to lead the Library of Congress, which is the national library. She is a trailblazer and innovator in the world of libraries, which is a place where government and information meet. She has taken on the task of modernizing the Library of Congress, a task her predecessor was heavily criticized for neglecting.

Prior to her appointment by President Barack Obama as Librarian of Congress in 2016, she led Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library for more than 20 years.

Freeman Hrabowski III

(Photo via UMBC)

Hrabowski has been the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) since 1992. An innovator in education, his leadership guided UMBC from commuter college to an institution that is regularly touted as one of the most innovative universities in the nation. Hrabowski has emphasized STEM education. As provost, he spearheaded the Meyerhoff Scholars program, which seeks to create a supportive learning environment for minority students entering science and technology fields. Its alums include national leaders, and the program itself has been recognized as an influential model.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

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