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Celebrating Black History Month and Black Security Pioneers

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Author April Uzzle


Federally recognized since 1976, Black History Month is celebrated during February as a time to honor, recognize and commemorate the contributions of African Americans in the history of the United States. At CSNP, we would like to celebrate the many contributions of African Americans to the security field.

African Americans first join the NSA

Though it had often been believed that African Americans had not been hired by the NSA to work in cryptology until after WWII, research by the NSA Center for Cryptologic History revealed that hiring actually began as early as 1944. The first African American unit of the Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) was established in January 1944 and officially became part of the General Cryptanalytic Branch in November of 1994. It was created to revive the Commercial Unit in the Code Recovery Section of the Cryptanalytic Branch and were tasked with exploiting foreign commercial coded messages. The unit achieved their task via 3 sub-units: First production, which identified codes, decoded messages, and provided clerical support. Next was the language unit, which was comprised of a small group of translators. Finally, there was the technical unit charged with solving encipherments. Lillie Berry

Berry first began her career with NSA as a clerk in 1956 in the Signal Analysis Unit. Inspired by the work of her colleagues, she took a signal analysis course to advance in her career. After completing the course, she eventually went on to become the first African American women to teach an introductory Signals Analysis course. Then in 1968 she became the NSA’s first African American women recruiter and then later the founder of the NSA Career Information Center. Carroll Robinson

Robinson was the first Black engineer hired by NSA in 1948. An electrical engineer, he was hired by the R&D department and worked on creating the NSA’s first in-house digital computer. Robinson later when on to become the agency’s first African American senior executive. Omego Ware

Ware, known as the “Jackie Robinson of Intelligence”, first joined the US Amry in the 1940’s and became an Infantry Intelligence and Reconnaissance Chief, in addition to his years spent part of the European Command’s Theater-Level intelligence unit. After his time in the military, Ware joined the CIA in 1995, one of the first African Americans to do so. He became known for his analytical and leadership skills, which allowed him to rise through the ranks and break racial barriers. Eventually in 1975, he was tasked with creating the OEEO department within the CIA and became its first director. Throughout the rest of his career, Ware served as the first African American on the Executive Committee, and one of the first members of the Senior Intelligence Service. Before his retirement in 1982, his final position had him serve as the Director of the Center for the Study of Intelligence. This list is but a small glimpse into the many meaningful contributions of African American to the security field in the United States. We encourage our community to use this month, and every month, to learn more about the history of your field and celebrate those whose contributions need extra light shown on them. About Author: April Uzzle is a Fullstack developer and consultant with 5 years of experience in the Software Development space. She joined CSNP in 2021 as the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She is passionate about education and advocating for women, BIPOC, and other underrepresented groups in the Technology industry. References

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