Celebrating Black History Month & Some Important Figures in The Automotive Industry

on February 08, 2023

Celebrating Black History Month & Some Important Figures in The Automotive Industry

Black History Month is a time to celebrate and acknowledge the contributions and achievements of Black individuals throughout history. The month of February was chosen to honour the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two figures who played a significant role in Black history.

The celebration of Black History Month dates back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson established the “Negro History Week” to shed light on the achievements of Black Americans. Over time, the week-long celebration evolved into a month-long recognition of Black history, culture, and contributions.

The theme of Black History Month changes every year, but it always focuses on highlighting the accomplishments and experiences of Black individuals, who have overcome adversity and discrimination to make significant contributions to society. From scientists, inventors, and artists, to politicians, activists, and business leaders, Black people have left a lasting impact on the world.

This month is an opportunity to celebrate the past, present, and future of Black people, and to continue to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle for equality and justice. It is also a time to reflect on the importance of diversity and inclusivity, and to work towards creating a more just and equitable society for all.

In conclusion, Black History Month is a celebration of the rich and diverse history and culture of Black people, and a reminder of the important role they have played in shaping our world. Let us continue to honour their legacy and strive for a better future for all.

We have compiled a list of prominent Black figures (past and present) who have had a significant impact on the automotive industry. From innovators to automotive business owners, a large number of Blacks have made a positive impact in this field and opened doors for future generations.


In The Automotive Industry

Although they are not as widely recognized as figures like Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey, some people have, and still play important roles in the Black Revolution and are trailblazers in the automotive industry, inspiring change and innovation.

The Industry’s Pioneers

George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

George Washington Carver images

George Washington Carver's greatest achievement was when he received an invitation from Henry Ford to work at Ford Motors. Carver accepted and had a successful career inventing synthetic rubber, resolving the rubber shortage. Prior to his role at Ford, Carver was the first African American student at Iowa State Agricultural College. He made other important inventions, including alternative fuels, and was a trailblazer in automobile development as the first African American to make a significant impact in the field.


McKinley Thompson Jr. (1922-2006)

McKinley Thompson Jr. (1922-2006) images

Another Ford luminary who achieved significant success in the white microcosm of Ford Motors is Mckinley Thompson Jr. Thompson Jr designed some iconic models during a burgeoning automotive industry.

"Mac," as he is widely known, had a passion for automobile innovation from a young age. However, during World War II, his ambitions were put on hold as he joined the Army Signal Corps to work on communication technology development. He received a scholarship to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and later secured a job at Ford's Design Studio, where he had a talent for creating futuristic models.

Some of his notable designs include the Gryon, Ford Bronco, and Thunderbird. Although some of McKinley Thompson Jr's other concepts were not developed by Ford, they served as the basis for other well-known automobiles. 


Today's Innovators


Emeline King

emeline king images

In 1983, King, a Detroit native, was hired by Ford Motor Co. to become the first Black woman Transportation Designer for Ford. Her portfolio includes some of her best-known work from her nearly 25-year career at the company, including the interior design of the award-winning 1994 Ford Mustang, according to Ford Online. She also contributed to the design of the 1990 Ford Probe and 2000 Ford Thunderbird, among other vehicles in Europe. Also, she patented a 15-inch wheel cover the 1989 Thunderbird.


Tomi Isaacs (Senior Director, Corporate Engagement, Catalyst)

Tomi Isaacs bio Senior Director, Corporate Engagement

Tomi Isaacs heads the UK Corporate Engagement within the EMEA Team at Catalyst and is responsible for maintaining relationships with UK-based Supporters. She has an extensive background in creative problem-solving and nearly two decades of professional experience, including serving as a Programme and Team Lead at Moving Ahead and as a Global Account Director at WPP.

With expertise in strategic program management, business partnerships, stakeholder engagement, and knowledge sharing, she brings a wealth of thought leadership and a commitment to social impact campaigns, diversity, and inclusion to the role. At Moving Ahead, she led efforts to enhance workplace inclusion and diversity, overseeing cross-company mentoring programs for the 30% Club Chapter in the US and Mexico with a focus on improving gender balance on company boards and promoting female talent in senior positions.

Her diverse career experiences have given her a unique perspective and a practical approach to building sustainable partnerships, promoting social impact and responsible sourcing, fostering collaboration, and delivering results. 


Sophia Glandor (IT Project Manager & Women@Bosch Global board member)

Sophia Glandor (IT Project Manager & Women@Bosch Global board member)

Sophia Glandor joined Bosch's IT department in 2000 as a user support technician after several years in secretarial assistant positions. She received on-the-job training and worked her way up to a team leader in Drancy in 2006 and eventually took on the management of the entire service in Drancy and St Ouen by 2010.

In 2015, she switched to project missions and has participated in two major divisional projects: Next Generation Workplace (NGW) and Next Generation Support Services (NGS). As the leader of a team based globally, Sophia is responsible for defining training and information actions for the user support teams, as well as communication and change management for the NGS project. This allows her to contribute to a greater customer focus for the support teams.



Ayesha Coker (Vice President, Marketing at Porsche Cars North America)

ayesha coker bio

The recent appointment of Ayesha Coker as the first African American woman Vice President of marketing for Porsche in Atlanta is a move many other automotive companies have applauded. The past few years have been marred with racial and gender injustice, with African Americans bearing the most brunt. Coker’s appointment serves as a breath of fresh air on the road of justice and equality. Alongside her achievements, notable figures share the spotlight for their change in the modern-day vehicle industry.

Some black figures to note are:

  • Jimmy Settles- Former Vice President of the United Auto Workers who negotiated jobs and occupational rights for many.
  • Fletcher V. Davidson- Group Vice President and General Manager for Toyota has achieved great success with the Japanese automotive giant.
  • Don Butler, former Vice President of marketing for Cadillac, was named one of Egypt’s top 50 business leaders.

A multitude of contemporary black leaders are constantly revolutionising the automotive industry. The impact and growth African Americans have had in the vehicle sector cannot be fully captured by the descriptions mentioned above.


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