For more than 100 years, African American leaders in the Department of Commerce have made significant and innovative contributions to our data collection to help us better understand our country and our world. Through locations across the country, the Department of Commerce provides essential services to deploy connectivity, data, and information to businesses, U.S. communities, and tribal, state, and local governments, all who rely on our data to make informed decisions in all sectors of the economy. .
In honor of Black History Month, the U.S. Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) are recognizing three Black leaders who have had a lasting impact in the field of collection and use of data. .
Gertrude E. Rush: census taker and legal pioneer
The US Census Bureau is proud of its history of hiring a diverse workforce. Census work was one of the first government jobs open to minorities. The Census Bureau has hired African Americans as enumerators and data processors since the 1870 census, the first census taken after the abolition of slavery. But many of these enumerators have been harassed and threatened with death, despite their protected status as government agents.
In 1910, the Census Bureau issued guidelines that communities with two-fifths of African American populations should have African American enumerators. That same year, Gertrude E Rush, born Gertrude Elzora Durden, became one of only two African Americans to pass the Census Bureau’s census taker exam in Des Moines, Iowa, and joined 1,605 African-American census takers. Americans working across the country. the Iowa Spectator applauded the hiring of “colored” enumerators, congratulating and hailing them as “respected citizens”.
In addition to his role as a census taker, perhaps the most significant of Rush’s many accomplishments was in the field of law. In 1918, she became the first African-American admitted to the Iowa State Bar. She would remain the only African-American woman to practice law in Iowa until the 1950s. In 1921, she became president of the Iowa Colored Bar Association, becoming the first woman to lead a mixed bar association in Iowa. State. Four years later, after being denied admission to the American Bar Association, she and four other African-American lawyers (who were male) founded the Negro Bar Association (now called the National Bar Association). It currently has about 65,000 members, mostly African American.
Rush, also an author and civil rights and women’s movement activist, died in Des Moines on September 5, 1962, at the age of 82.
In 2010, 100 years after Rush became one of the nation’s first African-American census takers, the National Bar Association, which she helped found, was among groups that worked with the Census Bureau to help ensure an accurate count of historically underrepresented groups.
Larry Irving: NTIA leader and broadband data pioneer
More than 25 years ago, the Internet was still evolving from a network used primarily in universities and government to the dynamic engine of innovation and economic growth that we know today.
At the center of it all was Larry Irving, the first African-American assistant secretary to head the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Irving has played a central role in developing policies and programs to ensure access to telecommunications and information technology.
As part of his work shaping public policy in this new era, Irving led an effort to improve our understanding of those left behind in the internet age. In 1994, Irving commissioned the Census Bureau to collect data on Americans’ computer use and compare it with key demographic information, such as race, age, and income. This survey was among the first to reveal the existence of the “digital divide”, a phrase popularized by Irving.
The NTIA’s Internet usage investigation continues to this day. Last November, the 16th edition of the survey went into the field. With its large sample size and more than 50 questions about Internet use, it is the most comprehensive national survey of how Americans connect to the Internet and what they do when they are online. The NTIA plans to release the survey results and our analysis of the data in the coming months.
Unfortunately, the digital divide identified by Irving in the 1990s is still present today. The 2019 NTIA Survey of Internet Use found that 65 million Americans still do not use the Internet at all and that significant racial, educational, income and other disparities in adoption persist. Help is on the way, though. The bipartisan Infrastructure Act allocates $65 billion, including about $48 billion to the NTIA, to expand broadband in communities across the United States, create more low-cost broadband service options, and meet the needs of digital equity and inclusion in our communities.
In 2019, Irving was elected to the Internet Hall of Fame, which honored his groundbreaking work identifying the digital divide and advocating for equitable Internet access. Today, he is chairman of the Irving Group, a consulting firm, and chairman of the public service broadcasting board. The NTIA recognizes Irving’s monumental accomplishments and lasting legacy as a champion of universal Internet access.
Jeffrey Barnett: A BEA economist sheds light on the impact of the pandemic on the American economy
For Jeffrey Barnett, an economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Black History Month is “a time to reflect on and recognize the significant contributions that African Americans have made to the United States. It’s also a time to remember the extraordinary sacrifices black men and women have made to allow us to have the freedoms we have today.
In December, Barnett received BEA’s George Jaszi Employee Achievement Award for “consistently demonstrating outstanding leadership skills, vision and tenacity.” Barnett, head of the National Economic Accounts Business and Consumer Services Branch, was recognized for his groundbreaking research that led to the development of alternative high-frequency indicators to measure economic activity in the services sector. His research directly contributed to a better understanding of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy, according to the essay accompanying his award.
In addition to the Jaszi Award, Barnett was part of a group that won a gold medal last year from the Commerce Department for customer service. Barnett and his colleagues were honored for responding quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a new way to analyze and measure record disruptions to the US economy.
Barnett holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Howard University and a master’s degree in management from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Barnett has served on the BEA’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and is currently a member of the council’s External Community Initiatives sub-group. In 2020, he participated as a panelist in the council’s “Race Conversation”.
To learn more about the valuable data products provided by these three bureaus, please visit their respective websites: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), US Census Bureau, and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).