Artifact Details


O'Connor, Sean oral history

Catalog Number





In this oral history Sean O'Connor tells the story of how he helped develop a key portion of the early Afrocentric net at the online community NetNoir, which also established him as a pioneering web designer.

Born in a mixed community in the Chicago area to Jamaican immigrants, O'Connor and his family moved to a town just north of New York City when he was 11, following his father's job as an engineer at AT&T. When less qualified White colleagues were promoted over his father, O'Connor senior started his own computer consulting firm. Sean learned computer skills entering customer data for the firm into an early PC, and his mother had begun doing freelance transcription with a word processor. He got interested and began programming games on his father's personal computer, and later on his own Commodore 64.

O'Connor went to Boston College and got further interested in both art and computing, especially after he discovered desktop publishing on the Macintosh. He began using layout programs to create designs to silk screen on T-shirts and other textiles, and dreaming of opening his own print shop. He began taking design courses outside of Boston College.

After college O'Connor moved with a friend into a shared warehouse space in San Francisco. He got a job in a print shop, still determined to open his own. But part of the work involved desktop publishing, and he took courses at San Francisco State to build up his skills. One of those courses was on the then-new World Wide Web, and he was fascinated. He took more courses and began doing freelance Web design, calling his outfit Data Kitchen.

He soon met Lettie McGuire (see her personal account titled "African American Artist, Programmer, and Community Leader" in our collection) who hired him as her Assistant Art Director at the most vibrant Afrocentric site online at the time, NetNoir. Launched in 1995, NetNoir was the first company funded by AOL's Greenhouse program. Because of its AOL start, it included social features that were not common on the web for another decade. McGuire and O’Connor had to become experts in AOL’s own page design language, RainMan. But NetNoir’s web presence was also growing under McGuire’s direction, and there was plenty of opportunity to break new ground in web design. Together they designed and wrote all the Rainman and HTML code for both sites, as well as writing and producing content for monthly spotlights like ‘Technology Month’ and ‘Black History Month.’

At the height of the dot-com boom, O'Connor returned to New York and worked for a variety of clients including major media companies and figures in Black music and entertainment. He and a friend cofounded an urban online magazine called IMNYC.(Image Makers New York Corporation).

Following the dot-com bust, he spent a year and half in Jamaica teaching children and teens computer skills, in a program that he eventually managed to have assimilated into the Peace Corps. As of this oral history he works for Blue Origin, the space company started by Jeff Bezos.




O'Connor, Sean, Interviewee
Weber, Marc, Interviewer


Computer History Museum

Place of Publication

Mountain View, CA, USA


36 pages





Series Title

CY2023 Q1


Computer History Museum

Lot Number


Related Records

102792821 O'Connor, Sean oral history