Artifact Details


Lettie McGuire: African American Artist, Programmer, and Community Leader

Catalog Number





In this Personal Account, Lettie McGuire tells how as Art Director and programmer she helped define NetNoir, the most vibrant Afrocentric site online in the 1990s. Born in 1967, she recounts how she was raised in Berkeley and Palo Alto, California, and took classes at U.C. Berkeley. A talented artist, she taught herself HTML and became one of the first African American women to work as a professional web developer.

At NetNoir she hired Sean O’Connor (see his oral history in our collection) to help and the two of them were responsible for graphic design, choosing or writing much of the content, and writing the code. The cofounders, David Ellington and Malcolm CasSelle, handled the business end. Because NetNoir started on AOL, 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. NetNoir’s web presence was also growing under McGuire’s direction, and there was plenty of opportunity to break new ground in web design. McGuire also designed and built NetNoir's first revenue-generating areas.

Following NetNoir she provided art direction and programming for some of the top design agencies in the world including in France, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and New York, working at Grey Global Interactive, Digitas, and BFM Tonebeeld. While living and working in the Netherlands, her interactive game design received the Adobe (then Macromedia) International People’s Choice Award for Flash design and coding.

Alongside her professional career, McGuire was consistently engaged in uplifting local communities, especially underrepresented youth and artists. The Ford Foundation supported her work with the CUNY University in New York to research and identify improvements for technology centers in underserved neighborhoods across the United States. She started two early technology centers for underrepresented youth in San Francisco, California and in Harlem, New York City.

After a global career spanning more than two decades, McGuire received her Bachelors in Fine Art from the University of California at Berkeley, and her Master’s degree focused on Neuroscience Informed Design at Harvard Graduate School of Education, in Cambridge Massachusetts.




McGuire, Lettie


McGuire, Lettie Margaret


Computer History Museum


83 pages




Personal Narrative


Spotlight asset


Gift of Lettie McGuire

Lot Number