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Emeline King, Ford’s 1st Black Woman Car Designer Publishes Her Incredible Life Story

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  SiSTEM Pioneers

The automotive industry has been dominated by men for a long time. Still, there are examples of pioneering women who changed the face of transportation.

Emeline King, Ford's first black female automobile designer, has authored a memoir on her journey.

The book titled, What Do You Mean a Black Girl Can't Design Cars? Emeline King, She Did It!, is a story that captures the power of tenacity and perseverance, demonstrating how King defied expectations in an industry where Black women are significantly under-represented. King's dad Earnest was a plastic model specialist at Ford, and she grew up loving vehicles. In fact, her favorite toy was a car, and she adored the Ford Mustang.

Her first visit to her father's Ford Design Center inspired her to become a transportation designer. "My father's influence and excellent coaching was my bridge to my aspirations. My father also connected me with a group of excellent African American male transportation designers, modelers, and engineers at Ford. They acted as my mentors throughout my tenure at the Ford Design Center."

The Cass Technical High School graduate chose to follow in her father's footsteps and work in the automotive sector. She was intrigued by the creative process of automotive design. She graduated from the Art Center College of Design in California and joined Ford in 1983. King designed and developed various cars over her nearly 25-year career at Ford, including the 1994 Ford Mustang, 1990 Ford Probe, and 2000 Ford Thunderbird. She also invented the 1989 Thunderbird's 15-inch wheel cover.

Her contributions to the company's history will never be forgotten. King believes her career as an artist and novelist will inspire kids to follow their goals and violate the norms. She wants to launch a girls’ STEM program.

Many people in the car business need to be more diversified racially and by gender, so King's book is timely. Just 6.2 % of the workforce are Black women who build autos.

"Being the only African American female transportation designer took me by surprise," stated King. "But I made lemonade from my lemons. I turned my grief into joy. This book will hopefully motivate young ladies and boys to never give up. To persuade them to stay focused and attentive, and never glance back."

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