BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY JOHN WILLIAM TEMPLETON T Three Questions: John William Templeton
John William Templeton, 54, has titles ranging from technology expert to economic analyst, speaker to playwright, curator to filmmaker. But foremost, he is an expert on African American history. Templeton has spent years working on "Invisible Pioneers," a report that describes the African American presence in San Francisco since 1770. In honor of Black History Month, Chronicle reporter Leslie Fulbright chatted with him about his work.
What are your thoughts on President Obama and the historic election?
"The election is very consistent with what I've tracked looking at African American executives in the computer industry and other businesses. A breakthrough always happens during a crisis. Obama's success isn't an anomaly. Usually, it takes something dramatic to happen to allow people to suspend what they normally feel. If the economy had been going well, he wouldn't have won. I think his strength is that he is a student of history and has analyzed the black freedom struggle in a very methodical way, not focusing on tension but actual strategies to make change."
Tell me about your "Soul of Technology" exhibit in Palo Alto and how it has been received.
"The exhibit shows the contributions of 50 African Americans to technology, in the hopes of educating people on the role that black people played in the cutting-edge industries. There has been an overflow audience since it opened, and people are amazed and surprised by all of the accomplishments. We hope it will show decision makers in tech companies that diversity is a benefit.
You seem to always be juggling many different projects. How do you manage?
"I do all of them, and often all in the same day. Being able to do what you are interested in extends your life and I enjoy it. I've been trained to do a lot of things and it feels good to use the whole range of talent. My business strategy is that whenever we do something, we do it on different platforms - with a book, an exhibit, a film, a speaking engagement. I joke with people that I write books that have never been written and sell them to people that I've never met. The lead time is so long that I have no idea where my work is going to wind up. I just proceed on the faith that it will eventually land in the right hands."