Black Inventors Are Often Overlooked In American History

By Ken Blackwell

Each year, Black History Month allows us to reflect on so many great Black Americans who’ve contributed to the success of our nation. We reflect on the contributions of many well-known and not so well-known Black Americans. As we come to the end of another Black History Month, it's critical that we draw more attention to one group that has not gotten nearly enough attention – the Black inventor.
 
Thousands of African American inventors have transformed America. Black inventors have created groundbreaking products for centuries ranging from Lewis Lattimer, who helped construct a commercially viable lightbulb, to Marshall Jones, who pioneered laser use in industrial manufacturing.
 
Many of these innovative geniuses are unknown today, and it is critical to educate the public about the invaluable contributions of Black inventors.
 
I’ve written a great deal in recent years about America’s role as the innovation leader of the world – largely because we created a system that defined ideas and invention as the intellectual property of those who created them.  Our Founding Fathers enshrined patent protections in the Constitution because they valued innovation and believed individuals should be able to reap the fruits of their labor.
 
For much of our early history, Black Americans were prevented from taking part in the patent system in the face of slavery and second-class citizenship. Slaves were prevented from obtaining patents and many slave owners and others stole the inventions of worthy Black inventors.
 
Nevertheless, brave inventors continued to persevere and our groundbreaking patent system provided an opportunity for Black inventors as our nation moved forward.
 
In 1820, Thomas Jennings became the first African American to obtain a patent – at a time when many blacks were still enslaved in the South. Jennings patented his "dry-scouring" technique that served as a precursor to later dry-cleaning methods. Jennings used the profits from his invention to fund the local abolitionist movement and to fight for civil rights.
 
After Jennings' death, Frederick Douglass discussed his impact, arguing the United States Patent Office needed to recognized Jennings as a "citizen of the United States." In 1868, Martha Jones became the first black woman to obtain a U.S. patent for her “Improvement to the Corn Husker, Sheller.”
 
Similar stories of Black inventors triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds have occurred throughout American history. Elijah McCoy was the child of escaped slaves who grew up in poverty before patenting a lubricant allowing train engines to run continuously. McCoy didn't rest on his laurels but instead filed 56 other patents over his lifetime and even started his own company.
 
His reputation quickly spread, and when engineers were searching for top-end equipment, they would say they wanted "the real McCoy" because McCoy's products were the best.  
 
Without a patent system, it is unlikely McCoy would have been acknowledged by society for his achievements. Garrett Morgan, another Black Inventor, invented the gas mask and obtained a wide range of patents for inventions as different as haircare products and a traffic light.
 
Morgan used his gas mask to save two trapped workers from a collapsed tunnel in Ohio. Unfortunately, the public rejected his heroism because he was black, and he was denied several awards he richly deserved. Racism didn't stop Morgan from obtaining more patents, and even in a hostile society, he profited from his inventions. In the middle of the Jim Crow era, the power of patents allowed Morgan to live secure, knowing his work was safe from theft.
 
This proud tradition of Black inventors continues today, as Lonnie Johnson has obtained over 100 patents. He is best known for inventing the Super Soaker, but his true passion is developing environmentally friendly technology that converts heat directly into electricity.
 
Dr. Marian Rogers Croak is another Black pioneer who has focused her vast energies on building secure ways to communicate over the internet and developed the Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP). Whenever you talk to someone over FaceTime or attend a Zoom meeting, it is partially because of Dr. Croak’s work.
 
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Croak quickly invented technology allowing instant and secure donations to groups like the Red Cross, who needed funds to care for the victims.
 
Black inventors have shaped and will continue shaping America through their persistence and genius. We should all take a moment to appreciate these incredible Black men and women – and so many others like them for their innovation, creativity, and their example.
 
[Ken Blackwell was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Ohio, serving as State Treasurer and Secretary of State. He also served as mayor of Cincinnati.]

Related Posts

No Comments


Recent

Archive

 2021

Categories

Tags

#race riot 1619 project 1776 1964 90 million ACT Abolitionists African Americans Afrocentric Al Sharpton Alabama Alaska Amazon American Flag American Hero American Voters American racism America Amy Coney Barrett Apple Asians Attorney General Keith Ellison Authenticity BLM Banks Barack Obama Behavior Bible Big government Bill of rights Black Americans Black Codes Black History Black Leader Black Lives Matter Black Millionaires Black Wall Street Black achievement Black community Black families Matter Black kids Black people Black racist Black towns Black voter suppression Black vote Blacks Black Breonna Taylo Bureau of Justice Statistics CARES Act CBS CEO Elon Musk CNN CRT California Capitalism Capitol Building Carbon emissions Catholic Cato Institute Charter schools Chicago Chinese Christianity Christian City government Civil Rights Act of 1964 Civil Rights Civil War Climate Change Coal Coca-cola College Board data Color Condoleezza Rice Congressional Black Caucus Congressional Budget Office Congress Conservatives Conservative Conspiracy Theories Cops Covid-19 Create a crowd Crime Cuba DNA DNC DOJ David Boaz Delta airlines Democrat party Democratic Party Democratic socialism Democrats Democrat Derek Chauvin Developer Dick Gregory Diversity Documentary Donald Trump Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Earth Day Earth Edgewater's mayor Edgewater\'s mayor Election integrity Equality Equity Eskimo FDA Facebook Fake News Fascism Fascist Fathers Federal Government Film Fire Fighters For the People Act Foundation Founding Fathers Frederick Douglass Free Market Freedm Freedom's Journal Insitute Freedom's Journal Magazine Freedoms Journal Institute Freedoms Journal Magazine Freedom Free Gangs Gasoline Gaza Strip George Floyd George W. Bush Georgia German Global Warming Goverment Governors Grades Guns Gwen Berry HBCUs Hamas Hard work Harriet Tubman Hatred Heritage Foundation High School Hillary Clinton Historically Black Colleges and Universities History Hitler Hollywood House Republican leadership House Housing Hugo Chavez Human Race Hypocrisy IMDb Ibram X. Kendi Identity politics Inclusion Independence Day Inventors Israel Jeff Bezos Jesus Christ Jews Jim Crow Jimmy Carter Joe biden John Cena John F. Kennedy John Kass John Lewis Voting Right Advancement Act John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act Jokes July 4th Jury Verdict Justice K-12 Kamala Harris Karl Marx Katrina Kingmaker Klu Klux Klan LAw LGBTQ LIverals Lab Larry Elder Latinos Latinx Law enforcement Lawsuits Legacy of Slavery Liberal progressives Liberals Liberal Libertarian Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson Lyft MLB MLK MSNBC Mainstream media Markets Marxist Mattel Maxine Waters Media Men Metaphore Michael Brown Middle East policy Minneapolis police department Morality Muslim NAACP NAN NEA Nancy Pelosi National Urban League Nazi Neck Holds New Jersey Noam Chomsky Normal Normandy North Carolina Nuclear OPEC Obergefell v. Hodges Oklahoma Olympic trial Opportunity Oracle Oscars PPolice Palestinians Parental choice Pastor Patrisse Cullors Personal freedom Platform Power plant President Donald Trump President Joe Biden President Obama Press Principles Private companies Progressive Progress Race Card Race Racial hatred Racism in America Raphael Warnock Reform Rep. Liz Cheney Rep. Maxine Waters Republican Party Republicans Republican Rich Right to Vote Riots Robert F. Kennedy Rockerfeller Roe vs Wade Rule of Law Russians Russia SAT SEC SJW Scandinavia School Choice Scientists Sen. Bernie Sanders Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Shawshank redemption Slavery Slaves Slave Social Justice Soviet Union Spacex Speaker Nancy Pelosi Speech Stacey Abrams Steve Crowder Steve Jobs Stock market Students Supporters Supremacist Supreme court Sweden Taxpayers Teachers' Union Tesla The Left The Reverend The Rich The West Thomas Jennings Thomas Sowell Tom Wolf Toymakers Trade workers Truth vs Lies Truth Tulsa 1921 Turnout Twitter US Constitution Uber Uncle Tom Underground Railroad United States flag Unity Vaccine Venezuela Vice President Kamala Harris Victims Victomhood Voter ID Votes Voting Rights Act Voting law Voting WGN WHO WWII WWI Walter Williams Warner Bros. Television Group Washington D.C. Water front Wealth creation Wealth White House White People White Supremacist White Supremacy White cops White-Savior Whites White Woke Racism Woke Women Work Worldview Wuhan YouTube abnormal academia academics access activists advancement adversary affirmative action alcoholic anarchy angry anti-semitic anti-trans antifa antiracists apartments arrested arrest assumptions attacks bad decisions biology boycott bureaucrats burglaries business owners business cancel cukture cancer cheating city council civility climte college colorblind colored comedian community compassion competition compliance conservative women contempt conviction corrupt politicians cost courage coverage criminal justice critical race theory culture war culture dad death penality debate delusion democracy dictatorship differential poverty discrimination diveristy driveway economic recovery economics economist economy education election reform elections employees employee employer employment enemies energy entrance exams entrepreneurs equal results ethnicity ethnic evidence executive orders fact-checkers faith leader false narrative farms first amendment force gender confusion gender genocide governance green new deal greenhouse gases guilty gun control gun violence handouts hate speech helpless blacks heroine hero homeless homicide human beings hyperbole immigration impeachment inequality inflation information infrastructure inheritance inner-city innovation insurrection interview investments jobs kids labor lawlessness liberty lies life in prison loans lock downs major league baseball mandates manslaughter masks microaggression minimum wage misdemeanor misinformation mob violence money monument moral superiority murder name callling national anthem national debt neopronouns obfuscation officers one race oppressed opt out parents patents paycheck payouts people of color people piplines podium ceremony poineers police brutality police policy political exploitation politicians politics polling poverty power prison private schools progressives protest public health public investment public schools qualified immunity race and culture racial inequalities racism racist nation racist white cops racist radiation radical administration ratings reactor reforms regulations reparations resisting arrest respect restaurant retirement riot role model rules for thee and not for me scholar school second amendment self-reliance sexism sexuality shootings shoplifting skin color snow social distancing social media social security socialism spending standards state run stereotypes subjectivism subsidizing college subsidy systemic racism tactic taxes taxpayer teenagers the poor theft totalitarianism transgender woman transgender trial tribalism triillions tuition unemployment victim culture victimology violence violent crime virology voluntary wages war welfare white privilege women in history