Race Rant...and Education

It wasn’t until after the Civil War that the United States began to recognize Black ingenuity and innovation.  In conquering the wilderness of the United States, Blacks had brought with them a vast array of knowledge that resulted in the creation of everything from tools for simple household use to elaborate and multifaceted machinery.  The names of a great many of these people have been lost in time. After the Civil War Black men held patents on everything from a cooking stove to a locomotive.  Blacks held patents on inventions in the work place, on the farm, in the factory, on the railroad, in the mine and in almost every department of labor.

 Most people don’t know Norbert Rillieux revolutionized sugar cane refining and became one of the wealthiest and most important men in Louisiana.  He was admired because of his wealth and importance while others saw him as a threat because he was Black.  Those that viewed him as a threat were eager to deny him the same rights extended to Whites.  As laws changed, free Blacks began to lose rights.  When Mr. Rillieux was required to carry a pass to travel freely, he left the United States forever and went to France where he decided to create a refining process for the sugar beet which was just as successful in France as his sugar cane refining process was in the United States.  He also began deciphering hieroglyphics.  His refining process is still used around the world for many products, including evaporated milk and cocoa.

 Many people talk about the “real McCoy” but don’t realize it refers to Elijah McCoy. He was the inventor of the drop cup, the key device in perfecting the overall lubrication system in large industry today.  Machines without this lubrication system would have to be stopped to be oiled to prevent wearing out of parts or fire.  The drop cup would slowly drop oil on the parts of the machine that required oil without having to stop production.  Many imitators tried to develop drop cups, but none of them worked as well as Mr. McCoy’s.  As a result, people purchasing machines would ask if the machine was built with “the Real McCoy”.  Mr. McCoy also developed the ironing table, lawn sprinkler, a steam dome, a dope cup (measures medicine) and received fifty-seven patents for various machine lubricating devices including air brakes for cars.

How about Lewis Howard Latimer?  He was a chief draftsman who executed the drawings and assisted in preparing the applications for the telephone patents of Alexander Graham Bell.  He invented the incandescent light bulb utilizing the carbon filament, later to be sold and marketed by Westinghouse Company.  Mr. Latimer supervised the installation of his lighting system in New York, Philadelphia, London and Montreal.  Mr. Latimer wrote the first text book on electricity.  He was also an accomplished poet, musician, author and artist.  In an effort to give back to the community, he also taught English to new immigrants to the United States.

Or Granville T. Woods who was known as the Black Edison.  Mr. Woods formed the Woods Railway Telegraph company in 1884.  In 1887 he patented the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph, a system designed to prevent railroad accidents by keeping trains in touch by telegraph.  Mr. Woods secured more than fifty patents.   He was the inventor of a telephone he sold to Bell Telephone Company.  He also invented an electric railway system used at Coney Island.  He developed a method of regulating the electric motor, which reduced the loss of electricity, automatic air brakes, the steam boiler furnace and an incubator.  He had to sue Edison Company twice for patent infringement. 

 The list is too numerous to complete here but Garrett Morgan’s many inventions that stressed safety, including but not limited to the traffic light.

Or the work of Otis Boykin (resistors, a control unit for artificial heart stimulators/pacemakers, a variable resistor used in guided missiles, thick film resistors for computers, a burglar proof cash-register and a chemical air filter), George E. Alcorn (worked on secret projects for missile re-entry, defense design, building of space instruments, atmospheric containment sensors, magnetic mass spectrometers, chemical ionization mass spectrometers for experiments in planetary life detection, development of new concepts in magnet design and a new type of x-ray spectrometer), George E. Carruthers (designed the Apollo 16 lunar surface ultraviolet camera/spectrograph) and Harrison Allen Jr. (specialized in the development of high energy fuels for rockets, super sonic combustion and solid rocket propellant rocket motors).  Many also don’t realize that the combined work of Otis Boykin, George E. Alcorn, George E. Carruthers and Harrison Allen Jr. got us to the moon in 1969.

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