Where would the world be without the contributions of Black inventors? From the ironing board and the stoplight, to the potato chip and the clock, Black inventors are to thank for many items that we use every day, but the fight for recognition hasn’t been an easy battle.
The first Black inventor to receive a patent is believed to be Thomas Jennings. Prior to an 1836 revision, slaves were legally allowed to receive patents but the rule didn’t apply to Jennings, who was a free man who owned a dry cleaning business in New York City. In 1821 he applied for a patent for a dry-cleaning method known as “dry scouring.” He later used earnings from the invention to free his family members, and support the slavery abolition movement.
Once the national law was changed, slaves were barred from applying for patents. As a result, a number of Black inventors weren’t credited for their work until years later, if at all.
While the likes of George Washington Carver, Madam C.J. Walker, and Benjamin Banneker are among the more popular Black inventors, Hip-Hop Wired put together a special list of Black inventors from the last 100 years.
Check them out in the gallery below.