The Impact of African American Inventors

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Whether we know it or not, black inventors have impacted our lives drastically. From the time we wake up, until we go back to sleep at night, we use at least one thing that has been made by an African- American inventor. Whether it is something as big as a traffic light or as little as a hair brush, black inventors have made major contributions to our everyday lives. Many people know about the big inventions, but both small and big inventions have impacted America. (Lund 2008) During slavery, most black slaves were denied proper education and many laws were passed in the South prohibiting slave literacy. Even free blacks in the century before and after the Civil War were limited in their access to quality education and career training. This limited education and training meant that, in some way, blacks were shut out of professional occupations and limited to working in industries thought acceptable for them, such as house services and farming. However, a small number of talented blacks were able to attain an education and, through their work, made major contributions to American life. (Imbornoni n.d.) Unlike black slaves, free blacks prior to the Civil War were allowed to receive patents for their inventions. But, once again, because blacks lacked educational and career opportunities, few had the necessary skills or experience to develop their creative ideas or patent them. Despite these restrictions, there were a number of successful black inventors whose inventions proved useful and important. Thomas Jennings, the first African American to receive a patent, used the money he earned from his invention to fund abolitionist foundations. There were a few slaves, who were good builders, that created devices and techniques that benefited their owners’ enterprises. A decision was made by the federal government in 1858. They said that neither the slave nor the slave owner could claim ownership rights to an invention. After the Civil War the U.S. patent laws were...
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