SLIDESHOW: Honoring Black Women Inventors

Thursday, February 04, 2016


In the early 1900s an African American patent examiner by the name of Henry Baker set out on a mission to locate black inventors which led to the conclusion that most of the population was unaware of the thriving success of Colored inventors. Baker took the extra step to record a list of black inventors, then sending their names to patent attorneys, newspapers and black leaders so they could be publicly archived.
Henry was adamant about contesting the perception that blacks should have no social or political mobility because they had not contributed anything to the country; nor did blacks have the mental capacity to be innovators, a common thought at the time.  His book, The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (1913) was a result of his research and evidence to disapprove these perceptions about the Colored race. His research uncovered over 1200 inventions by African Americans. However, only a little over 800 of those inventions were verified patents. Twenty- six of these were developed by black women.
An excerpt taken from Baker’s, The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years (1913) states, “Less than ten years ago, in a hotly contested campaign in the State of Maryland, a popular candidate for Congress remarked, in one of his speeches, that the colored race should be denied the right to vote because "none of them had ever evinced sufficient capacity to justify such a privilege," and that "no one of the race had ever yet reached the dignity of an inventor." Yet, at that very moment, there was in the Library of Congress in Washington a book of nearly 500 pages containing a list of nearly 400 patents representing the inventions of colored people."

After further research and the location of more Colored inventions, Baker goes on to state in his book, "These 800 patents tell a wonderful story of the progress of the race in the mastery of the science of mechanics. They cover inventions of more or less importance in all the branches of mechanics, in chemical compounds, in surgical instruments, in electrical utilities, and in the fine arts as well.”
Henry was enthralled with his findings and worked diligently to notate the advancements and achievements of black inventions.
Today we commemorate just a few key inventions developed by African American women over the years. Though some are without portraits, we’ve highlighted their patents.
(Sources for this slide, click here)

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