"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically
bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak
of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed
truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
"If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets
even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare
wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven
and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his
"There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large
segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in
it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in
their society, protect that society, but when they don't have it, they
unconsciously want to destroy it." - Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are just a smattering of great inventions and contributions to modern
civilization and technological progress by black people...
- Otis Boykin
- Otis Boykin invented an improved electrical resistor
used in computers - radios - television sets and a variety of electronic
devices. Boykin's resistor helped reduce the cost of those products. Otis
Boykin also invented a variable resistor used in guided missile parts,
a control unit for heart stimulators, a burglar-proof cash register and
a chemical air filter.
- After graduating from Fisk University and the Illinois
Institute of Technology, Otis Boykin worked in a laboratory testing automatic
controls for airplanes. He later worked as a consultant for several firms
and as a successful inventor. Boykin died of a heart failure in 1982.
- Charles Brooks
- Charles Brooks invented a street sweeper truck and patented
it on March 17, 1896. Historically, prior to Brooks' truck, streets were
commonly cleaned by walking workers, picking up by hand or broom, or by
horse-drawn machines. Brooks' truck had brushes attached to the front fender
which pushed trash to the curb.
- Brooks also patented an early paper punch, also called
a ticket punch. It was the first ticket punch to have a built-in receptacle
on one of the jars to collect the round pieces of waste paper and prevent
- Benjamin Banneker
- Benjamin Banneker was a scientist, astronomer, inventor,
writer and antislavery publicist. Banneker created the first American built
striking clock, invented the first Farmers' Almanac and actively campaigned
- Banneker was educated by Quakers and quickly revealed
to the world his inventive nature. Benjamin Banneker first achieved national
acclaim for his scientific work in the 1791 survey of the Federal Territory
(now Washington, D.C.). In 1753, he built the first watch made in America,
a wooden pocket watch. Twenty years later, Banneker began making astronomical
calculations that enabled him to successfully forecast a 1789 solar eclipse.
His estimate, made well in advance of the celestial event, contradicted
predictions of better-known mathematicians and astronomers.
- George Washington Carver
- Agricultural chemist, George Washington Carver invented
three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans
and sweet potatoes. Countless products we enjoy today come to us by the
way of Carver. Only three patents were every issued to him, but among his
listed discoveries are: adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili
sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat
tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe
polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder and wood stain. And peanut butter!
- George Carruthers
- George Carruthers has gained international recognition
for his work which focuses on ultraviolet observations of the earth's upper
atmosphere and of astronomical phenomena. Ultraviolet light is the electromagnetic
radiation between visible light and x-rays. George Carruthers first major
contribution to science was to lead the team that invented the far ultraviolet
camera spectrograph. He developed the first moon-based space observatory,
an ultraviolet camera that was carried to the moon by Apollo 16 astronauts
in 1972. The camera was positioned on the moon's surface and allowed researchers
to examine the Earth's atmosphere for concentrations of pollutants.
- John Christian
- John Christian was working as an Air Force, Materials
Research, Engineer, when he invented and patented new lubricants, used
in high flying aircraft and NASA space missions. The lubricants worked
well under a wider temperature range than previous products, from minus
50 to 600 degrees. They were used in the helicoptor fuel lines, astronaut's
back-pack life support systems, and in the four-wheel drive of the "moon-buggy".
- Dr Charles Richard Drew
- Charles Drew researched blood plasma and transfusions
in New York City. It was during his work at Columbia University where he
made his discoveries relating to the preservation of blood. By separating
the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the
two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and reconstituted
at a later date.
- Mark Dean
- Mark Dean and his co-inventor Dennis Moeller created
a microcomputer system with bus control means for peripheral processing
devices. Their invention paved the way for the growth in the information
technology industry. We can plug into our computers peripherals like disk
drives, video gear, speakers, and scanners.
- Philip Emeagwali
- Nigerian born Dr. Philip Emeagwali first entered the
limelight in 1989 when he won the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize for his
work with massively parallel computers. He programmed the Connection Machine
to compute a world record 3.1 billion calculations per second using 65,536
processors to simulate oil reservoirs. With over 41 inventions submitted
to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Emeagwali is making big waves
in the supercomputer industry, amazing achievements only surpassed by an
even more amazing life.
- Frederick Jones
- Fred McKinley Jones was one of the most prolific Black
inventors ever. Jones patented more than sixty inventions, however, he
is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul
trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device). Jones was the first person
to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad
cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping
trips. The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers,
including ships. Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940 (#2,303,857).
- George Crum - 1853 - The
- Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
- 1893 - Heart Surgery
- Seargant Adolphus Samms -
1958-1967 - Invented various systems for space travel including:
- Parachute release mechanism
- Rocket engine pump feed system
- Air frame center support (eliminates need for second
and third stage engines)
- Multiple stage rocket
- Air breathing booster
- Emergency release for extraction chute mechanism
- Rocket motor fuel feed system
- William D. Harwell. "I
work for NASA/Johnson Space Center, where I am employed as a Mechanical
Engineer. As such, I designed the hardware for and jointly hold patent
- 5,368,090 (Nov, 1994) -- Geometrical Vapor Blocker for
Parallel Condensation Tubes Requiring Subcooling;
- 4,921,292 (May 1990) -- Magnetic Attachment Mechanism
- 4,664,344 (May 1987) -- Apparatus and Method of Capturing
an Orbiting Spacecraft."
- Frederick Douglass
The Proud Lion
- From George Belanus
- I noted with interest your story about contributions
to history by black people, and would like to take an opportunity to expand
on it to a small degree.
- More specifically, I would like to expand on the remarks
by Martin Luther King, Jr., that you started the story off with.
- King was perhaps best known as probably the leading proponent
of equal rights for Americans of African descent. I'm sure that he had
probably more impact in the great civil rights drive of the 1960s than
any other American of African descent. Nobody can deny this, and his influence
continued long after his premature death. I'm sure that the entire story
about his assassination has not come to public attention yet, as the entire
story about the JFK assassination has not come to public recognition ...
or to justice, in both cases.
- But I digresss slightly. The gist of King's statement
in your story hit the nail right on the head as far as I'm concerned, not
only in regard to Americans whose ancestors came from Africa but who came
from other countries as well. I am personally a person whose ancestry is
German and Dutch. Most of my forebears no doubt left their home countries
in a situation where they were probably fleeing for their lives for one
reason or another. Or they were victims of religious persecution. Perhaps
they migrated to America in pursuit of the classic American Dream, where
they would have a chance to make a better life for themselves based entirely
on their own abilities and effort. This is perhaps a bit different than
the situation that most African migrants to this country found themselves
in, since they made the trip on a stinking slave ship rather than in the
stinking holds of a passenger liner or tramp steamer. Most European migrants,
or migrants from other areas other than Africa, just didn't have the money
for first class passage, so they had to make do, I guess.
- The point of this epistle, though, is not to point out
that everybody who made the trip to this country did so on some less-than-first-rate
booking on ship. Most of my German ancestors made the trip somewhere in
the 1850s or thereabouts, or so the tombstone markings on the old Mt. Zion
Cemetary in Wheeling, WV, would have us believe. Most persons who came
here on slave ships came at earlier dates. But they all made the trip and,
in time, got to the point where they had the opportunity to make a better
life for themselves and have a stake in this country ... just as M. L.
King said everybody should have.
- This is the central point of King's statement in your
story as I understand it, you see. It shouldn't matter if a person's family
came from Africa, Germany, Lebanon, or wherever. The way this country was
supposed to be set up, everybody is supposed to have an equal chance at
being a success at what they want to do in life. But the point today, as
I write this email, is that a great many people of all sorts of ethnic
backgrounds, feel that they have been left out in the cold in this respect.
In effect, the deck is rigged in the great poker game of making it in America.
And the big thing in whether you make it or not is how well your family
is connected, who they know, how much money they have to start with. It
all boils down to that. If you don't have those connections, it doesn't
matter how good you are at what you're best at -- you're probably going
to go chugging along at some relatively low paying job and never get out
of the rut. I see it every day in the job I work at, and that comes from
white people, black people, persons who are of Chinese descent, and so
on, ad nauseum.
- So, getting back to what King said in that one opening
part of your story, I would have to say that he was actually talking about
everybody in this country rather than just persons who are of African descent.
Let's not forget that we are all in this boat together, and what is needed
is probably some sort of organized united front to turn the situation around.
I know, I know. There are some organizations like the Rainbow Coalition
that claim to be for all sorts of persons of different ethnic backgrounds.
I'm not talking about that sort of thing. I'm talking about the person,
regardless of race or ethnic background, who has to go out and work for
a living every day but never seems to get ahead despite it. Maybe you could
get ahead and be relatively debt free or be a ``success,'' whatever that
means in America today. In a sense, we're all a bunch of working class
rednecks in that respect, since we all have to work every day to stay more
or less even but never get ahead too much.
- That's one of the things I really enjoy about your website,
Jeff. As far as the exchange of ideas and information goes, you make the
site available to everybody. I'm sure that some of the responses you get
to that story will be from persons who object to your running a story about
Black Americans and the contributions they made, and will probably say
that you just conveniently forgot about everybody else. But, from looking
at your site for several years now, I'm sure that you know as well as I
do that King's statement said it all for everybody. What you really mean
in running that particular part of the story is that when you have any
person in a society, or country, who feels left out from the benefits,
you're automatically looking at trouble. I can say that you and King were
right, even as a person who voted for Wallace when he was running for President
that one time. If my memory is correct, there were a lot of Black voters
in Alabama who voted for him as governor when he ran for that office because
they figured they knew what he was and had reached an accommodation with
him, with the alternative being voting for some white liberal candidate
who would stick them in the back once he got into office. Wallace always
delivered on what he said he would do for the Black voters, or so I've
heard, once he was elected.
- But let's forget all the past at the moment. Right at
this point in time, we're stuck with a situation where it doesn't really
matter if you're black, white or whatever. If you're not in the chosen
group, you don't amount to anything and you don't have much of a chance
of getting out of whatever sort of rut you're in. Until we manage to change
this situation to what it was supposed to be in this country, we'll remain
stuck in the same old situation or possibly much worse. I hope that the
people of this country haven't lost their ability to understand this, and
can manage to see past their own little group standards to realize that
unless we do change things, we'll never be any better off.
- George Belanus