Great Contributions To
Civilization By Black People Celebrates Black Achievement


"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 job well."

"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 littering.
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 against slavery.
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 Potato Chip
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 #'s
5,368,090 (Nov, 1994) -- Geometrical Vapor Blocker for Parallel Condensation Tubes Requiring Subcooling;
4,921,292 (May 1990) -- Magnetic Attachment Mechanism and;
4,664,344 (May 1987) -- Apparatus and Method of Capturing an Orbiting Spacecraft."

Special Feature:
Frederick Douglass
The Proud Lion Of Baltimore
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



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