Black Inventors of the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Century during the Age of Segregation

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The African Americans of today come from a line of great men and women, with great minds and great skills backing up their present lives. African Americans also brought about the creation of a great many technology before they were freed from the slavery imposed upon them by the Whites in the America. The inventors in this particular race were creative and hardworking, the things that they created brought about the further invention of a great number of things, their inventions ranging from creation of early security systems to the creation of machines to help the collection of cotton or help in washing of clothes).

The Condition of Blacks in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century

The African Americans continued to suffer even after the civil war and even after the burden of slavery had been removed from their heads and the cause of this struggle was the neglect from the government and the law institutes that were responsible for ensuring that the congress's amendment's introduction in the constitution was followed by the masses and by the public and private institutes within the country. The white American made sure that he was at the top of the chain and if that meant that he would prohibit others from empowering the blacks by educating them (be they slaves or independent blacks), so be it.

Regardless of the presence of amendments that granted every African American not only the legal right to stay in America, the right to vote in America and the right to equal opportunities, there was no change in the living statuses of the people from this race. The people

of this race were separated from the whites with the use of laws imposed like the Jim Crow law that made sure that there was a visible divide between the people of different races. As per the law, there were separate placements for the black and white, this law changed the revolution that was visible after the civil war and made the divide a wider chasm then it really was after the Civil war's end; in this sense the absence of a law like Jim Crow would have resulted in faster acceptance of African Americans in the American society. Thanks to the law, the blacks got treated like substandard human beings by the whites in the country.

If the facilities and opportunities provided to this race were to be taken into consideration for the sake of comparison, one would see that the blacks were given the short end of the stick. Going back to the level of school education, the schools for black were far and few with the type of education being provided as mediocre as possible, the school hours were minimum because of low level of fund allotment for these schools while the course was also old for the same reason. Those willing to get educated were faced with the dilemma of getting better resources to study and since the society was cleaved in two parts, the blacks used to travel to far off libraries for the sake of learning and still ended up with lesser engaging book materials. The plight of the black man was such that they couldn't travel in the easily available public transport because the transportation vehicles were for the whites only. Blacks had to fight legal battles to get entrance into the universities that taught the best. Blacks had to fight for better education as well as better opportunities for their people. Even after the early protests for the sake of getting better education and public accommodations, the court ruled in favor of separation and therein lied the core of the problem at hand, no one was willing to give way to their progress, everyone just wanted to create hurdles.

The struggle for black started from the moment that they were born, the society was simply unwilling to accept the race as being human enough and constantly encroached on the rights of the black race regardless of the place of concern.

Famous Black Inventors and their Inventions

There are numerous inventions that were given to the world by the way of African Americans and some of them are noted in the following lines:

  • James Forten- Developed the mechanism for easy sailing.
  • Norbert Rillieux- Invented a better mechanism for refining sugar at decreased cost.
  • Benjamin Banneker- Formed the wooden striking clock, although not famous for this specific work.
  • Jan Matzeliger- Invented the machine that connected the different assembly parts of a shoe together, hence quickening the process of shoe making.
  • Elijah McCoy- Invented a device to keep the different engines/machines well-oiled in an automatic fashion.
  • Granville T. Woods- Not only the invented the telephone transmitter but also the Synchronous Multiplex Railway telegraph that allowed the different rail ports in becoming more connected with one another. This individual went on to own 60 more registered inventions that were later used by the biggest names in the industry.
  • Lewis Howard Latimer- Worked on making Edison's light bulbs better by changing the carbon filament method of formation.
  • Ellen F. Eglin- Formed the bare bones for the washing machine.
  • Charles Drew- Known for his methods that allowed large amounts of blood to be kept in storage with a big amount of work on the plasma.
  • George Washington Carver- Put forth the method that allowed the nitrogen levels in soil to remain stable enough for further growth of cotton. He also expanded upon nearly 300 uses for peanuts.

The mentioned inventions are not the only notable inventions by people of African descend present in America, these are just few among the many.

The Issues Faced

When one looks back into the history for searching the inventions of the African Americans, the biggest task comes in the form of absence of information that would lead one back to the African American individual who made the invention. Rather according some research, the inventions of the blacks were bought by others at times and then registered by them. Further there were some who had their inventions registered under the names that didn't exist or at times under the names of authority figures of time that could help them. There were instances where the race was simply not mentioned for the sake of registration. The society was very much biased against these people and as a result the federal government did not really step up to help these individuals, rather it made things harder for them by simply denying them the right to register the invention under their own name or that of another person like their owner. On the other hand there was also the threat that the invention would simply be registered under the name of the person who's slave had invented the device with no one ever learning about who really invented the device.

The level of separation between the black and white was one of the force that lends to the absence of more black inventors getting their acknowledgements because it turns out that the more separated a community was in the past, the less likely it was for a black to get a their invention registered/patented. Further interesting is the fact that the blacks needed to have a vast connection in the society for their invention to get the recognition that it deserved and thanks to the separation this was not possible for the blacks. The blacks did not have the means as well as the connections that could allow them the ability to make it known that their invention was theirs.

One of the biggest deterrents to the identification of the black man's achievement was the discouraged white man who wanted all the glory to himself and did not want the social structure to change. The whites didn't want to provide the blacks any space in educational institutes that provided education related to scientific field. Rather they (whites) wanted the blacks to go ahead and study in the industrial fields so that they could be of use in the industries that the rich whites were setting up all over the country.

The black scientists struggled more than the whites just because of the low quality of education provided to them as well as the lack of opportunity to prove themselves (as the blacks were not given access to labs thanks to the Jim Crow law and the black institutes of education didn't have the requisite funds to make the labs). The later education was almost the same in the respect of knowledge provided to the individuals as it has been noted that the inventors utilized their innate creativity to come about their inventions rather than falling back on the education that they had received from different institutions.

The free black was obviously more privileged than the black who was shackled down to a sugar or cotton mill owner. The opportunities and identification for this black were many if they were lucky enough to be in a northern state or if they were basically lucky enough to afford the education.


Cook, Lisa D. ""Inventing Social Capital: Evidence from African American Inventors, 1843-1930."" MSU. 2011.

Johnson, Keith V. and Elwood D. Watson. ""A Historical Chronology of the Plight of African Americans Gaining Recognition in Engineering and Technology."" The Journal of Technology Studies :81-93.

Library of Congress. """" Library of Congress.

Orange County Regional History Center. ""Celebrating African American Inventors & Innovators."" Orange County Regional History Center.

Schons, Mary. ""African-American Inventors II."" National Geographic. 2011.

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Black Inventors of the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Century during the Age of Segregation. (2019, Jul 11). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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