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Battling Bigots on the WWW – The Myth of “Irish Slaves”

Prior to 1700, there were about 10,000 Irish brought to America as indentured servants. Many of these folks wound up doing farm labor. The period of “servitude” could be from 7 to 15 years based on the cost of their transport to the New World, and what labor skills they had. The white supremacist line is that these people were slaves…They were not. They were not for several reasons –

  1. They were indentured for a specific period – not life. Once their indenture was over, they had to be released.
  2. They never lost legal rights. Ergo, and indentured servant had the right to challenge their indenture in court. Furthermore, if assaulted or killed by the plantation owner – the owner was subject to criminal laws, up to and including murder in the courts of the colonies. Salves conversely, were property, and there was no legal consequence of killing a slave.
  3. About 1670 many of the slave states began passing laws which established slavery solely as a condition of black people. These laws included perpetuity clauses which made the children of slaves…slaves. Status of children, whether free or slave was based on the status of the mother. Ergo, if the mother was free, the children were free. Which was the beginning of the various miscegenation laws prohibiting whites and blacks marriage. Plantation owners specificall wanted to stop black men from having children with indentured Irish women because the children of such would not be slaves.

Virginia, 1662″Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children got by any Englishmen upon a Negro shall be slave or Free, Be it therefore enacted and declared by this present Grand assembly, that all children born in this country shall be held bond or free only according to the condition of the mother.

“Virginia, 1667″Act III. Whereas some doubts have arisen whether children that are slaves by birth… should by virtue of their baptism be made free, it is enacted that baptism does not alter the condition to the person as to his bondage or freedom; masters freed from this doubt may more carefully propagate Christianity by permitting slaves to be admitted to that sacrament.

“Virginia, 1682″Act I. It is enacted that all servants… which shall be imported into this country either by sea or by land, whether Negroes, Moors, mulattoes or Indians who and whose parentage and native countries are not Christian at the time of their first purchase by some Christian… and all Indians, which shall be sold by our neighboring Indians, or any other trafficking with us for slaves, are hereby adjudged, deemed and taken to be slaves to all intents and purposes any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding.

“Virginia, 1705″All servants imported and brought into the Country… who were not Christians in their native Country… shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion… shall be held to be real estate.

[2]South Carolina, 1712″Be it therefore enacted, by his Excellency, William, Lord Craven, Palatine…. and the rest of the members of the General Assembly, now met at Charles Town, for the South-west part of this Province, and by the authority of the same, That all negros, mulattoes, mestizo’s or Indians, which at any time heretofore have been sold, or now are held or taken to be, or hereafter shall be bought and sold for slaves, are hereby declared slaves; and they, and their children, are hereby made and declared slaves….”

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‘Irish slaves’: Historian destroys racist myth conservatives love to share on Facebook

White supremacists have been promoting the myth that the first slaves brought to the Americas were Irish, not African — but a historian says there’s simply no evidence to back their racist claims.

Liam Hogan, a research librarian at the Limerick City Library, set about debunking the myth after spotting a widely shared Global Research article in 2013 and realized its potential for misinformation, reported Hatewatch.

“It was quite clear to me then that many would never engage with the history of the transatlantic slave trade when they had this false equivalence to fall back on,” Hogan told the website. “I think that’s what convinced me that I needed to put the record straight.”

The myth essentially equates indentured or penal servitude with racialized perpetual hereditary chattel slavery, Hogan said.

Racists claim the Irish slave trade began in 1612 and was not abolished until 1839, and they insist “white slavery” has been covered up by “politically correct” historians.

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“The various memes make many claims including (but not limited to) the following: that ‘Irish slaves’ were treated far worse than black slaves, that there were more ‘Irish slaves’ than black slaves, that ‘Irish slaves’ were worth less than black slaves, that enslaved Irish women were forced to breed with enslaved African men and that the Irish were slaves for much longer than black slaves,” Hogan said.

“This is then invariably followed up by overtly racist statements,” he added. “For example, ‘Yet, when is the last time you heard an Irishman bitching and moaning about how the world owes them a living?’”

Hogan hasn’t isolated the myth’s first appearance on social media, but it’s been a common trope on the white supremacist website Stormfront since at least 2003 and has been trotted out as an argument against reparations for slavery and to attack the Black Lives Matter movement.

He pointed to a 2014 post on Alex Jones’ Infowars website that attacked both Black Lives Matter and reparations by promoting several falsehoods about “Irish slavery.”

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“It appropriates the massacre of around 132 African victims of the genocidal transatlantic slave trade in order to diminish it,” Hogan said, referring to the Zong massacre in 1781. “If you look at the Infowars version of the meme you’ll see it has even appended an extra zero, making the number of victims amount to 1,302, while adding that ‘these slaves weren’t from Africa, these forgotten souls were from Ireland.’ This shameless appropriation is then used by Infowars to mock calls for reparatory justice for slavery.”

The myth has become nearly ubiquitous in social media discussions on slavery and race — and it was even promoted by a blogger on the liberal Daily Kos website.

“There was almost no situation where the meme was not used to derail discussions about the legacy of slavery or ongoing anti-black racism,” Hogan said. “Starting with Ferguson and with almost every subsequent police killing of an unarmed black person from late 2014 through 2015, the meme was used to mock and denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement. It is in a sense the ‘historical’ version of the disingenuous All Lives Matter response to demands for justice and truth telling.”

Hogan has collected hundreds of examples of the fallacious argument, which he has shared on Twitter and Tumblr, and he said some of those memes have been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook.

The myth is especially popular among Confederate apologists, and Hogan cites several examples of its deployment during the debate over Confederate flag displays in the wake of the fatal shootings of nine black churchgoers by a white supremacist.

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“This year I’ve tracked the meme being shared by the Texas League of the South, History of the True South, Love My Confederate Ancestors and the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Hogan said. “They seem to believe that this meme somehow negates the fact that the Confederacy fought a war to perpetually enslave millions of African-Americans and their descendants.”

The myth is often supported with citations to the books “To Hell or Barbados,” by Sean O’Callaghan, and “White Cargo,” by Don Jordan and Michael A. Walsh — both of which are historically questionable, according to Hogan, but he said most articles about “Irish slaves” don’t even quote from those sources.

Instead, Hogan said most of those articles rely heavily on an unreferenced blog post and the self-published work of Holocaust denier Michael A. Hoffman II.

Hogan said his concerns are shared by at least 81 academics and historians, and he hopes to set the record straight in his own book.

“I would like to reclaim the history of Irish servitude in the 17th century Anglo-Caribbean and present it in context for a general audience,” he said. “The Cromwellian policy of forced transportation to the colonies in the 1650s (which included an estimated 10,000 Irish people) understandably scars our collective memory and it deserves both respect and close attention from anyone interested in the history of the unfree labor systems in the Atlantic world.”

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He said the myth’s appeal reveals an essential element of racist thought — and the way those beliefs are exploited to justify discriminatory laws.

“The racism then flows as these various groups of Neo-Nazis posit why whites can overcome a ‘worse’ situation than blacks and ‘do not whine about it,’” Hogan said. “So the ‘get over it’ racism that so often accompanies the meme is not about history at all. It goes much deeper than that.”

“Their belief is that non-whites can’t move on due to racial inferiority or social pathology,” he continued. “So through false equivalence and erasure, they attempt to remove history as a determinant so that they can claim the current socioeconomic position and mass incarceration of black people in the U.S. is due to racial inferiority.”

 

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Racism in the American Muslim World

Interesting take on racism in the Muslim world, between Muslims.

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Muslim Americans Are United by Trump—and Divided by Race

Facing increasing hostility from the administration, the religious community also has to cope with its own internal tensions.

When weary Muslims gathered in Toronto in December for an annual retreat, marking the end of a tumultuous U.S. election year, they probably didn’t expect the event to turn into a referendum on racial tensions within the American Muslim community. But it did.

One session was led by Hamza Yusuf, a well respected white scholar who co-founded Zaytuna College, which claims to be America’s first Muslim liberal-arts college. At the end, he was asked whether Muslims should work with groups like Black Lives Matter. “The United States is probably, in terms of its laws, one of the least racist societies in the world,” he replied. “We have between 15,000 and 18,000 homicides per year. Fifty percent are black-on-black crime, literally. … There are twice as many whites that have been shot by police, but nobody ever shows those videos.”

He went on. “It’s the assumption that the police are racist. It’s not always the case,” he said. “Any police now that shoots a black is immediately considered a racist.”

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The backlash on social media was swift and immense. “For black Muslims, hearing this from somebody we’ve all come to love and trust—it was a cold slap in the face,” said Ubaydullah Evans, the executive director of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, who is black. He said he saw Yusuf’s comments as a way of perpetuating myths about “black pathology” and blaming African Americans for violence. Yusuf’s statements were indeed somewhat misleading: While a greater number of white people have been shot by the police compared to black people, that statistic doesn’t account for population size. When that adjustment is made, historical data shows that black people are more likely to be shot by police than white people.

Even though slightly less than one-third of American Muslims are black, according to Pew Research Center, American Muslims are most often represented in the media as Arab or South Asian immigrants. The distinction between the African-American Muslim experience and that of their immigrant co-religionists has long been a source of racial tension in the Muslim community, but since the election, things have gotten both better and worse. While some Muslims seem to be paying more attention to racism because of Donald Trump, others fear that any sign of internal division is dangerous for Muslims in a time of increased hostility.

While the Toronto conference was upsetting, Evans said, he doesn’t think it’s representative of the biggest racial problems in the American Muslim community. White racism toward black people is “not the kind of racism that circumscribes my life as an American Muslim,” he told me. “It’s the social racism I experience from people of Arab descent, of Southeast Asian descent. This is the racism no one is talking about.”

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The wave of immigration that shaped today’s American Muslim population began in the 1960s, after Congress lifted previous race-based restrictions on immigration. In many ways, this surge was directly connected to the work of black Muslims and others involved in the civil-rights movement: The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allowed far greater numbers of people from Asia and Africa to emigrate to the U.S. As of 2014, an estimated 61 percent of Muslims were immigrants, according to Pew, and another 17 percent were the children of immigrants. Many of the perceived racial tensions among Muslims come from conflicts between these immigrant communities and non-immigrants, who are often black.

“Immigrant Muslims had a convenient comfort zone,” said Omar Suleiman, an imam based in Dallas who serves as president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. As each new immigrant community established its own mosques and community centers, portions of the Muslim American population became segregated by ethnicity and income. For non-black Muslims who grew up in the suburbs, attended private schools, and rarely encountered black Muslims in their mosques, it’s easy “to internalize many of the poisonous notions about the black community that … diminish the pain of those communities,” he said.

These stereotypes are sometimes perpetuated by leaders like Yusuf. Toward the end of the Toronto conference, he apologized for the ambiguity of his previous comments, but clarified that he believes “the biggest crisis facing the African American community in the United States is not racism. It is the breakdown of the black family.” The line won huge applause in the presentation hall where Yusuf was speaking. But online, there was yet more backlash: Kameelah Rashad, a black Muslim chaplain at the University of Pennsylvania, started tweeting out pictures under the hashtag #blackMuslimfamily, for example, to protest Yusuf’s remarks. (Yusuf declined a request for an interview.)

Some Muslims believe “we shouldn’t talk about anti-blackness within the community, because we’re under siege by Islamophobes. This is not the right time to air internal laundry,” Rashad said. But “if I have to contend with anti-Muslim bigotry outside of the Muslim community, and within my own community, I’m having to push back on anti-black racism, I’m kind of fighting a war on two fronts.”

Racial dynamics have long shaped Muslims’ political identities. There’s a “tendency to regard issues that impact black people—and by extension, black Muslims—as not thoroughly Islamic,” said Evans. “If we’re talking about a social issue in Palestine or Chechnya or Kashmir or Saudi Arabia or anywhere else, those things can properly be engaged as ‘Islamic issues.’ [If] we’re talk about economic injustice, or gentrification, or ex-offender re-entry, or recidivism, those things aren’t really regarded as ‘legitimately Islamic.’ It’s like, ‘Why would a Muslim of conscience be talking about that stuff?’”…Read the rest here...

 

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Black American History – The Green Book

For those too young, or have forgotten what segregation was like in this county… A look back at the future under the Chumph

HOW THE ‘GREEN BOOK’ SAVED BLACK LIVES ON THE ROAD

The year is 1940. You are in a ’37 Buick, driving west on the Dixie Overland Highway. You plan to take it all the way to California, but as things stand, you might not even make it to the Texas border. For you are black, and you are deep in Alabama, and night is coming.

This is the land of strange fruit: Elizabeth Lawrence, an elderly black woman who’d chastised white children for throwing rocks at her, lynched in 1933; Otis Parham, 16, set upon by a mob that couldn’t find the perpetrator of an alleged attack on a white man in 1934. They killed Parham instead and threw his body into a ditch. You don’t have to know the names of Alabama’s recently murdered to feel the presence of their ghosts in the roadside thickets of longleaf pine.

With the day’s light faltering, you pull over and retrieve The Negro Motorist Green Book from your Roadmaster’s glove box. It is 48 pages of practical scripture, offering safe passage through the United States—where you can sleep, eat and fill your gas tank. The 1940 edition of the Green Book offered several options for safe harbor in central Alabama from the Ku Klux Klan, not to mention less deadly manifestations of hatred. Some of these are hotels that will allow black guests, like the Fraternal in Birmingham. Others are private homes, such as that of Mrs. G.W. Baugh, at 2526 12th Street in Tuscaloosa (private homes are almost always listed under the name of a female host). The Green Book also lists a few restaurants, clubs, garages and beauty salons. In Augusta, Georgia, you are welcome at Bollinger’s liquor store—but nowhere else.

The number of listings will grow, especially after a brief hiatus in publication during World War II, as more and more people write in with suggestions, crowdsourcing a compendium of black-friendly sites across the nation. In 1957, North Dakota would be the last state in the continental United States covered by the Green Book. In 1964, Hawaii became the 50th state in the guide, which that year also featured entries for Europe, Africa and Latin America.

Thus what began in 1936 as a barebones aggregation of New York–area advertisements would eventually create what the historian Jennifer Reut calls an “invisible map” of America. The guide’s creator, Victor Hugo Green, had recognized that such a map was necessary. But he also hoped that his work would eventually be obviated by social progress. Later editions of the Green Book contained an introduction with this optimistic passage:

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment…

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The Green Book created what Taylor calls an “overground railroad,” used by the progeny of those who may have relied on that other, more famous railroad offering passage out of slavery. The Underground Railroad promised freedom; the Green Book promised something just as fundamentally American: leisure.

Taylor has spent the last several years photographing Green Book locations for her website while planning a much larger project she hopes will grant the Green Book the cultural prominence it deserves. Her task is made difficult by the fact that each edition of the Green Book was often significantly different from those before and after, depending on the shifting landscape of prejudice in each state. An out-of-date listing—a motel that welcomed blacks suddenly shuttering—could spell doom for a traveler stranded in the thick of Mississippi.

Taylor went through all 22 editions of the guide to create a list of 4,964 sites—and she’s gone through only about half of the nation. She believes that perhaps 25 percent remain standing in some form, like the IHOP in Harlem, while only about 5 percent operate as they did in Victor Green’s time. A few are obvious and easy to find, like Clifton’s Cafeteria in downtown Los Angeles, which recently reopened after a $10 million renovation, once more serving all those who reach the western terminus of Route 66, though it’s pay-as-you-wish policy hasn’t survived into the 21st century. But some are even more invisible than they were on Green’s “invisible map,” retreating into historical obscurity. There is Murray’s Dude Ranch, in the high desert of Southern California, notable for catering to an African-American clientele. Black cowboy films like Harlem on the Prairie were filmed there . Today, it is just an expanse of sagebrush.

Other Green Book stops live on in shabby anonymity. The Hayes Motel, in the historically African-American section of South Central Los Angeles, opened in 1947, 18 years before an incident of police brutality led nearby Watts to erupt in fiery frustration against the city’s reactionary leaders. The 1992 riots, in response to the acquittal of the four police officers who’d beaten motorist Rodney King, began a few blocks away. Somehow, the Hayes Motel remained in operation, but the turbulent times took their toll. When Taylor visited with a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, a telling sign greeted potential guests: “No drugs. No Prostitution. No Loitering. No Trespassing.”

Taylor—who is writing a book on the Green Book, is in talks with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and is creating an interactive map with partners that may include Harvard, the New York Public Library and Google—isn’t waiting for someone to invest $10 million in the Hayes Motel. But she believes it has a story worth commemorating, as do all its fellow Green Book survivors. She hopes to reclaim a forgotten chapter of African-American history, partly because it is our history and does not deserve oblivion any more than Millard Fillmore’s log cabin, but also because there were things we should have learned then but did not.

“This is a cautionary tale,” she says. “This is still with us.”…Read The Rest of this Article Here

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V0Wxr37N70

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2017 in Black History

 

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Maryland Opens Historical Center About Harriet Tubman

A portion of Harriet Tubman’s life is set to be dramatized on the Television Series “Underground” on WGN America. Watch it, it is really good!

I currently live on the Eastern Shore, about an hour and a half South of the places Harriet Tubman rescued slaves. I am familiar with the landscape and the swamps (The Great Cypress Swamp) and thickets can be near if not completely impassable and are similar to something you would think of in Florida or Louisiana. There is a great kayak trip though the swamp area, as well as the Blackwater (the water is stained black by the cypress trees) area off the Choptank where Tubman operated.

Harriet Tubman fled a life of slavery in Maryland. Now a new visitor center opens on the land she escaped.

She preferred moving in the darkness of long winter nights. She didn’t wait for late passengers: The “train” for Zion always left on time. And she carried a pistol, in case of trouble or flagging hearts.

Her branch of the line began here, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, near places like Tobacco Stick, Kentuck Swamp, and Skeleton Creek, off the Choptank River, to the north.

She was small and the color of a chestnut, as her owner described her when she first ran away. But she was hardened by whippings and work on the timber gangs, and she knew the wilderness as well as a hunter.

On March 11, the National Park Service and the Maryland State Park Service plan to unveil a new visitor center here dedicated to the life and mission of abolitionist and legendary Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman.

The $22 million center, in the works since 2008, is adjacent to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, in the hallowed area where Tubman was born, enslaved and from which she escaped.

The opening festivities next weekend will feature reenactors, lectures and writing workshops. The center has exhibits, a museum store, a research library, and an outdoor walking path and pavilion.

It’s the same area where Tubman repeatedly returned at great risk to help relatives and friends out of bondage along the secret anti-slavery network to freedom that was the Underground Railroad.

Between about 1850 and 1860, using stealth and disguise, she made 13 trips, spiriting 70 people out of slavery, historians believe.

Tubman’s life spanned most of the 19th and part of the 20th century, took her across the Eastern United State and Canada, and saw her fight for civil rights, women’s rights and the cause of the Union in the Civil War.

But it was here in the mosquito-infested swamps and woods, and the local plantations and river ports, that the slave girl “Minty” Ross became the liberator, Harriet Tubman.

Here, Tubman was beaten as a child by a mistress who slept with a whip under her pillow. Here, she checked muskrat traps, broke flax and hauled logs with a team of oxen she was permitted to purchase.

nd here, scholars say, amid a fracas one night, she was struck on the head with an iron weight and suffered a debilitating brain injury that would alter her life.

Tubman understood the haunting landscape where she lived and was said to possess a mystical “charm” that protected her, according to biographer Kate Clifford Larson.

“She was a genius,” Larson said in a recent telephone interview. “Even though she couldn’t read or write, she was born with a gift.”

“When she worked in the woods with her father, he taught her how to survive,” Larson said. “How to feed herself, how to protect herself, how to navigate through those woods that are really dark at night.”

And she dare not carry a lantern.

“This is the area that shaped Harriet Tubman’s ideals,” National Park Service historian Beth Parnicza said. “It’s where she and her family grew up, where she lived for 27 years of her life.”

“This landscape is critical to her story,” she said…. Read the Rest Here

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in Black History, Giant Negros

 

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Little Caesars Pizza Founder Paid Rosa Parks Rent for 11 Years

And if you buy a Trump Schlepping Papa Johns after this, I hope you kids pimp slap you all the way to Birmingham.

Little Caesars founder paid Rosa Parks' rent for 11 years

Little Caesars founder paid Rosa Parks’ rent for 11 years

The civil rights icon and fierce political activist was supported from an unlikely source

Less than a week ago, when the death of Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch made news, his family shared stories of his vision, work ethic and love of the Detroit community. He was the son of immigrant parents. He opened his pizza franchise’s first location by the time he was 30. He owned two of the city’s major sports teams, the Red Wings and the Tigers.

He also paid the rent of civil rights icon Rosa Parks for 11 years.

“It’s important that people know what Mr. Mike Ilitch did for Ms. Rosa Parks because it’s symbolic of what he has always done for the people of our city,” federal appeals court Judge Damon Keith, a Detroit resident, told Sports Business Daily.

In 1994, a man broke into Rosa Parks’ residence in Detroit and assaulted and robbed Parks, who was 81 at the time. Following the attack, Keith put out an inquiry to find a safer home for Rosa Parks. Ilitch read about the plan in the newspaper and called to offer his support. Ilitch pledged to pay Parks’ rent indefinitely.

Mike Ilitch paid her rent until she died in 2005.

Rosa Parks was most known for launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. But Parks’ activism work began more than a decade prior. She joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943 and remained a fierce advocate for civil rights and against domestic violence and sexual assault until the end of her life.

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Mike Illich

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2017 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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Black Inventors and the Jim Crow Patent System

Having all or part of several Patents myself, this one deeply resonates with me. The problem with gaining Patents today have little to do with direct discrimination and everything to do with the cost of the Patent. A Patent today costs and average of $40,000 in legal fees. Putting the ability to secure a Patent far beyond the reach of your garage inventor and many start-up companies. What the New Jim Crow means is that few black inventors, who typically don’t have the financial resources or access to Venture Capital, can afford to file and prosecute a Patent. My company found a way around some of this by filing overseas in Asia and Europe, where the costs can be 75% cheaper than filing in the US.Other “proto-patents”, patent-able ideas and designs which had not been reduced to whats called “Art” are often sold to big companies in the face of the steep uphill battle to pursue commercial production.

The reason you don’t see more black inventors is The New Jim Crow, AKA Economic Racism.

Thomas L Jennings the first black Patent Holder in 1821

America’s always had black inventors – even when the patent system explicitly excluded them

America has long been the land of innovation. More than 13,000 years ago, the Clovis people created what many call the “first American invention” – a stone tool used primarily to hunt large game. This spirit of American creativity has persisted through the millennia, through the first American patent granted in 1641 and on to today.

One group of prolific innovators, however, has been largely ignored by history: black inventors born or forced into American slavery. Though U.S. patent law was created with color-blind language to foster innovation, the patent system consistently excluded these inventors from recognition.

As a law professor and a licensed patent attorney, I understand both the importance of protecting inventions and the negative impact of being unable to use the law to do so. But despite patents being largely out of reach to them throughout early U.S. history, both slaves and free African-Americans did invent and innovate.

Why patents matter

In many countries around the world, innovation is fostered through a patent system. Patents give inventors a monopoly over their invention for a limited time period, allowing them, if they wish, to make money through things like sales and licensing.

The patent system has long been the heart of America’s innovation policy. As a way to recoup costs, patents provide strong incentives for inventors, who can spend millions of dollars and a significant amount of time developing a invention.

The history of patents in America is older than the U.S. Constitution, with several colonies granting patents years before the Constitution was created. In 1787, however, members of the Constitutional Convention opened the patent process up to people nationwide by drafting what has come to be known as the Patent and Copyright Clause of the Constitution. It allows Congress:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

This language gives inventors exclusive rights to their inventions. It forms the foundation for today’s nationwide, federal patent system, which no longer allows states to grant patents.

Though the language itself was race-neutral, like many of the rights set forth in the Constitution, the patent system didn’t apply for black Americans born into slavery. Slaves were not considered American citizens and laws at the time prevented them from applying for or holding property, including patents. In 1857, the U.S. commissioner of patents officially ruled that slave inventions couldn’t be patented.

Slaves’ inventions exploited by owners

During the 17th and 18th centuries, America was experiencing rapid economic growth. Black inventors were major contributors during this era – even though most did not obtain any of the benefits associated with their inventions since they could not receive patent protection.

Slave owners often took credit for their slaves’ inventions. In one well-documented case, a black inventor named Ned invented an effective, innovative cotton scraper. His slave master, Oscar Stewart, attempted to patent the invention. Because Stewart was not the actual inventor, and because the actual inventor was born into slavery, the application was rejected.

Stewart ultimately began selling the cotton scraper without the benefit of patent protection and made a significant amount of money doing so. In his advertisements, he openly touted that the product was “the invention of a Negro slave – thus giving the lie to the abolition cry that slavery dwarfs the mind of the Negro. When did a free Negro ever invent anything?”

Reaping benefits of own inventions

The answer to this question is that black people – both free and enslaved – invented many things during that time period.

One such innovator was Henry Boyd, who was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1802. After purchasing his own freedom in 1826, Boyd invented a corded bed created with wooden rails connected to the headboard and footboard.

The “Boyd Bedstead” was so popular that historian Carter G. Woodson profiled his success in the iconic book “The Mis-education of the Negro,” noting that Boyd’s business ultimately employed 25 white and black employees.

Though Boyd had recently purchased his freedom and should have been allowed a patent for his invention, the racist realities of the time apparently led him to believe that he wouldn’t be able to patent his invention. He ultimately decided to partner with a white craftsman, allowing his partner to apply for and receive a patent for the bed.

Some black inventors achieved financial success but no patent protection, direct or indirect. Benjamin Montgomery, who was born into slavery in 1819, invented a steamboat propeller designed for shallow waters in the 1850s. This invention was of particular value because, during that time, steamboats delivered food and other necessities through often-shallow waterways connecting settlements. If the boats got stuck, life-sustaining supplies would be delayed for days or weeks.

Montgomery tried to apply for a patent. The application was rejected due to his status as a slave. Montgomery’s owners tried to take credit for the propeller invention and patent it themselves, but the patent office also rejected their application because they were not the true inventors.

Even without patent protection, Montgomery amassed significant wealth and become one of the wealthiest planters in Mississippi after the Civil War ended. Eventually his son, Isaiah, was able to purchase more than 800 acres of land and found the town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi after his father’s death.

A legacy of black innovators

The patent system was ostensibly open to free black people. From Thomas Jennings, the first black patent holder, who invented dry cleaning in 1821, to Norbert Rillieux, a free man who invented a revolutionary sugar-refining process in the 1840s, to Elijah McCoy, who obtained 57 patents over his lifetime, those with access to the patent system invented items that still touch the lives of people today….Read More Here

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Black History

 

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Yale to Change Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College

John C. Calhoun was a Southern Congressman prior to the Civil War from South Carolina. He was know for two things, his ardent support of slavery, and along with Henry Clay, in being one of the principal causes of the Civil War, with Clay rallying Southern states to secede from the Union. The blood on this man’s hands included not only the 650,000 Americans on both sides who died during the Civil War – but countless civilian casualties.

Admiral Grace Hopper was a Washington area heroine. She is credited with creating the first structured programming language, COBOL. Met her several times first professionally as a Department Head while working at the Old Navy Yard, and second, as she would come to the University to give talks about technology and technology history. She was an icon for all of us to try and emulate.

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Yale to Rename Calhoun College for Computer Scientist Grace Hopper

Yale’s Calhoun College — named after the nation’s seventh vice-president and prominent defender of slavery, John C. Calhoun — has long been a source of controversy, with students calling for the university to rename it, most recently in a wave of protests that began in fall 2015. On Saturday, the university announced that they would be dropping John C. Calhoun’s name from the college and naming it after a female computer-programming visionary, Grace Hopper.

Back in April 2016, Yale president Peter Salovey said that they would not be renaming Calhoun College, which he explained by saying that “erasing Calhoun’s name from a much-beloved residential college risks masking this past, downplaying the lasting effects of slavery, and substituting a false and misleading narrative, albeit one that might allow us to feel complacent or, even, self-congratulatory.”

He’s since appeared to have come around to the arguments against the name. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university,” Salovey told reporters following news that the university would in fact be dropping Calhoun’s name.

Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, the new namesake of the residential college, was a visionary computer programmer who earned her master’s and Ph.D. at Yale. She served in the Navy during World War II and was a pioneer in automatic programming (and, unsurprisingly, faced resistance from the heavily male tech world at the time). In 2016, Hopper received the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously.

The change is expected to take place sometime between now and the fall.

Someone the Yale students can be proud of!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in Black History, The Post-Racial Life

 

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