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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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White Woman at the Center of Emmit Till Murder…Admits to Lying

60 years later, the white woman who accused Emmit Till of fondling her has confessed that it didn’t happen.

Emmett Till (Wikipedia Commons)

‘Not true’: Woman admits she made up claims that led to Emmett Till’s brutal lynching

The woman at the center of the brutal murder of Emmett Till — which helped launch the civil rights movement — has revealed for the first time that she had fabricated the most sensational part of her testimony, reported Vanity Fair.

Carolyn Bryant Donham has never spoken publicly since she testified in the murder trial of her then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, who were each acquitted less than a month after they kidnapped, tortured and executed the black boy.

After their acquittal, the pair proudly admitted what they’d done to Look magazine, saying they basically had no choice but to kill the teenager for behaving lasciviously toward Bryant’s wife.

But Donham, who later divorced Bryant and married twice more in the following years, admitted to author Timothy Tyson that she’d made up some of the claims that led to Till’s death.

Donham was 21 years old in 1955, when she spent about one minute alone with the 14-year-old Till, who was visiting family in Mississippi from Chicago, while working in the store she owned with her husband.

The teen, whose mother called him “Bo,” bragged to his cousin and some other boys that he had a white girlfriend back home — and the boys dared him to speak to the woman working behind the counter.

A 12-year-old cousin briefly went inside but left Emmett alone with Donham for about a minute, and she later claimed Till had grabbed her and made lewd comments.

His cousin, Simeon Wright, recalled decades later that couldn’t have been possible — and, it turns out, he was right.

“That part’s not true,” Donham told Tyson, who conducted the first-ever interview with the elderly mother of two for a new book, The Blood of Emmett Till.

She also claimed Till had wolf-whistled at her, but Tyson notes that might not have been intentional because the boy had a lisp.

Donham claims she couldn’t remember anymore the rest of their brief encounter.

The interview was actually conducted in 2007, after Donham approached the Duke University scholar about helping to write her memoirs.

“That case went a long way toward ruining her life,” said Tyson, who said the Donham family reminded him of his own.

He said Donham’s views on race had changed over the years, along with much of the country’s.

“She was glad things had changed [and she] thought the old system of white supremacy was wrong, though she had more or less taken it as normal at the time,” Tyson said.

Donham told the author she “felt tender sorrow” toward Mamie Till-Mobley, who insisted on an open casket to show the world her son’s mutilated body, and she expressed something like regret about her role in his slaying.

“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Donham said.

Donham, who retreated back into seclusion, has also written a memoir, “More Than a Wolf Whistle: The Story of Carolyn Bryant Donham,” but it will not be available to scholars until 2038, at her request.

 

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NAACP Sues North Carolina

Hmmmmmmm….At Last! North Carolina has been arbitrarily cancelling voter registrations. You can guess in one of whose registrations are being cancelled.

North Carolina NAACP Sues State Over Voter Suppression

Thousands of voter registrations have been canceled with barely a week to go to Election Day.

The North Carolina NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit to stop county election boards in the state from canceling voter registrations ― in what the group argues is an effort by the state Republican Party to suppress the black vote.

Thousands of voter registrations have already been canceled by election boards in Beaufort, Moore and Cumberland counties because a mailing to the voters’ addresses was returned as undeliverable.

“The Tar Heel state is ground zero in the intentional surgical efforts by Republicans — or extremists who have hijacked the Republican Party — to suppress the vote of voters,” said Rev. William Barber, the North Carolina NAACP president, on Monday. “The NAACP is defending the rights of all North Carolinians to participate in this election.”

The NAACP is also seeking to have the canceled registrations restored.

Many of the voters still live at the addresses listed on their voter registrations or have moved to other residences within the same county, meaning they can still vote in that county, according to the NAACP lawsuit. The complaint argues that canceling those registrations was a violation of the National Voting Registration Act.

Under the NVRA, states may cancel registrations only if a voter provides written notice of a change in address or if a voter does not respond to a notice for two election cycles and fails to vote for two federal election cycles. The act also bars states from removing voters from the rolls 90 days or less before a federal election.

“Voter fraud is not the issue. But voter suppression is real, it’s planned, it’s intentional, and it’s ongoing against the African-American community,” Barber said Monday.

African-Americans have been disproportionately affected by the cancellations. Black voters account for 91 of the 138 canceled registrations (or over 65 percent) in Beaufort County, according to the North Carolina NAACP, even though black people are only 25.9 percent of that county’s population.

At least 3,951 registrations were canceled in Cumberland County, and around 400 were canceled in Moore County.  …Read the Rest Here

 
 

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The Daily Bigot – Trupizoid of the Day 10/23

Welcome to Trump’s America…

Kentucky fire chief refuses to help black family after traffic accident: “We ain’t taking no n–gers here”

A Kentucky law enforcement official is under fire this week after footage of his deeply racist comments was made public on Tuesday. In September, Southeast Bullitt Fire Chief Julius Hatfield was recorded on a Bullitt County Sheriff deputy’s body cameraduring a response to a traffic accident, when Hatfield allegedly refused to help a black family while referring to them in derogatory, racist terms.

“Well, I’ve got a family of four from Cincinnati, I got to do something with,” the Bullitt County deputy says in the footage, which was obtained by WDRB.

“We ain’t taking no n–gers here,” Hatfield responded, laughing.

The footage also reveals the fire chief helping the other man involved in the traffic incident, Loren Dicken, who is white. According to WDRB, after Hatfield went out of his way to assist Dicken with a tire issue, the chief also had his firefighters pick the man up from the hospital when he was released.

But Hatfield was reportedly less than helpful for the other driver involved in the accident, Chege Mwangi, who is black. Mwangi told WDRB reporter Valerie Chinn that Hartfield suggested he, his wife and two children contact Triple A for assistance, before asking for registration and proof of insurance. When Chinn, who is Asian-American, contacted Hartfield to ask about the alleged disparities in his treatment of the two families as well as possible mismanagement of his department, the fire chief offered a startling (also racist) response.

“Do you understand English, darling?” Hatfield said. “Do you understand English?”

Chinn reports that Hatfield later apologized for repeatedly asking her if she speaks English, and claimed that he did not remember using the N-word to describe the Mwangi family.

 

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United Nations – The US Owes Reparations

The UN is on a roll this week… The “Racial Terrorism” part is ongoing.

How about some legislation which covers the ground in terms of the Justice System mentioned by Hillary Clinton in the debate last night…

As well as some anti-discrimination laws with teeth.

Image result for racial discrimination

United Nations: US owes blacks reparations over slavery and ‘racial terrorism’

The United States should give African Americans reparations for slavery, UN experts said Tuesday, warning that the country had not yet confronted its legacy of “racial terrorism.”

Amid a presidential election campaign in which racial rhetoric has played a central role, the UN working group on people of African descent warned that blacks in the US were facing a “human rights crisis.”

This has largely been fuelled by impunity for police officers who have killed a series of black men — many of them unarmed — across the country in recent months, the working group’s report said.

Those killings “and the trauma they create are reminiscent of the past racial terror of lynchings,” said the report, which was presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday.

Addressing the deeper causes of America’s racial tensions, the experts voiced concern over the unresolved “legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality.”

“There has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent,” the report said.

Working group chairman Ricardo A. Sunga told reporters that the panel believed several models of reparations could work in the US context, including “elements of apology” and a form of “debt relief” to the descendants of enslaved people.

Asked about the campaign and accusations that Republican nominee Donald Trump has made racially inflammatory remarks, Sunga voiced alarm over “hate speech…xenophobia (and) Afrophobia.”

“We are very troubled that these are on the rise,” he added, without naming Trump specifically but calling on officials and “even candidates” to watch their words.

Trump and his camp have denied all racism charges.

In the campaign’s first debate on Monday, Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton accused Trump of launching his campaign on the “racist lie” that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The UN working group visited the several US states in January before producing their final report.

 

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Jim Crow, Charter Schools, and Race

Charter Schools were initially set up throughout the South as a methodology to try and defeat integration and Civil Rights. The function of todays’ hyper-segregated Charter Schools really isn’t any different.

Edmund Lee, 4th Grader

Jim Crow lives on in Missouri: Student banned from St. Louis charter school because he’s black

Missouri law forbids black students in certain districts from attending, echoing charter schools’ racist history

The legacy of Jim Crow laws lives on, five decades after they officially ended.

Edmund Lee is a third-grader at Gateway Science Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, a charter school he has attended since he was in kindergarten. Yet his family recently learned that he will no longer be able to attend the charter school because he is black.

Lee’s family is moving to a new school district, where decades-old state laws do not allow black students to attend charter schools.

“When I read the guidelines I was in shock,” Lee’s mother LaShieka White told a local Fox affilliate. “I was crying.”

School officials say they are unable to override the state law. But the school’s principal and staff have come out in support of the young boy and his family.

“To not see his face in the halls next year would be extremely sad,” Lee’s third grade teacher told local media. “The family is saying they want to stay. I don’t understand why they can’t.”

The young boy’s mother created a Change.org petition, imploring Missouri state officials: “Don’t let race determine my son’s enrollment.”

“My son Edmund is an awesome young man. He currently has a 3.83 GPA, and has above average testing scores in language arts, math, and science. Edmund is very loving and the first to extend a helping hand if a fellow student needs help,” White writes in the petition.

“So imagine our shock when we found out Edmund would no longer be allowed to attend Gateway Science Academy because he is African-American,” she continues.

“The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education should not deny my son admission based on his race,” White adds. “We are going to show Edmund that his parents, community, and people across the country will fight for what is right.”

As of Thursday morning, more than 20,000 people had signed the petition. Some staff members at the charter school have signed it as well.

This incident echoes the racist history of charter schools, which were used at the time of desegregation in order to continue running de facto white-only schools.

Critics say charter schools — which are strongly backed by large corporations and hedge funds — not only undermine public education and leave poor students with access to less resources and opportunities; they also reinforce racism and segregation.

The Civil Rights Project, a project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found in a 2010 report titled “Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards” that, while “segregation for blacks among all public schools has been increasing for nearly two decades, black students in charter schools are far more likely than their traditional public school counterparts to be educated in intensely segregated settings.”

“At the national level, 70 percent of black charter school students attend intensely segregated minority charter schools (which enroll 90-100 percent of students from under-represented minority backgrounds), or twice as many as the share of intensely segregated black students in traditional public schools,” the report noted.

The Civil Rights Project points out, “Patterns in the West and in a few areas in the South, the two most racially diverse regions of the country, also suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools.”

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in The New Jim Crow

 

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Leaving Jim Crow – The Great Migration and The Chicago Defender

Great article! It talks about the role of the black press in initiating and sustaining the black migration from the south between 1915 and 1930 – and how the South’s Jim Crow Laws and Lynching fueled that migration.

‘Bound for the Promised Land’

African Americans devised a mass exodus from the Jim Crow South,largely at the urging of The Chicago Defender

In the spring of 1916, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson began a difficult presidential campaign. Wilson was facing a reunified Republican Party and an electorate skeptical of his pledge to keep the United States out of World War I—he was also facing obstacles from the African American electorate, which though small could be decisive in several key states. During his first run for office in 1912, leaders from the African American community had supported Wilson even though he was the son of a Confederate chaplain who, as a historian, had helped manufacture revisionist histories of the post–Civil War years. But black voters now felt betrayed by Wilson’s conduct as president: He segregated the federal government for the first time ever, and he screened the racist film Birth of a Nation in the White House.

Jacob Lawrence

The Chicago Defender, the nation’s leading African American newspaper at the time, was all too happy to heap on the criticism, declaring Wilson a “colossal failure” and challenging his foreign policy—both over the invasion of Haiti the previous year and for sending troops into Mexico to pursue revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. “If President Woodrow Wilson is so anxious to teach the world good morals,” read one editorial on the subject, “let him begin by placing the U.S. Army in the South; institute a chase of the lynchers as earnestly as the one he is now carrying on in Mexico.”

By most measures, the total number of lynchings was, in fact, down from prior years; it was the severity of the incidents that had increased. In May, The Defender printed a letter from a white resident of Waco, Texas, a witness to the horrific murder of a 17-year-old named Jesse Washington. The letter writer was outraged by what he had seen: A mob of “fifteen to twenty-thousand men and women intermingled with children and babies in their arms” gathered to torture Washington and then burn him at the stake. Accused of the murder of a white woman several miles from his home, Washington was convicted by a jury despite scant evidence. Then, as happened all too often, Washington was dragged from the courtroom, hung from a tree, and burned on a funeral pyre. “The crowd was made up of some of the supposed best citizens of the South,” the letter writer noted. “Doctors, lawyers, business men and Christians (posing as such, however). After the fire subsided, the mob was not satisfied: They hacked with pen knives the fingers, the toes, and pieces of flesh from the body, carrying them as souvenirs to their automobiles.” The correspondent went on to conclude that it was absurd to send soldiers to Mexico “when the troops are needed right here in the South.”

This from a collection of letters from the University of Chicago about the Great Migration

See the UC Collection Here

For several years, The Defender had demanded federal intervention as the only meaningful solution to the brutality of Southern whites. But that summer, as hundreds of African Americans arrived at Chicago’s train stations every week,The Defender’s position on the migration northward evolved. In August, under the headline “Southerners Plan to Stop Exodus,” the newspaper reported that recruiters for one of the Pennsylvania-based railroad lines had convinced all of the workers on one steamship line in Jacksonville, Florida, to quit and move to the North en masse, leaving the steamship owners suddenly without a crew. The Jacksonville City Council responded by passing a law requiring labor agents from Northern companies to pay $1,000 for a license.

Incidents like this convinced The Defender’s publisher, Robert Abbott, that migration was at once an effective tactic for hurting the white South and a real opportunity for African Americans to live in freedom. Abbott had experienced discrimination from labor unions himself when he first arrived in Chicago from Georgia less than 20 years earlier, and he had been reluctant to invite his fellows to the city if there were no real job opportunities.  He became positively enthusiastic about migration, however, when he saw the mounting evidence that the departure of African Americans was negatively affecting the Southern economy.

In November, as Woodrow Wilson won a narrow reelection victory, The Defender’s editorial page published “Bound for the Promised Land,” by M. Ward, a then-unknown poet whose portrait photo shows a nattily dressed young man with a satin bow tie. The poem reflects the experiences of those who had already migrated north, found jobs, and sent for their wives, as well as of the Southerners’ efforts to ban the work of Northern labor agents:

From Florida’s stormy banks I’ll go, I’ll bid the South goodbye; No longer will they treat me so, And knock me in the eye,

Hasten on my dark brother, Duck the Jim Crow law.

No Crackers North to slap your mother, or knock you on the jaw.

No Cracker there to seduce your sister, nor to hang you to a limb.

And you’re not obliged to call ’em “Mister,” nor skin ’em back at him.

The poem was so popular that the issue sold out, prompting The Defender to reprint it a few months later. “This poem caused more men to leave the Southland than any other effort,” the newspaper proudly noted….Read the Rest Here

Albert A. Smith “The Reason” Featured in The CRISIS in March 1920

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Black History

 

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