Tag Archives: African American History

The First African-American to Hold a Patent Invented ‘Dry Scouring’

The next time you pick up your clothes at the dry cleaner, send a thank you to the memory of Thomas Jennings. Jennings invented a process called ‘dry scouring,’ a forerunner of modern dry cleaning. He patented the process in 1821, making him likely the first black person in America to receive a patent. Continue reading The First African-American to Hold a Patent Invented ‘Dry Scouring’

In Search of George Washington Carver’s True Legacy

If the name George Washington Carver conjures up any spark of recognition, it’s probably associated with peanuts. That isn’t an unfair connection—he did earn the nickname “the peanut man” for his work with the legume—but it’s one that doesn’t give credit to the rest of Carver’s pioneering, fascinating work. Continue reading In Search of George Washington Carver’s True Legacy

Smithsonian Curator Weighs in on Legacy of Frank Robinson, Barrier-Breaking Baseball Great

During his 21 seasons as an outfielder, first with the Cincinnati Reds and later with the Baltimore Orioles among other teams, Major League Baseball hall of famer Frank Robinson accumulated some of the best stats in baseball history. He hit 586 career home runs, was named an All-Star 14 times and remains the only player to earn the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues, receiving the title in 1961 for his work with the Reds and in 1966 while playing for the Orioles, respectively.

Continue reading Smithsonian Curator Weighs in on Legacy of Frank Robinson, Barrier-Breaking Baseball Great

Preserving Negro League History Has Never Been Easier, or Harder, Depending on Who You Ask

When the World Series opens up at Fenway Park tonight, all eyes will be on Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts. Only 26, the three time All-Star is the odds-on favorite to win the 2018 American League MVP. Betts has advanced statistics to thank—primarily WAR (Wins Above Replacement Players), in which he notched a 10.1. Going back 117 seasons, there have only been 50 10+ WAR seasons, putting Betts in heady Boston company. In its “Similar Batters Through 25” category, Baseball-Reference.com lists Betts alongside fellow Red Sox outfielders Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski. Both men are in the Hall-of-Fame. Continue reading Preserving Negro League History Has Never Been Easier, or Harder, Depending on Who You Ask

The Woman Who Made a Device to Help Disabled Veterans Feed Themselves—and Gave It Away for Free

In 1952, Bessie Blount boarded a plane from New York to France to give away her life’s work. The 38-year-old inventor planned to hand over to the French military, free of charge, an extraordinary technology that would change lives for disabled veterans of the Second World War: an automatic feeding device. To use it, a person only needed to bite down on a switch, which would deliver a mouthful of food through a spoon-shaped tube. Continue reading The Woman Who Made a Device to Help Disabled Veterans Feed Themselves—and Gave It Away for Free

Was the 1968 TV Show “Julia” a Milestone or a Millstone for Diversity?

The storyline sounds innocuous. A young, well-dressed widow is raising an adorable 5-year-old son in a nice apartment while working as a nurse. However, using that middle-class premise for the first comedy to showcase a black family in 1968 turned “Julia” into a battlefield in the still-ongoing war about how African-Americans are represented on TV today. Squarely situated at an intersection between popular culture and racial politics, “Julia” became a beachhead for critics who insisted that television should not sacrifice African-American authenticity to win viewers. Continue reading Was the 1968 TV Show “Julia” a Milestone or a Millstone for Diversity?