Tag: African-American inventors

Five Fun Apps to Upgrade Your Black History Knowledge

blackHistoryApps
(Image: BlackInvestors.com)

If there is one thing we should know, it’s that Black History is made every day. For example, Madame C.J. Walker, who created specialized hair products for African-American hair, paved the way for many women such as Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, to start their own haircare companies. Frank Greene, considered one of the first black technologists, cleared the path for future innovators like Chinedu Echeruo, the Founder of Hopstop.com and Tripology.com.  And without a doubt, knowledge of your history can empower you to forge successfully into the future.

If you’re looking to learn more about history or discover other African Americans making their mark on the world, check out this list of Black History apps for your smartphone or tablet.Black Inventors Match Game: Celebrate African American inventors with best friends Myles and Ayesha as you learn who earned patents for everyday items such as the doorknob, the traffic light and lemon squeezer. Then test your IQ with a matching game. (Available for Android and iOS)

  • Then and Now Series: Black History: The Then and Now Series apps shed light on facts about different cultures. In the Black History edition, you can learn about 100 different people through biographies, images and links to video or music. Print or email the bios to share the knowledge with friends. (Available for iOS)
  • More Than a Mapp: Explore an interactive map and bring black history close to home—literally. Set your location, and nearby historically significant sites will illuminate on the map. Check out related links, photos and videos. Know of a significant location not shown? Send it in, wait for verification and create your own pinpoint for all to see and learn. (Available for Android and iOS)
  • Black History Quiz: Test your knowledge of important black figures with multiple-choice questions. If you don’t know an answer, learn as you go—you won’t be able to move onto the next question until you get it right. (Available for Android and via the Amazon App Store)
  • The Root: Update your perspective with The Root, an inclusionary news source that features writing by prominent African American writers. In addition to political, social, cultural and racial commentary, tune in to podcasts and view slideshows for an interactive, visual news experience. (Available for Android and iOS)

article by Kandia Johnson via blackenterprise.com

New Book “Envisioning Freedom” Shows African Americans Helped Invent the Movies

Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life

As centennial commemorations of DW Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” gear up, a new book by historian Cara Caddoo proves African Americans helped invent the movies a decade before the first Hollywood film. Published by Harvard University Press, “Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life” uncovers the forgotten history of black inventors, filmmakers, and exhibitors.

“A lot of people assume that African Americans just followed in the footsteps of white filmmakers,” says Caddoo, an Assistant Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, “That’s really a whitewashing of American film history.”

Years before the 1915 debut of Griffith’s pro-KKK film, which is widely credited for inaugurating “modern American cinema,” African Americans produced their own films and built their own theaters. Caddoo explains that this began in the 1890s–more than a decade before Hollywood, and long before the rise of better-known black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux.

The first African American films featured themes like the “American Negro and the Negro abroad.” In “The Devil’s Cook Kitchen,” a minister named H. Charles Pope used movies to highlight black contributions to American history, and to explain the “26 sins” involved in dancing.

Some black filmmakers were former slaves, others just a generation removed. Faced with racial discrimination and shoestring budgets, these black film pioneers relied on their wit. Segregation limited African Americans’ access to public space so they turned black churches, lodges, and schools into motion picture theaters during off hours.

“Envisioning Freedom” is packed with colorful characters such as Fleetwood Walker, the first–and last–major league baseball player before Jackie Robinson. Caddoo writes that Walker became an inventor and traveling motion picture exhibitor after his baseball career. One of his most important inventions was an alarm system that enabled film projectionists to switch seamlessly between reels of film.

When “Birth of a Nation” debuted, African Americans launched the first mass black protest movement of the twentieth century. By that time, motion pictures were deeply integrated into black life. African Americans had produced films and used them to fundraise, build businesses, construct theaters, and socialize in an era of racial segregation. Caddoo explains, “They were fighting to reclaim a form of popular culture that they had helped create. Tens of thousands of African Americans participated–housewives, gangsters, ministers, and schoolchildren, from Hawaii to Massachusetts, and from the Panama Canal to Canada.”

Pick up a copy of the book via Amazon here.

article by Tambay A. Obenson via blogs.indiewire.com

Six Black Inventors Who Changed the World

Thanks to African-American inventors and innovators our lives are easier, more convenient and more prosperous in many ways.  Although we rarely hear about these sharp, groundbreaking pioneers from the past and present, black innovators have contributed in every field—from mechanics to cosmetics to consumer goods to technology. This Black History Month we pause to acknowledge a few.

While working at IBM, Mark Dean invented the first modern peripherals that enabled us to plug speakers, disk drives, scanners and printers into computers. Dean holds three of IBMs original nine PC patents.

At just 27 years old, chemist Dennis Weatherby invented automatic dishwasher detergent while working at Proctor & Gamble in 1987.  His invention now sells under the trade name “Cascade” and is the basic formula for all of today’s lemon-scented cleaning products with bleach.

If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “the real McCoy” originated look to innovator Elijah McCoy.  His parents escaped slavery in the mid- 1800s by way of the Underground Railroad and moved to Canada.  They sent him to Scotland to be educated. Upon completing his studies, McCoy moved to the United States for work but discrimination prevented him from finding employment as a professional engineer. So he went to work on the railroad as an oilman responsible for keeping the moving parts of the trains lubricated for locomotion. He found that walking along the trains oiling the axles and bearings was inefficient so he created an oil lubricating cup that automatically dripped oil onto the moving parts.  His invention allowed trains to travel long distances continuously without the need to stop for oiling.  After he received a patent for his invention there were many engineers who imitated his work.  But informed train operators knew his invention was superior and when they needed to order an automatic oil cup they would ask for “the real McCoy.” His invention became standard equipment on most locomotives and heavy machinery. McCoy went on to patent more than 50 inventions.

Sarah Goode was born into slavery, but went on to become the first African-American woman to receive a U.S. patent, issued on July 14, 1885 for a folding cabinet bed. The entrepreneur, who was freed after the Civil War, invented the bed for people who lived in small apartments near her Chicago home, and sold her creation at a furniture store she owned there.

Thomas Jennings, the first African-American to receive a U.S. patent, invented the dry-cleaning process.  He operated a dry-cleaning business in New York City and is said to have donated most of his business profits to the movement to abolish slavery.

Madam C.J. Walker (Sarah Breedlove) was born to parents who had gained their freedom from slavery only to pass away a short while later from a deadly fever. Sarah became an orphan at 7 years of age and by 20 years of age she was a widow and single mother.  Having struggled with dry scalp and hair, and seeking a better life for herself and her daughter, she invented hair care products and sold them to other African-American women.  Eventually she was able to create a thriving national corporation that employed 3,000 or more people — primarily African-American women whom she taught the principles of entrepreneurship and marketing so they too could become financially stable.  Her company went on to develop other hair and beauty products and equipment that were used by white women as well.

Madam Walker became so wealthy that some of the world’s richest men in history were her neighbors.  Among them was oil billionaire (in today’s dollars), industrialist, and Spelman benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, who invested so substantially in the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary three years after it was established that its name was changed to Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College) in honor of his wife, Laura Spelman.

It is inspiring to consider such richness and ingenuity among African-Americans.  These few examples of many hundreds of black innovators and trendsetters are a clear demonstration that all of us are capable of making incredible contributions that carry our country, communities, families and fortunes forward.

article by Felicia Joy via blackenterprise.com

Super Soaker Creator Lonnie Johnson Awarded $72.9M from Hasbro

Super Soaker Creator Lonnie Johnson
Super Soaker Creator Lonnie Johnson

The Atlanta-based company behind the Super Soaker water gun and Nerf toy guns has been awarded nearly $73 million in royalties from toymaker Hasbro Inc., according to the law firm King & Spalding.  Johnson Research and Development Co. and founder Lonnie Johnson have been in a royalty dispute with Hasbro since February, when the company filed a claim against the giant toy company. According to King & Spalding, which along with the A. Leigh Baier P.C. law firm represented Johnson, Hasbro underpaid royalties for the Nerf line toys from 2007 to 2012.

“In the arbitration we got everything we asked for,” said Atlanta attorney Leigh Baier. “The arbitrator ruled totally in Lonnie’s favor.” The attorney also said Johnson “is very pleased” with the outcome.  Johnson could not be reached for comment Wednesday, nor could Pawtucket, RI.-based Hasbro.  The arbitration agreement resolves a 2001 inventors dispute in which Hasbro agreed to pay Johnson royalties for products covered by his Nerf line of toys, specifically the N-Strike and Dart Tag brands, King & Spalding attorney Ben Easterlin said.

In a separate breach of contract suit filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta in February, Johnson accuses Hasbro of violating a 1996 agreement to pay him Super Soaker royalties of 2 percent for “three-dimensional products” based on the appearance of the toy and 1 percent for “two-dimensional visual representations.”  The suit says Hasbro sold water guns that were “visually similar and based upon the appearance of Super Soaker water guns that incorporate Johnson’s technology.” Johnson also wanted the court to force Hasbro to open its books to determine sales of Super Soaker products from 2006 to 2012.

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