The Hallowed Ground of African American Invention


The Hallowed Ground of African American Invention

February 2, 2016

For Black History Month, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History is building on the National Park Service’s “Journey through Hallowed Ground” to honor the contributions African Americans have made to our country. The Black History Month 2016 theme, Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories includes a complete list of historic landmarks that have been certified by the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. Today, we're building on this theme further and highlighting the African American inventors who brought innovation and breakthroughs to these same historic locations –  impacting and changing our world for the better. 

Charles Richard Drew, “Father of the Blood Bank”

Chicago, Illinois – Where Sarah Goode was one of the first African American women to receive a U.S. patent. Sarah invented a folding cabinet bed, earning U.S. patent number 322,177, which would later be called the “hide-away bed.”

See also the Oscar Stanton De Priest House, the apartment building where the first African American Congressman, elected in 1928, lived.

New York City, New York – Where Dr. Charles Richard Drew made a critical breakthrough in separating red blood cells from plasma and storing them separately. His discovery led to the first blood banks, allowing blood to be stored for over a week. Dr. Drew’s discovery has saved countless lives.

See also St. Philip’s Protestant Episcopal Church. Built in 1809, the church was an important gathering place for leaders seeking to end slavery in the South and guarantee civil rights for all.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Where former slave Norbit Rillieux developed an evaporator for refining sugar. His 1846 patent was so revolutionary, it still underpins the processes used by the sugar industry and in the manufacture of soap today.

See also the house of James H. Dillard, whose groundbreaking work made educational opportunities and public libraries available to underserved rural African American communities.

Paris, Kentucky – Where Garrett Morgan invented a “safety hood” or gas mask that was a prototype that would eventually be used to protect soldiers from chlorine fumes during World War I. Morgan also received a patent for a precursor to modern traffic lights: a traffic signal that featured automated STOP and GO signs.

See also the nearby Camp Nelson in Nicholasville, Kentucky. A Union base in the Civil War, Camp Nelson was a large recruitment and training center for African Americans, many of whom enlisted to gain their freedom. The site also served as a refugee camp for family members of the soldiers.

For more stories of groundbreaking African American inventors, check out our previous post highlighting the amazing contributions of men and women who have dedicated their lives to improving society.

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