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Thomas Jennings | African American Inventors and their Inventions

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Thomas Jennings

As is the case with so many African American inventors, Thomas Jennings was actively involved in the abolitionist movement, and played a large role in the recognition of the contribution that people of colour had made in terms of various intellectual properties. Before 1861, all intellectual property and earnings made as a direct result belonged to the slave master. This is a vast injustice that Jennings fought successfully, although the struggle for recognition often overshadows his contribution in the world of invention. However, despite all of this political and racial interference, Jennings is now recognized as the first African American to be awarded a patent, an honour which is fitting given his considerable personal effort in fighting for his cause.

As was customary for slaves who could not receive acknowledgment for their ideas, Jennings was forced to sell his idea in order to raise money. Jennings’ invention was the process of dry scouring which is used in the dry cleaning industry. With the money he made from the sale of his idea, he was able to establish a business, and earn money. The money he earned was used to buy the freedom of his family, which shows how compassionate a man he was. Regardless of his clear talent and ability, he always sought to improve the situations of his fellow slaves, and this was a passion that he exhibited throughout his entire life.

Jennings was eventually awarded the patent for dry scouring after much resistance from the government, but his fight saw him campaign for the rights of slaves who were similarly persecuted. While his invention may have fallen away from popular use, it was a fundamental in shaping an entire industry, and it gave Jennings the means to effectively emancipate generations of oppressed slaves. He is arguably one of the most important African American inventors, and is a man to whom much gratitude is owed.

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

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