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Contrary to what the whitewashed history will have you believe, black people have long been inventors. Before colonisation came with the demonisation of our practices and slavery came with the appropriation of our inventions by slave masters, we had inventions of our own.
This list shows a few of the inventions that were documented; invaluable inventions by women whose impact will last forever.
This list must begin with a woman deemed the pioneer black female inventor. To meet the demand for comfortable urban living in small spaces, she invented the “cabinet bed”, a bed that also doubled as a writing desk. Undoubtedly, Sarah Goode was not the first black woman to invent something but being the first to apply for a patent and be granted one is iconic.
Dr Shirley Jackson
If you’re a millennial, you probably remember the days before there was caller ID and so, you should be extra grateful to Dr Shirley Jackson whose work revolutionised communication via phone. Dr Jackson was also the first black woman to earn a PhD from MIT.
If you’ve ever used a gif where words failed you and a meme lacked “oomph” then you’ve benefited from the work of this computer scientist. We are eternally grateful.
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
Two words, “sanitary towels”. Mary Kenner invented the sanitary belt, the precedent for the easy to wear sanitary towels we use today but was not granted a patent until 3 years later because she was black. In a time where everything about women’s reproductive health has deemed taboo (even more so than now), Mary set out to invent things to make life easier for people. How noble.
Dr Patricia Bath
After discovering that African Americans suffer from blindness at nearly double the rate of their white counterparts and are eight times more likely to develop glaucoma during a stint at Harlem Hospital, Dr Bath developed a solution for harmful cataracts. Recognising that these disparate figures were a result of a lack of access to ophthalmic services for black people, she was dedicated to providing care to those unable to afford it. I have traces of glaucoma myself and am a beneficiary of this good work.