Read about how inventors overcame harsh constraints in order to see their ideas come to life.

by Ann Marie Imbornoni
Madame C.J. Walker

Madame C.J. Walker

Related Links

Unlike black slaves, free blacks prior to the Civil War were entitled to receive patents for their inventions. Though, again, because blacks lacked educational and vocational opportunities, few had the necessary skills or experience to develop their inventive ideas or patent them.

Despite these constraints, there were a number of successful black inventors whose inventions proved useful and important. Thomas Jennings, the first known African American to hold a patent, used the money he earned from his invention to fund abolitionist causes.

Some slaves, who were skilled craftsmen, did create devices or techniques that benefited their masters' enterprises. According to a decision by the federal government in 1858, though, neither the slave nor the slave owner could claim ownership rights to such an invention. In 1870, following the Civil War, the U.S. patent laws were revised so that anyone, regardless of race, could hold a patent. Consequently the number of patents issued to African Americans soared. Click here for a list of some notable African-American inventors.


Back to the main African American Trailblazers page.


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

Did you know?
Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring (1962) is generally considered to be the catalyst for the modern environmental protection movement.

highlights

Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks