Negroes are a critical part of the history of the united states of America. We may not know the full
history of the ethnic group classified as blacks on the continent of Africa because that was taken away
from us. However, we can build a positive future on the foundation of our collective history on the continent of north America. Though it may not match the royal independence from our mother continent, it is one
of struggle, survival, goodness, and achievement marked by excellence. Whatever our history is, it is still a history, and it can be a foundation to build upon. Ever since the first individual stepped off a slave ship into this country, Negroes have been making vital contributions to the development of American society. Therefore, it is unrealistic for some Caucasians to think that society is not indebted to Negro-America
to one degree or another. As well, it is also unrealistic for “Black-Americans” to feel as though they are
not a part of the American social system. The following is a list of a few contributions Negroes have made
to further American civilization.
Crispus Attucks (1723-1770) was the first American to die in the struggle for our nation's independence. He was killed in the Boston massacre on March 5, 1770 while leading a group of his followers in an attack on British soldiers in the streets of Boston. A monument to him was erected in 1888 in recognition of his sacrifice and contribution to the first victory of the American revolution.
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was, among other things, a mathematician, an astronomer, a surveyor, and an inventor. He made the first wooden clock in America. He wrote the first scientific book written by a Negro. He published an almanac that became the main reference book for farmers. He was the first Negro presidential appointee in this country. He was the surveyor on the six-man team that helped design the blueprints for Washington, D.C.
Jean Baptiste Pointe Durable (1745-1818) was a Haitian who had a trading post on lake Michigan. Among his accomplishments was his ownership of 800 acres of land. He was the founder and first settler of what became Chicago.
George Washington Bush (1790-1863) led a group of American settlers from Missouri to Oregon in 1844. Once there, he was not allowed to live in the territory because he was a Negro. So he crossed the Columbia river and settled somewhere near Puget sound. This was part of Canada at the time. It was his presence there as the first American settler that was the basis for the United States’ claim to the area, which later became part of the United States. Once it became part of the Oregon territory, his Caucasian friends petitioned congress to allow him to retain his ownership of his property.
Norbert Rillieux was born a free man in 1806. He transformed sugar from a high-priced luxury product into one that everyone could afford. He did this by inventing a multiple effect vacuum pan evaporator.
This invention was also used to manufacture soap, glue, gelatin, and evaporated milk.
William Alexander Leites Dorff (1810-1848), a pioneer in the development of California, was America's first Negro millionaire. His holdings included a 35,000-acre estate, and a 160-ton sailing vessel of which he was captain. He built san Francisco's first hotel, and opened California's first public school. He was an American diplomat, a member of the san Francisco city council, chairman of the school board, and the city treasurer.
Elijah j. McCoy (1843-1929) was born in Canada and educated in Scotland. In this country, he was denied employment in engineering because he was a Negro. As a mechanical engineer and inventor, he invented a variety of things, including the ironing board and the lawn sprinkler. He found work as a fireman for a railroad, oiling the moving parts of trains. It was so boring to him, that he invented the machine to do it.
A first, his “lubricator cup” made it possible to oil machines without having to turn them off. Most have no doubt heard the popular expression “the real McCoy.” this is a reference to him. It is indicative of the trust people had in his inventions.
Andrew Jackson Beard (1850-1921) was a farmer, inventor, and businessman. In 1889, he invented and received a patent for a rotary steam engine that was said to be safer and cheaper than other steam engines of the time. He also invented and patented improved plows for farming. He invented the “jenny coupler”, the automatic railroad car coupler, and his other railroad inventions saved many workers from possible injury.
Jan Earnst Matzeliger (1852-1889), the son of an engineer, was born in Surinam, South America. He traveled around the world as a sailor before coming to the U.S. in 1873. He patented several inventions, including one that revolutionized the shoe-making industry. It was a machine that made an entire shoe. Sewing the sole to the upper part of the shoe was done completely by hand before he invented the “shoe lasting machine.” This invention is the foundation of the modern shoe industry. His invention led to the emergence of companies that formed the united shoe machine corporation, which was worth over a billion dollars by the year 1955.
Granville T. Woods (1856-1910) was a brilliant inventor awarded at least 35 patents. The first time he applied for a patent, it was for an improved steam boiler furnace. During that same year, he invented a telephone transmitter that carried voices further distances with a better sound. He received a patent for a device that made it possible to send messages back and forth between a moving train and a railway station, the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph. He invented an overhead conducting system for electric railways and the third rail system for subways. He also greatly improved the efficiency of electrical motors. He invented the dimmer lighting system, which produced energy savings of up to 40 percent.
George Washington Carver (1860-1943) was a botanist, an agricultural chemist, and one of the greatest scientists of all time. From the oils, proteins, and chemicals of the peanut plant, he developed close to 300 different products, some of which were instant coffee, face cream, ink, shampoo, and soaps. He also discovered dozens of products from sweet potatoes, pecans, and southern clay. These products played significant roles in the economic prosperity of the south.
Bill Pickett (1870-1932) was one of the greatest cowboys who ever lived. He was the main attraction of the famous 101 Ranch and Wild West Show, attaining national and international fame as a rodeo performer. known as the “Dusty Demon”, he was the first Negro cowboy admitted to the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1971.
Garrett a. Morgan (1875-1963) was credited with a number of discoveries and inventions. One such discovery was a substance that straightened hair, which was sold for profit. His very first invention was a belt fastener for sewing machines. He brought safety and order to our country’s streets with the invention of the traffic signal. With the widely used gas mask he patented in 1914, he became a hero by rescuing some workers that were trapped inside a fiery tunnel. The thick smoke and fumes kept everyone else from entering the tunnel, even policemen and firemen. Wearing his gas mask, Garrett and three friends were able to rescue the men from the tunnel.
Frederick McKinley Jones (1892-1961) was an inventor whose accomplishments completely changed the food transporting industry. He invented the first practical refrigeration system for long-haul trucks. He was a partner and vice president of the Thermo Control Company, which grew into a $3,000,000 a year business. He was a consultant for the United States Defense Department as well as the Bureau of Standards on refrigeration problems in during the 1950s. To help the war effort during World War II, he designed a special refrigeration unit to keep blood serum fresh for transfusions. His first patent was for a ticket-dispensing machine that is found in most movie theaters. Other inventions and products to his credit are such things as transmitters, movie projectors, air-cooling devices, and racing cars. Where would America be without air-conditioning or refrigerators?
Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1893-1926) was among other things, an author of scientific books. He was
an instructor of biology and chemistry, as well as the director of athletics at Morgan State University in Maryland. Every blood bank in the world exists because of his genius, since it was he that developed a method for preserving blood plasma. Dr. Drew was the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank.
Otis Boykin was born in 1920. He was a college graduate that became a research engineer. He invented some 25 electronic gadgets, many of which are used in computers and guided missiles. He also invented an electrical regulating unit for the first heart pacemaker. Another of his inventions was a type of resistor that is still used in radios, televisions, and computers to this day.
Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. was born in 1951. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University. After attending the University of Michigan's medical school and being the first Negro person to do a residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, he went on to become a great doctor and neurosurgeon. Johns Hopkins Hospital made him the youngest director of pediatric neurosurgery in 1984. Being considered a pioneer in brain surgical techniques, he led the first surgical team to successfully separated Siamese twins that were born joined at the head.
Ida B. Wells Barnett (1723-1770) was a speaker, reporter, partner and editor of the free speech,
a Negro newspaper. She was a co-founder of the NAACP. She was driven to crusade against lynching, traveling throughout the United States and Europe. Her primary weapon was a red record, which she published. It was a serious statistical analysis of tragedy of lynching in our country.
Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was a woman who could not read or write, but she became an eloquent public speak who for close to 40 years, lectured on the issues of abolition and women’s rights.
Harriet Ross Tubman (1820-1913) escaped from slavery, then made 19 trips back into the south to guided more than 300 slaves to freedom via the underground railroad. She also helped free 750 others from slavery by leading some units of the union army on a raid into the south. During the civil war, she was a scout, spy, and nurse for the north.
Madame C.J. Walker (1867-1919) was America's first Negro female millionaire. It all started in 1905, when she invented and patented a straightening comb for hair. She went on to build a manufacturing company that employed over 3,000 people. Her hair and beauty products were very popular in the U.S. and the Caribbean. She helped Negro artists and writers get noticed, and set up scholarships at Negro colleges and other schools. Her efforts continued after her death, as she left money to build a school for girls in west Africa.
Maggie Lena Walker (1867-1934) was the founder of the St. Luke Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. She became America's first female bank president. Besides these great accomplishments, she was a National Director of the NAACP. She was also a member of the board of the National Urban League.
These are but a few of the many Negro individuals that have made personal, practical, cultural, conventional, primal, economical, industrial, political, territorial, agricultural, medical, and social contributions to the American social structure and way of life. From these and the many more positive
works of Negroes, each and every American citizen must see that the greatness of our nation is the result
of the efforts of every ethnic group contained within the social structure. Negroes specifically must allow
these achievements to solidify their commitment to the nation of their birth, and inspire them to greater heights. Many may think of this as difficult to do. One has only to place himself or herself in the shoes of
the Tuskegee airman. What must it have been like for them during the heat of battle, knowing they lived
in a society that would treat them as though they were less than human after the war was over. All the
while that they were fighting, they knew they lived in a land in which they were treated in a repressive manner. Yet, they volunteered to fight for the ideals of this country. With an examination of the reality
of the circumstance, the only understanding one can come away with is that in their hearts these men
knew that both America and democracy were right for all people who chose freedom over tyranny.
These men knew that once the war was over, they would have to come back and fight again, against the
social structure to make gains towards equality. They knew that fight would also be won, because it was right. These rewards could only be achieved within this social system, one they fought for and for which some gave their lives. This system is worth the effort to save, for all Americans of whatever hue.