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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Black Invention and Innovation by Nancy Davis


What do the following have in common:
The golf tee; The automatic traffic light; The dustpan and rolling pin;
The mail box; The pencil sharpener;
And the world's fastest computer, making
3.1 billion calculations per second?

All were invented by black inventors and are among 150 artifacts on display at the Black Inventions Exhibit last week in the lobby of Carmen Arace Middle School, a feaure of Black History Month presented by James Ince, curator, of Brooklyn. The exhibit is on tour throughout the country.

Each booth featured photos, biographical information and objects, including a telephone transmitter invented by Granville T. Woods in 1884, known as "Black Edison," the hot comb invented by Madame C. J. Walker in 1900 which made her a millionaire and a patented machine for lasting shoes in 1883 by Jan Earnst Matzeliger, credited with changing the shoe manufacturing industry by helping to reduce the cost of shoes and doubling wages for workers in the industry.

Other inventions on display were the fountain pen, W. B. Purvis 1890; the red, yellow and green electric traffic signal, G. A. Morgan 1923; a lawn sprinkler, J. W. Smith 1897; an ironing table, Sarah Boone 1892; a cutter for aluminum foil, W. B. Purvis 1890; an ice cream scoop, A.L. Cralle, 1897; and a mailbox, P. B. Downing 1891.

A special booth was set up to honor African Americans prominent in the NASA Space Program, including Katherine Clinton, a software engineer at Kennedy Space Center, Isaac Gillian IV, director of Dryden's Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base and Dr. Patricia Cowings, a physician whose work has helped to prevent zero gravity sickness for astronauts in space.

Exhibits were mounted and tributes paid to an early mathematician, Benjamin Banneker, 1731-1806, a self-taught astronomer and surveyor, to Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who developed the first blood bank and became the first director of the American Red Cross Blood Bank, and to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a pioneer in antiseptic surgery and who helped to found Provident Hospital, the first integrated hospital in the United States.

And the "first aspirin," developed from willow bark and containing salicylic acid is credited to the African Bantus.

Economic Development Director Deborah C. Davis arranged for Curator Ince to bring the exhibit to Bloomfield's Carmen Arace. Founded eight years ago, the Black Inventions Exhibit at first toured only in New England but now travels widely and is currently headed to schools in the South. Its mission, according to Ince, is "to develop racial pride, to promote racial understanding and to provide a new motivation for learning."

More than 7 million students, teachers and citizens have attended the exhibit in the past eight years and more than 100 schools and colleges as well as over 100 cities have sponsored the display. Twenty colleges and universities and 16 elementary, middle and high schools have also participated. In addition, the exhibit has been featured at various NAACP conferences.

Prominently displayed at the entrance to the exhibit was a quotation from Benjamin Banneker, scientist and also a member of a six-person team which designed the city of Washington, D.C.:

"The color of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or intellectual powers."



Wednesday, May 12, 2004

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