Meet the First Black Electrical Engineer Who Owned More Than 60 Patents
Granville Tailer Woods was the first African-American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was also an inventor who held more than 60 patents.
Born on April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio to poor parents, his family could not initially afford to send him to college. But he still was able to the needed skills to become a machinist and blacksmith when he worked as an apprentice in a local machine shop.
Later, he was able to attend college and studied mechanical and electrical engineering there. Upon graduation, he became an entrepreneur and worked as an electrical engineer and inventor. He started out working in Ohio, but in 1892 he moved his facilities to New York City.
His work is credited for making publication transporation systems throughout the United States safer and better. For example, he invented and patented tunnel construction for the electric railroad system. Another one of his notable inventions was an improved telephone transmitter that combined the telephone and telegraph. He later sold the patents and rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company, which was later acquired by AT&T.
He also invented the multiplex telegraph. Thomas Edison, had been working on a similar invention and once tried to claim that he was the original creator of it. But when Edison took Woods to court over the matter, he was defeated and Woods was awarded the patent.
Edison was not the only one who tried to claim Woods’ inventions as his own, so he often had difficulties in enjoying his success.
Sadly, he died on January 30, 1910 in New York City. Today, few people talk about his contributions, and his legacy is hardly even mentioned in public school text books.
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By Elliot Booker — 4 months ago
Oftentimes when people learn of the status of women in ancient Egyptian society they are perplexed by the amount of human rights women enjoyed in a civilization that existed so far back in history.
On a reported visit to Egypt, fifth century BCE Greek historian Herodotus, surprised by the women’s position in the society, recorded. “Women attend market and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving.” The Egyptians, he concluded, “in their manners and customs seem to have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind.”
In a recent CNN article, Egyptologist Valentina Santini said, “The women of ancient Egypt — the mighty and the modest — were considered equal to men” Santini added, “They could divorce. They could own property. They had many rights that women in subsequent civilizations didn’t have.”
The subsequent civilizations Santini is likely referring to are ancient Western civilizations such as Greece and Rome, where women were relegated to second-class status. Greek and Roman women were prohibited from owning or inheriting property. European women in the Middle Ages lived under similar restrictions. Although Santini did not address other ancient African civilizations, there’s a plethora of scholarly work that has tied ancient Egypt culturally to sub-Saharan Africa. Numerous historians have highlighted some of the ancient Egyptian customs that are seen in other pre-colonial/pre-Islamic cultures throughout the African continent. The empowerment of women in domestic and in public domains is one such tradition.
n his book “The Cultural Unity of Black Africa” Senegalese scholar Dr. Cheikh Anta Diop argued that there exists a cultural continuity throughout sub-Saharan African cultures. He specifically points out the status of women, stating, “The African woman, even after marriage, retains all her individuality and her legal rights; she continues to bear the name of her family, in contrast to the Indo-European woman who loses hers to take on that of her husband.”
Aside from being empowered in marriage, precolonial African society had several avenues for women to exercise power. Throughout African history we have numerous examples of woman as queens who ruled, warriors who shed blood, and traders and merchants who built immense fortunes.
Vanderbilt professor Dr. Sandra Barnes, posits that “women in Africa were “one of history’s most politically viable female populations.” Queens such as Egypt’s Hatshepsut and Ethiopia’s Makeda (thought to be the biblical queen of Sheba) were known for using their leadership and wisdom to protect, expand, and enhance their nations.
Queen mothers were once very important political figures who commanded respect prior to the colonial era. In some instances, they were even considered to be autonomous rulers. In the Akan tradition, according to an article out of the journal Institute of African Studies: Research Review, queen mothers ruled alongside the chief or the king. They held veto power of the king or chief, appointed their own ministers, and presided over courts that dealt with cases brought by women. The authors of the book “The Swazi, a South African Kingdom,” describes the queen mother’s position in the kingdom of Swaziland as “essentially a diarchy.” In the book “Women in African Colonial Histories,” Holly Hanson writes, In precolonial Buganda, “the queen mother participated in a system of gendered political power in which the mother of the king had autonomous authority, which she used to check his excesses and protect the nation.”
Some African women were soldiers or held leadership roles in the military. Warrior queens such as Queen Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti people, Queen Nzinga of the Matamba, and Queen Amina of the Hausa demonstrated military skills that rivaled their male contemporaries. These women led military campaigns that embarrassed empires. Interestingly, the fictional Dora Milaje warriors who protect King T’Challa — The Black Panther — in comic books and on screen are based on the so-called
“Dahomey Amazons,” properly known as the Ahosi (king’s wives) or Mino (our mothers) in the Fon language. The Fon were the people of the Kingdom of Dahomy (1600 until 1894), which was located in what is now the present-day Republic of Benin.
Certainly, not all African women were queens, chiefs, or warriors. Dr. Tarikhu Farrar, anthropology professor at Holy Names University in Oakland, California, says in his article The Queenmother, Matriarchy, and the Question of Female Political Authority in Precolonial West African Monarchy that “using the status of royal and aristocratic women as an indicator of the status of women in general could result in a relatively inaccurate portrayal of the overall status of women and of prevailing gender relations.” However, there is evidence that even common women had rights above any known in the Western world at the time.
In the book “African Women: A Modern History,” French author Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch explains that in West Africa, women were artisans who travelled far and wide to sell their goods. She notes that though East African women were not thought to be as active in trade, they were also involved in the trade of livestock and foodstuffs. In some parts of the region, the food could not be touched nor the livestock sold without a woman’s permission.
All this does not mean that Africa was an utopia of gender equality. Dr. Farrar noted that men and women did have different spheres of influence in African societies and that most leadership positions were held by older men, But it does suggest that African women were valued in ways not seen in most places outside of Africa.
Many modern-day African women are not enjoying the same level of freedom as their ancestors. This begs the question if ancient African societies valued women so much, what happened? Why did some communities in the diaspora reverse course and decided to subjugate women in a way that seems foreign to African traditions?
Many aspects of colonialism resulted in reduced public roles for African women. Dr. Ambe Njoh, professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of South Florida, wrote in his book “Tradition, Culture, and Development in Africa,” “Most of the socio-economic and political problems which African women face have their roots in European colonial development policies, which were designed to discriminate against women.” He notes that beginning in the colonial era, women were barred from trading, attending school, holding jobs, or participating in the economy in any way.
“Colonial rulers erased the balance that women provided in the political structures of African Societies by systematically preventing them from any participation in the new political order,” wrote Dr. Toyin Falola in the book “Women’s Roles in Sub-Sharan Africa.” European colonizers would avoid discussions of political matters with African women, even the queen mothers, who they often referred to in historical documents as “sisters” of the men in power. Post-colonial governments continued with policies that suppressed women’s traditional authority.
Furthermore, as Europeans took control of African land and agriculture, the perceived value of women’s contribution society was greatly reduced. In an article titled Women and Development in Africa: From Marginalization to Gender Inequality, the authors argue that the “establishment of commercialized agriculture also contributed to the loss of women’s economic power. In Africa, commercialization begun under colonialism, often led to the granting of government titles to the land. Consequently the effect was to transfer farmland that had been controlled by women to [white] male ownership.”
Adoption of foreign cultural and religious values may have also helped changed the way African women were valued. In a paper about the impact of religion on women in African society, Wenpanga Eric Segueda, a writer from Burkina Faso, wrote that in contrast to traditional African religions, Christianity and Islam demanded a lower status for women. He notes that “Islamic and Christian teachings led Africans to deny their own perceptions of things, viewing them as primitive, backwards, and worthless,” a perception that was encouraged by those touting the new religions.
“Arabs, hence Islam, found a lot wrong with indigenous African norms, traditional practices and beliefs,” write the authors of a 2001 paper “The Impact of Religion on Women Empowerment as a Millennium Development Goal in Africa,” published by Springer Science+Media B.V. The researchers specified that “this was especially true with respect to gender relations in both the domestic and public spheres. Consequently, disciples of Islam wasted no time in altering these relations in the areas of the continent they successfully penetrated.”
Christianity had a similar impact on the status of women in African cultures. University of South Africa theology professor Matsobane J Manala says in his paper “The Impact of Christianity on sub-Saharan Africa,” that the religion “led to the demise of African customs, which it viewed as pagan and evil; the religion also led to the implementation of apartheid (to which it gave its theological support), and undermined the leadership role of women.”
As stated before, Africa was not free from gender tensions, and gender equity had not been totally achieved. But as the world moves towards the direction of gender equity, it’s important to know that the Western world was never a better example — despite how much it avows women’s equality and attempt to impose its conceptualization of it onto others. Though there may be specific Western concepts Africans can use to improve the status of women in relationship to men, traditional African cultures provide some great solutions for the world as well.Post Views: 209
By Elliot Booker — 5 years ago
Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld the denial of a Freedom of Information request to make public documents about Israeli defense exports to Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide in that country. Israel continued to supply Rwanda with arms even though they knew a genocide was taking place in the country and there was a weapons embargo against it.
In 2014, attorney Eitay Mack and Prof. Yair Auron submitted a request to the Defense Ministry under the Freedom of Information Law, asking for details of Israeli arms exports to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995. In 1994, hundreds of thousands of members of the Tutsi minority were slaughtered by the Hutu majority during Rwanda’s civil war.
In their request, the two wrote, “According to various reports in Israel and abroad, the defense exports to Rwanda ostensibly violated international law, at least during the period of the weapons embargo imposed by the UN Security Council.” The Defense Ministry refused the request, saying this information “was not to be divulged.”
Mack and Auron appealed this decision to the Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as a court of administrative affairs. In December 2014 the court upheld the ministry’s decision, saying that providing the information would “with near-certainty” undermine state security and international relations. Mack and Auron then appealed to the Supreme Court.
“There is no doubt that the State of Israel and the defense and foreign ministries knew very well what was going on in Rwanda in real time, just as the entire world knew,” the two wrote in their appeal, adding that the government “continues to impose on the Israeli public a denial of Israeli involvement in the genocide there.” Mack and Auron argued that the lower court did not consider the public interest in publishing the information.
But the Supreme Court panel, comprising Court President Justice Miriam Naor and justices Isaac Amit and Neal Hendel, unanimously rejected the appeal. Amit wrote that although in principle “there is public interest in the requested information,” it did not tip the scales in favor of revealing it. The ruling states that the court was shown, ex parte, certain materials by the state that led the justices to conclude that the Defense Ministry decision was based solely on relevant considerations.
“We found that under the circumstances the disclosure of the information sought does not advance the public interest claimed by the appellants to the extent that it takes preference and precedence over the claims of harm to state security and international relations,” the court wrote.
“The ruling is mistaken and immoral. The State of Israel only loses from it,” Mack said after the verdict was issued. “At no point during the proceedings was there a denial that there were defense exports during the genocide; the Defense Ministry found the official documents about it and the justices examined them. In our opinion, it is this continued concealment that harms state security and its international relations. We will continue to fight to expose the truth and bring to justice those Israelis who abetted the serious crimes committed in Rwanda,” Mack said.
By African Globe Editorial_Staff
By Elliot Booker — 2 years ago
It’s an affront or an opportunity, depending who you ask.
The oil interest lobbying organization American Petroleum Institute has launched a campaign targeting minority communities, including African-Americans, to promote offshore exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil. The pitch is it’s a job creator.
The effort is gauged to counter massive opposition to the offshore alternative that numbers in the millions of individuals and groups.
That opposition is largely people who are white — one of its acknowledged weak points.
But the institute’s Explore Offshore campaign has sparked some outrage.
“I’m not surprised in this political climate,” said Marquetta Goodwine, a Beaufort County resident who goes by Queen Quet. She has been dubbed chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation.
She is among the more prominent drilling opponents who are African-American. “Those things make me highly irate,” she said.
But the campaign has won some support.
“Quite frankly, what I was concerned about was there were a whole lot of white people (at a public meeting on the issue) and not a whole lot of black people,” said Stephen Gilchrist, chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce and the Explore Offshore effort in South Carolina.
“African-Americans are economically disenfranchised on the coast,” he said.
The campaign has been taken up by the African-American chamber as well as at least 68 other businesses, pro-business groups and anti-tax groups in the Southeast, from Virginia to Florida. In South Carolina, they include the Palmetto Promise Institute and S.C. Association of Taxpayers.
Industry analyst Offshore Technology reported the campaign specifically focuses on minority communities and that its support reflects the focus.
“These groups include a large representation from black, Hispanic and minority communities, which historically have shown less support for offshore oil and gas exploration than others — something the API is keen to change,” the report said.
How many jobs at stake?
The Explore effort has drawn controversy as drilling opponents brace for a long-expected Trump administration announcement of where federal leases will be offered. These leases will permit seismic blasting exploration for natural gas and oil offshore.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of Trump, has joined leaders of other Southeast Coast states lobbying the administration to be excluded from those leases.
Oil industry and conservation opponents have fought for more than six years over opening the Southeast coast to exploration. The Obama administration closed the waters in 2016. President Donald Trump restarted the process for the years 2019 to 2023.
The issue pits a concern for the environment and a billion-dollar tourism industry against potential revenue and jobs.
The millions opposed to the work on the East Coast include more than 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials and 41,000 businesses. Nearly every coastal government in South Carolina, hundreds of businesses and thousands of residents have publicly opposed the move.
With federal momentum now shifting toward the leasing, they have been trying to rally against an intensified public push by drilling proponents who advocate “offshore energy exploration and production that can increase jobs, investments, and reliable, safe, and affordable energy,” Explore Offshore says in part on its website.
The jobs issue has been a sticking point from the beginning of the controversy. Drilling proponents say the work could bring $3.8 billion to the state’s budget and $2 billion in industry and support industry development, creating as many as 34,000 jobs, including jobs that could pay more than $100,000 per year.
Opponents say that’s wildly inflated.
“Seismic testing won’t bring the first job to South Carolina,” said Frank Knapp, president of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce. The oil industry brings in its own crews from out-of-state, he said.
“The only way you can justify thousands of jobs is to industrialize a portion of the South Carolina coast” at the cost of tourism revenue, existing coastal industries such as fishing and the environment, he said.
Gilchrist acknowledges the numbers might be best-case and the threats could well be real. But he doesn’t think that should “stop the conversation” about what economic benefits the work might bring.
“I’m just as concerned as anyone else. I don’t see this as an either-or. It’s a both-win. Let’s see if we can do this and protect the coast,” Gilchrist said. “We can be proactive rather than reactive here, figure it out on the front end.”
‘Have to get educated’
The shortfall of vocal participation among people of color in the controversy remains a problem for both sides.
“We are always looking for ways to increase diversity within the coalition,” said Samantha Siegel, a Charleston-based senior organizer for the environmental group Oceana, which is among the leaders of the opposition coalition. “We think it is important that decision makers hear from a diverse group of citizens.”
The coalition includes a diverse array of community, political and business groups, she said.
“But I do think there is more work to be done in terms of educating more folks in the state and particularly the folks that live in vulnerable communities where an oil refinery could be built one day if we don’t stop it,” Siegel added.
Gilchrist doesn’t see the Explore effort as exploitative. Asked about that, he said the work could be a shot at economic opportunity and training for a community that needs it.
“The people I know are barely making it,” he said. “We’re talking about the plight of 40 percent of our state.”
Many in the the “target” audience might just be waiting to see.
“They have to bring me something to back up (job creation),” said Awendaw Mayor Miriam Green, a town in the rural, relatively lower-income stretch of northern Charleston County. She has not been contacted by Gilchrist or the Explore Offshore effort.
One reason why her phone has been quiet? She is anti-drilling.
“People really have to get educated to what’s going on in the world today,” she said. ”(Groups) will single you out for their purposes.”