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 — 3 years ago
It came out in 1968—yet little has changed since the Kerner Commission denounced “white racism.”
In July 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson formed a commission to analyze the riots then engulfing several major American cities, the radical wing of the civil-rights movement eyed his appointees with grave skepticism. Not only did the 11-person commission abound with the most conventional of politicians—including its chairman, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner—but a mere two of them were black. Racial militants might have tolerated that paltry number of seats had they been occupied by firebrands such as Stokely Carmichael, who popularized the term black power, or H. Rap Brown, who routinely railed against “the honkies.” These brazen embodiments of the new generation of civil-rights activism would have reliably conveyed the concerns and frustrations of black youth—a presumably vital task for the commission, given that most rioters ranged from 15 to 24 years old.
Instead of black insurgents, however, Johnson tapped the longtime NAACP doyen Roy Wilkins and Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, two men broadly regarded as more acquainted with executive suites than with edgy streets. Detractors viewed Wilkins as so fearful of bucking the Johnson administration that they branded him “Roy Weak-knees.” Although Brooke had recently become the first black person popularly elected to the Senate, national media observed that his time as state attorney general and his personal attributes hardly endeared him to black radicals, who stopped just shy of labeling him an Uncle Tom. “Because of his pale skin, his Episcopalian faith, his reserved New England manner,” Time magazine noted, Brooke “is looked upon as what might be described as a ‘NASP’—the Negro equivalent of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” Both Wilkins and Brooke, moreover, had sharply repudiated the nascent black-power movement, going so far as to equate it with white supremacy. Whereas Brooke called Carmichael and the arch-segregationist Lester Maddox “extremists of black power and white power,” Wilkins termed Carmichael’s ethos “a reverse Mississippi, a reverse Hitler, a reverse Ku Klux Klan.”
With these pillars of the establishment speaking on behalf of African Americans, black-power advocates were convinced that the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders—as the body was officially named—would sanitize America’s ugly racial realities. A few months before the commission’s findings appeared in a document typically called the Kerner Report, the journalist Elizabeth Drew confirmed in these pages that “the word has gone out among the militant Negroes that the commission is a fink operation … and is not to be cooperated with.” She added: “No one here is betting … that the commission’s product will differ radically from one that [LBJ] wants.”
Surprisingly, when the Kerner Report surfaced, in February 1968, black-power supporters felt cheered, and President Johnson was chagrined. H. Rap Brown, who was in a Louisiana jail cell for inciting a crowd, released an exultant statement: “The members of the commission should be put in jail under $100,000 bail each because they’re saying essentially what I’ve been saying.” For his part, an infuriated LBJ canceled the White House ceremony where he had been scheduled to accept a bound copy of the report, avoided public commentary on the eagerly anticipated document, and refused to sign customary letters recognizing the commissioners for their service. But Johnson’s effort to ignore the report failed utterly. The Kerner Report became an instant publishing phenomenon; Bantam sold almost 1 million paperbacks in the first two weeks. Public appetite ran so strong that Marlon Brando read aloud excerpts of the volume on a late-night television talk show.
Fifty years have now elapsed since the Kerner Report appeared, but even in our current age of woke-ness, the document stands out for its unvarnished, unflinching identification of “white racism” as the fundamental cause of urban unrest. Works written by committees (especially government committees) have a well-deserved reputation for inducing somnolence, but the Kerner Report somehow managed to frame its indictment of racial oppression in several stirring formulations that have endured. “What white Americans have never fully understood—but what the Negro can never forget—is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” the commission stated. “White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.” The report warned, in perhaps its most celebrated passage: “Our Nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”
Some aspects of the report may resonate even more loudly today than they did in the late 1960s. For example, the commission’s repeated emphasis on the role of police brutality in alienating black citizens and sowing the seeds of urban discontent now assumes added significance, given the many images of unarmed black men whose deaths at the hands of the state have been seared into the national psyche. Indeed, some of the report’s assessments could—eerily and depressingly—have been written yesterday to describe America’s recent racial disturbances, in locales ranging from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore, Maryland: “Almost invariably the incident that ignites disorder arises from police action.” Apart from its sharply phrased critique of the riots’ origins, the report promoted an ambitious policy agenda, including major measures in the domains of education, employment, housing, and welfare.
How did a government document that black radicals anticipated would be a whitewash end up instead denouncing “white racism”? This improbable turn of events animates Steven M. Gillon’s deft, incisive, and altogether absorbing history of the Kerner Commission, which he convincingly depicts as “the last gasp of 1960s liberalism—the last full-throated declaration that the federal government should play a leading role in solving deeply embedded problems such as racism and poverty.”
The puzzle of the commission’s severe assessment of the conditions plaguing urban America only intensifies when one considers that Johnson held leverage over its chairman. It was widely understood that the Illinois governor hoped LBJ would nominate him to a federal judgeship. But Gillon, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma, makes clear that Kerner served merely as a figurehead. The commission’s executive director, David Ginsburg—a fixture of liberal legal circles since the New Deal—shaped the report’s general approach, tenor, and language more than any official commissioner did, helping forge a fragile consensus among its members. Yet identifying the report’s central force also fails to explain its bracing conclusions. After all, LBJ chose Ginsburg for the important, if under-the-radar, senior staff position precisely because he was a Johnson loyalist, one who, as Elizabeth Drew put it, enjoyed a reputation as “the insider’s insider.”
LBJ was far from inexperienced in the ways of blue-ribbon panels. During his five years in the Oval Office, he appointed a staggering 20 commissions. This prolific rate prompted at least one source to confer on Johnson the dubious nickname “the Great Commissioner.” (One suspects that Abraham Lincoln would not have been tempted to swap appellations.)
With LBJ’s hand-selected personnel at the helm of a well-oiled apparatus, the question remains: Why did the Kerner Report assume its pungent tone and advance bold proposals rather than simply blessing the Great Society programs in anodyne language? Three primary reasons emerge from Gillon’s meticulous re-creation of the proceedings.
First, the commissioners’ visits to riot-torn cities around the country proved galvanizing. Some members had a vague understanding of life in ghettos, but the conditions they witnessed firsthand were far more dire than anything they had imagined. Unemployment was pervasive, schools had insufficient funds and virtually no white students, and neighborhoods lacked access to adequate sanitation. More sobering still was the profound sense of disillusionment and anger that the commissioners encountered.
In Detroit, Michigan, and in Newark, New Jersey, where the two deadliest disturbances of 1967 occurred, many rioters declared that they would not fight for the United States, even in a major war. During one particularly unnerving field visit, in Cincinnati, Ohio, a young Presbyterian minister who held a degree from Columbia University calmly informed the commission that the recent spate of violence represented “just the beginning.”
Look, man, we’re hip to you white people. We know … it’s no good trying to appeal to your morals; you’ve shown you don’t have any morals. The only thing you believe in is your property—that’s what this country is all about, baby—so we are going to burn it down.
Second, such provocative encounters convinced the commission that only tough language would reach its dual intended audiences. For white Americans, the commissioners concluded that firm rhetoric was necessary to jolt them out of their collective slumber about the nation’s inner cities. Shortly before the report appeared, one member—Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma—explained: “I believe that white people in America are decent people [and that] if they can be shown the terrible conditions in which other Americans live and how this threatens our society, they will join together to try to solve these problems.”
For black Americans, by contrast, tough rhetoric was required to prevent the black-power movement from gaining more adherents. The report expressly condemned black-power advocates for retreating from the integrationist vision and dismissed the self-styled revolutionaries as mere Booker T. Washingtons with attitudes. But for those criticisms to seem credible, the report also needed to contain language excoriating the nation’s racist past and present.
Finally, the Kerner Report was shaped by a desire to avoid the hostile receptions that had greeted two recent governmental tracts. Following the Watts riots in 1965, a California report explained the violence by invoking what came to be known as “the riffraff theory,” the notion that a group of perpetual misfits (many of whom had migrated from the South) had plotted the unrest. Scholars immediately assailed this view, and the commission’s own profile of the typical rioter in 1967 belied the stereotype: Generally, rioters were educated, lifelong residents of their city who—crucially—had at least seen or suffered police brutality. Also in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s report chronicling the increase in single motherhood in black families, with its emphasis on cultural and psychological factors, drew fierce criticism for “blaming the victim.” These cautionary tales primed the Kerner Commission to focus on structural obstacles confronting black communities, rather than on the supposed personal failings of the rioters.
Half a century later, the nation’s racial demographics have upended the black–white paradigm that prevailed in 1968; no serious analysis of race could now disregard that increased diversity. Even more distant from the current national climate, however, is the commission’s repeated insistence that the fate of inner-city African Americans stands inextricably connected to that of their fellow citizens. To take just one example, the report stated:
This Nation is confronted with the issue of justice for all its people—white as well as black, rural as well as urban … In speaking of the Negro, we do not speak of “them.” We speak of us—for the freedoms and opportunities of all Americans are diminished and imperiled when they are denied to some Americans.
Though such sentiments in 1968 may have been more aspirational than actual, the collective perspective now sounds lamentably alien.
Yet the continuities between the Kerner Commission era and contemporary realities seem even more pronounced than the ruptures. In the political realm, a direct line connects Richard Nixon’s successful campaign for the White House in 1968 to our most recent presidential election. Nixon disparaged the Kerner Commission’s findings as too permissive, playing up his promise to restore “law and order” in America. “I am the law-and-order candidate,” Donald Trump pledged to a crowd in Virginia Beach in July 2016, and since assuming office he has practiced a singularly divisive brand of politics, seldom missing a chance to pit “them” against “us.” Furthermore, while many African Americans have made momentous strides in the past five decades, cities still contain destitute neighborhoods filled with racial minorities, which—as in the late 1960s—serve as breeding grounds for despair and alienation. The Fair Housing Act of 1968—the only major tangible legislative achievement traceable to the Kerner Report—has failed to address those grim pockets of isolation.
When LBJ spoke briefly to the commissioners at the start of their undertaking, he tasked them with answering three basic questions about the recent unrest: “What happened? Why did it happen? What can be done to prevent it from happening again and again?” On the Kerner Report’s 50th anniversary, the stubborn persistence of racial ghettos gives rise to another, deeply disconcerting query:
By Elliot Booker — 3 years agoBy
Colin Kaepernick — the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who was blackballed by the NFL for taking a knee against police brutality — is making a far-reaching impact on society off the field. Kaepernick, who sparked a protest movement against police violence against Black bodies, has moved the debate forward on racial justice for Black people.
In September of 2016, Kaepernick pledged that he would donate $1 million plus the proceeds of his jersey sales from the 2016 season to organizations that work in oppressed communities — $100,000 a month for 10 months. Most recently, he raised $10,000 per day for 10 days with his #10for10 campaign, with 10 of his friends selecting organizations he should donate to and matching his contribution.
As a part of the NFL player’s campaign, R&B singer Jhené Aiko and Chris Brown each donated $10,000 to the Southern California-based Schools on Wheels, a rolling schoolroom which offers tutorial services to the region’s growing homeless population. Homelessness has increased 23 percent in Los Angeles County in 2017 over the year before, and 20 percent in the city of Los Angeles.
Tennis legend Serena Williams contributed $10,000 to Imagine LA, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of family homelessness and poverty.
Also accepting the #MillionDollarChallenge is the rapper T.I., who partnered with Kap to donate $20,000 to Trae Tha Truth’s Angel by Nature organization, a “boots on the ground” group that has provided relief to Houston post-Hurricane Harvey.
As part of Kaepernick’s campaign, Snoop Dogg gave $25,000 to Mothers Against Police Brutality, a Dallas-based group formed to unite mothers who have lost their children to police violence. “It’s no secret that Uncle Snoop Dogg has transcended into global mega-stardom and even though he’s busier than ever, our brother still finds time to give back to the Community in so many ways. Like a true OG, Uncle Snoop didn’t even flinch when I reached out to him about being part of my #MillionDollarPledge,” Kaepernick said. “With such an alarmingly disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic men and women killed by police, it’s obvious why Snoop chose this organization. Thank you, Uncle Snoop for everything that you have done, and have yet to do, in entertainment as well as the community. Much continued success to you my brother.”
Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors donated $10,000 to United Playaz, a violence prevention and youth development organization based in San Francisco. The organization provides vulnerable young people ”higher education, employment, and healthy living within a safe, nurturing, and collaborative environment.” Curry’s Warriors teammate Kevin Durant contributed to Silicon Valley De-Bug, a San Jose organization that uses storytelling and media creation to promote social justice.
Actor Jesse Williams gave $10,000 to Advancement Project, a “next generation, multi-racial” civil rights organization committed to dismantling and reforming “the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy through the development of community-based solutions to racial justice issues.”
Nick Cannon and Joey Badass joined Kaepernick in donating $40,000 to Communities United for Police Reform, a New York-based campaign by members of the community, lawyers, researchers and activists to end discriminatory policing practices.
As the sidelined NFL player is taking a stand for social justice and putting his money where his mouth is, the NFL’s own “Let’s Listen Together” campaign — highlighting the league’s $89 million commitment to social justice and equality — has lost its luster. “The campaign will highlight the NFL’s commitment with TV spots, digital content and social media engagement. Hopefully, this will educate the masses, creating some sensitivity for those who need it and spark change,” wrote Jarrett Bell in USA Today. “But it also has the feel of top-shelf marketing and PR spin, with Kaepernick’s original message hijacked as part of an NFL crisis management strategy in the face of backlash from those who could care less.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of players who were handpicked by the NFL as a “safe” alternative to Kaepernick has splintered, as Howard Bryant of ESPN noted. Bryant wrote that the coalition was insulted by accusations it had sold out, and “the league had lured them with promises of social commitment and big money to cover for the real purpose of sabotaging their movement and ending the protests.” The failure of the NFL to sign Kaepernick is a scandal, claims Dave Zirin of The Nation, arguing that despite the self-promoted image of the league as a meritocracy, billion-dollar teams chose to fail rather than sign the athlete-activist this season.
Although he was blackballed and did not even play this past season, Kaepernick was named a finalist in the NFL Players Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Community MVP award, along with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller and defensive lineman J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. The winner of the award, which honors contributions to the community, will be announced Feb. 1 at the NFLPA’s Super Bowl news conference. The NFLPA will donate $100,000 to the winner’s favorite charity or his foundation, with the other finalists receiving $10,000 apiece. The award honors players for their contribution to the community and recognizes a player each week over the season. After the winner is chosen, the NFLPA will donate $100,000 to that player’s foundation or a charity of choice. The other four finalists receive $10,000 each for their charities or foundations.
The impact of Kap’s contribution to social justice was reflected in a recent cover of the New Yorker magazine, which depicted a kneeling Martin Luther King flanked by Kap and Michael Bennett of the Seattle Seahawks.
In October, Kaepernick filed a right-to-work lawsuit against the NFL for collusion. Proceedings in the case began in early January. Kaepernick alleges the NFL conspired to keep him off the field — which is barred in the collective bargaining agreement — blackballing him for his political stance against the treatment of Black people at the hands of law enforcement. He points to the fact that there are 64 quarterback slots in the league, and several with lesser ability have been signed since he became a free agent. Kaepernick must prove the teams colluded, and many legal experts agree he was singled out for his politics, as Axios reported.
Colin Kaepernick currently ranks as the second most popular NFL player after Tom Brady, even while he is not currently playing for a team. His story is not done, but it is clear the athlete and activist already have left an indelible mark on the Black community, backing up his words with action, and challenging others to step up and contribute.
By Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
A female attorney was recently jailed in Youngstown, Ohio for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter pin in the courtroom.
According to WKBN, Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert Milich ruled attorney Andrea Burton was in contempt of court for refusing his orders to remove her Black Lives Matter pin while in court. Burton was sentenced to five days in jail for disobeying the judge’s order, but has since been released on a stay while her own attorneys appeal the decision. She can continue to stay out of jail as long as she doesn’t wear the pin in court.
“No one wearing an American flag button, no one wearing a crucifix or a Star of David would be removed, so why this particular statement bothered him so much is bothersome,” community activist and attorney Kim Akins told WKBN.
Milich cited a previous Supreme Court case prohibiting political speech in the courtroom as precedent for asking Burton to remove her pin.
“A judge doesn’t support either side. A judge is objective and tries to make sure everyone has an opportunity to have a fair hearing, and it was a situation where it was just a violation of the law,” Milich said. “There’s a difference between a flag, a pin from your church or the Eagles and having a pin that’s on a political issue.”
The Youngstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said it is monitoring Burton’s case closely, as the judge’s decision to find her in contempt of court may be a violation of Burton’s civil rights.
“We will do all that the NAACP Youngstown can do to ensure that Attorney Burton’s Constitutional rights are not being violated,” said Youngstown NAACP president George Freeman in a public statement.
Burton and her attorney have not yet publicly commented on the case.
AFRICANGLOBE By: Zach Cartwright