Monitor Quiz: 19th-Century African-American Ingenuity

Article excerpt

Eighteen sixty-five saw the end of the American Civil War. Later that year, slavery was abolished with passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The 14th Amendment (1868) granted citizenship to black Americans and established protections for their rights.

A little-known benefit of these amendments was the right extended to African-Americans to patent their own inventions. Until that point, their creativity and ingenuity had largely gone unrecognized - not only in the public mind, but also legally and financially.

Do any of these inventions ring a bell? 1. Around 1830, a slave, Jo Anderson, developed the idea for this invention. But it was another man who received the credit, the patent, and the resulting monetary success. Cyrus McCormick did give some credit to Mr. Anderson for the idea, but nonetheless filed a patent for a horsepowered version of this automated machine in 1834. He continued to revise its design until 1855, continuing production in his own factories throughout his lifetime. 2. This invention is "the real McCoy," as well as the origin of the expression. In 1872, Elijah McCoy patented this gizmo, which allowed machines to run for longer periods. …