Let Us Celebrate Black Americans
Benjamin Banneker (1701-1806) was able, in two days, from memory to lay out the streets and major buildings of Washington D.C. The original plans were made by a committee of three. They took a year to make and then were taken to France by a disgruntled Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant.
The life of Benjamin's parents is fascinating, as well. One instance is his grandmother (Molly) was a white English woman in England. A cow, Molly was milking, kicked over a pail of milk. Molly was accused of stealing the milk, and she was convicted and sentenced to serve seven years of bondage in the colony of Maryland. After serving her sentence, she had her freedom and stayed in the colonies. She started a farm and purchased two slaves, and married one, who became Benjamin's grandfather.
Do you like white sugar? Thank Norbert Rillieux (1806-1894) He was the son of a white plantation owner and a black slave. He invented the vacuum pan evaporator and had his first patent on August 26, 1843. It turned sugar cane into white crystals with more ease and far less time than by the hand method.
Norbert also discovered why New Orleans had so much Yellow Fever. It came from the mosquitoes living on swamps and in the lowlands. He worked out an engineering plan for draining the swamps. The city rejected the project as it came from a black man. After Rillieux no longer lived in New Orleans, the city adopted the plan.
Where would we be without shoes? Cold feet. Sore feet. Bruised feet. Jan Earnst Matzeliger (1852-1889.) He was born in Dutch Guiana. As an adult, he lived in Lynn, Massachusetts. Lynn was the shoe manufacturing center in the country. They had machines to make many parts of shoes except attaching the shoe's upper part to the sole. After years of struggle, he had a patent on March 20, 1883. Before his invention, a person could do the work of fifty pairs in a ten-hour day. After his invention, 150 to 700 pairs of shoes could be made in one day.
Because he was not allowed in the Roman Catholic, or Unitarian, or the Episcopal Churches, he bequeathed all his holdings in the Union Lasting Machine Company and 1/3 of his interest in the Consolidated Lasting Machine Company to the North Congregational Church. It was an all-white church, but it welcomed his participation.
Is it the real McCoy? We all want the real McCoy, don't we? Nothing fake. Where did this expression come from? Elijah McCoy (1844-1929.) was born in Canada. His parents were run-away slaves from the US. He went to Edinburgh, Scotland, to be an apprentice in mechanical engineering. He earned his degree and returned to the U.S., but companies that needed mechanical engineers did not want to hire a black man for a skilled position. He finally got a job on the Michigan Central Railroad. He was to apply oil to the engine, the wheels, or any moving parts. Trains and other machinery would have to be shut down to lubricate. This was a waste of time and money, in his estimation. He went to work and, in July 1872, had his first patent for an automatic lubricator. By 1920 his automatic lubricator was used on air brakes in vehicles and locomotives. By the time of his death, he had over fifty patents, most for automatic lubrication. However, he did have one for a lawn sprinkler and one for an ironing board. In his day, when people inspected a piece of machinery, they would ask, "Is it the real McCoy?' to be sure it had automatic lubrication. Now, we say, "It's the real McCoy" to let folks know whatever it is, it is not fake.
Hey! Wait A Minute! No Women!
Have no fear. They shall appear. February ends with a sweet note befitting Valentine's month.
Happy Black History Month! Happy Valentines! Happy Presidents' Day!