INVENTIONS MADE BY BLACK SLAVES DENIED PATENTS | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

INVENTIONS MADE BY BLACK SLAVES DENIED PATENTS

Shontavia Johnson, a lawyer and professor of Intellectual Property Law at Drake University, wrote an eye-opening piece on the history of African American slaves being denied (or having outright stolen), patents for their inventions.

Johnson writes, “One group of prolific innovators, however, has been largely ignored by history: black inventors born or forced into American slavery. Though U.S. patent law was created with color-blind language to foster innovation, the patent system consistently excluded these inventors from recognition.”

She explains that the patent system–which started officially in 1787–was not open to African Americans born into slavery as they weren’t considered citizens.

That barrier didn’t stop African Americans from inventing and their patents from being exploited. According to Johnson’s research, owners often took credit for slave inventions.

Here are a few examples of African American inventions during the time of slavery that Johnson cites:

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