Thomas Jennings-Inventor Essay

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Thomas Jennings 1791-1856 Thomas Jennings, born in 1791, was the first African American to be given a patent, on March 3, 1821. Thomas Jennings was awarded his patent for a dry cleaning process (U.S. patent 3306x). At the time, he was operating a dry cleaning business in New York City, and was heavily involved in abolitionist activities. The patent was for a dry-cleaning process called "dry scouring", and he used the initial money he earned from it to purchase freedom from slavery for his family. In 1831, Thomas Jennings became assistant secretary for the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, PA. Thomas Jennings was a free man when he took out his patent, otherwise he might have had trouble obtaining the patent in his name. For instance, in 1857, a slave-owner named Oscar Stuart patented a "double cotton scraper" invented by his slave, Ned, arguing, "the master is the owner of the fruits of the labor of the slave both manual and intellectual". Initially, he U.S. patent office changed the patent laws in favor of Oscar Stuart, but in 1870, the U.S. government passed a patent law giving all American men, including African Americans, the rights to their inventions. Most slaves in the Southern states of the USA were denied education. The slave owners were afraid of slave rebellions occurring if slaves had access to texts based on enlightenment thinking, like Thomas Paine's "the Rights of Man". Even if African American inventors were free, like Jennings, they had severe prejudices to overcome. Most African Americans, slaves or free men, were condemned to domestic service, manual trades, and agriculture by the institutional racism of American society in the 19th century (and beyond.) Nevertheless, during this period,
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