Category: Inventors/ or firsts

November 17 1834- Nancy Green

GM – FBF – Today, I would like to share with you a story of a Black American Female who made a lot of appetences for the company that she worked for and received a lot of death threats and nasty letters for trying to feed herself and family She was a great lady who died a terrible death and I know that you didn’t know about this true American story. Learn and Enjoy!

Remember – “Many of my people didn’t like what I was doing but I had to eat also.” Nancy Green

Today in our History – November 17, 1834 Nancy Green was born and would become a household name as the first and original “Aunt Jemima”.

Nancy Green (November 17, 1834 – August 30, 1923) was a storyteller, cook, activist, and the first of several African-American models hired to promote a corporate trademark as “Aunt Jemima”.

Green was born into slavery on November 17, 1834, near Mount Sterling in Montgomery County, Kentucky. She was hired in 1890 by the R.T. Davis Milling Company in St. Joseph, Missouri, to represent “Aunt Jemima”, an advertising character named after a song from a minstrel show. Davis Milling had recently acquired the formula to a ready-mixed, self-rising pancake flour from St. Joseph Gazette editor Chris L. Ruttand Charles Underwood and were looking to employ an African-American woman as a Mammy archetype to promote their new product. In 1893 Green was introduced as Aunt Jemima at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, where it was her job to operate a pancake-cooking display.

Her amicable personality and talent as a cook for the Walker family, whose children grew up to become Chicago Circuit Judge Charles M. Walker and Dr. Samuel Walker helped establish a successful showing of the product, for which she received a medal and certificate from the Expo officials. After the Expo, Green was offered a lifetime contract to adopt the Aunt Jemima moniker and promote the pancake mix. This marked the beginning of a major promotional push by the company that included thousands of personal appearances and Aunt Jemima merchandising. Nancy Green maintained her job with Davis Milling (which was renamed Aunt Jemima Mills Company in 1914) until her death in 1923; she was still working as Aunt Jemima at the time. A lawsuit claims that Nancy Green’s heirs as well as other heirs from the other women used as Aunt Jemima models deserve $2 billion and a share of future revenue from the sales of popular demand.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Chicago by another model (Anna Short Harrington)’s grandsons who claim that she and Green were the roots in creating the recipe for the nation’s first self-proclaimed pancake mix. It also states that Green was the originator and came up with the idea of adding powdered milk for extra flavor in the pancakes. Quaker Oats, who is the current owner of the brand, says this image of Aunt Jemima was in fact fake and never real claiming that there are no trace of contracts between the women who displayed as Aunt Jemima models and their bosses. The suit was dismissed as the heirs failed to prove that they were related to the lady who posed as Aunt Jemima.

Green was one of the organizers of the Olivet Baptist Church. Her career allowed Green the financial freedom to become an activist and engage in antipoverty programs. She was one of the first African-American missionary workers. She used her stature as a spokesperson to become a leading advocate against poverty and in favor of equal rights for individuals in Chicago.

Green died on August 30, 1923, in Chicago when a car collided with a truck and flipped over onto the sidewalk where she was standing. She is buried in the northeast quadrant of Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery. The famous image of Aunt Jemima was based on the real image of Nancy Green, who was known as a magnificent cook, an attractive woman of outgoing nature and friendly personality, an original painting of which sold for $9,030 at MastroNet. The painting was rendered by A. B. Frost, who is now well known as one of the great illustrators of the Golden Age of American Illustration. Share your story about Aunt Jemima or research more about Nancy Green and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 14 1915- Mabel Fairbanks

GM – FBF – Today’s story is about the first Black/Native American woman to excel and be honored for her body of work. She is in the American and International halls of fame in her sport. She was orphaned and homeless but still had a vision of greatness. She was not allowed to try out for the Olympics but she still showed the world her talents. Enjoy!

Remember – “I’VE CRIED ENOUGH FOR ALL OF US” – Mabel Fairbanks

Today in our History – November 14, 1915 – Mabel Fairbanks was born.

Mabel Fairbanks (November 14, 1915 – September 29, 2001) was an American figure skater and coach. As an African American and Native American woman she paved the way for other minorities to compete in the sport of figure skating. She was inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, as the first person of African American and Native American descent, and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Mabel Fairbanks was born on November 14, 1915 in Florida’s Everglades. Her father was African American while her mother was Seminole and of English descent. In a 1999 interview, she said, “my mother took in everybody – every kid off the street – and gave them a place to stay and something to eat. So I never knew who were my real sisters and brothers, but my older sister told me there were 14.”

Fairbanks was orphaned at the age of eight when her mother died. After staying with a teacher who treated her like a “maid,” she joined one of her brothers in New York City. She worked for him and his wife at their fish market on 8th Avenue in Harlem but they became displeased when, out of sympathy, she gave a family more fish than they had paid for. A wealthy woman saw her sleeping on a park bench and offered her a job as a babysitter at a home overlooking Central Park.

Fairbanks began figure skating around 1925 to 1928. After observing children at the Central Park ice rink, she bought herself used skates, stuffed them with cotton because they were two sizes too big, and began skating at the rink. She said, “Blacks didn’t skate there. But it was a public place, so I just carried on.” She gained further inspiration after seeing Sonja Henie in the 1936 film One in a Million.

In the 1930s, Fairbanks, due to her race, was denied access to the local rink by the cashier but she kept returning util the manager admitted her. Maribel Vinson Owen and Howard Nicholson provided her with technical advice. Fairbanks was not allowed to compete in the national qualifying event for the Olympics or any competition. In a 1998 interview, she said, “If I had gone to the Olympics and become a star, I would not be who I am today.”

Fairbanks performed in shows in New York until the 1940s. She often wore pink or purple skate boots rather than the more common black or white. She practiced on a 6ft by 6ft rink constructed by her uncle Wally in her room. After relocating to Los Angeles, she toured internationally, skating with Ice Capades in Mexico and later with Ice Follies. After returning to the United States, she saw a sign with “Colored Trade Not Solicited” at the Pasadena Winter Gardens. She stated, “my uncle had newspaper articles written about it and passed them out everywhere until they finally let me in.”

Fairbanks coached singles and pairs, including Tiffany Chin, Billy Chapel, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi / Rudy Galindo, Tai Babilonia / Randy Gardner, Leslie Robinson, Michelle McCladdie, Richard Ewell, Debi Thomas, Atoy Wilson, and Jean Yuna. She also taught skating to the children of many celebrities. In 1997, she became the first African American inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in October 2001.

Fairbanks never married. She was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in 1997 and with acute leukemia in mid-2001. She died on September 29, 2001 at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California. She is interred in the ground at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California. Her grave is right at the beginning of the bridge to the Clark Mausoleum. Research more about black female skaters and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 10 1931- Benjamin Thonton

GM-FBF- Today’s Story is about something that generation x, the millennials and especially generation z doesn’t remember. The greatest generation and us baby boomers this was new to us and many of us still do not like to use it. It is a device that the military and business embraced as a form of modern communication. You will see that it was a black man that invented this technology. Learn and enjoy!

Remember – “I didn’t know how the world would take it but it seemed logical to me” – Benjamin Thornton

Today in our History – November 10, 1931: Benjamin Thornton received a patent for an Apparatus for Automatically recording Phone messages.

The answering machine is arguably the greatest asset to modern communication of the last century. While the telephone was important, one would have to be near it in order to receive and send vital messages. The answering machine changed all of that. With this incredible invention, you could receive communications regardless of whether you took the call first hand or not, and information could be distributed far more effectively. It is almost inconceivable to imagine a world without answering machines. We have all experienced the elation of good news, or the heartbreak of a breakup message. And all of this positivity comes down to the invention, an African American inventor who literally changed the way in which we communicate.

It was 1935, and the telephone had changed the way in which people communicated, did business, and thought about the world. There was one major shortcoming though – telephone owners would have to wait around for calls, and missed calls were permanently lost. Benjamin Thornton recognized this problem, and patented a recording system that allowed people to leave the kind of messages that we all do to this very day. Thanks to the inclusion of a recording device, the caller could leave a message for the phone owner, who could then play the message back, return a call, or jot down the information. It was really a revolution. But Thornton wasn’t done yet.
The etiquette around leaving voice messages had not been developed, and novice phone owners often forgot to give complete messages in their haste and excitement. For example, an urgent message could be left, but if the speaker did not include a time or date, the urgency would be lost, and the message would be rendered ineffective. To stop this from happening, Thornton included a clock mechanism that would alert people to the time that the missed call was made, and the message left. The test of invention is in the ability to endure, and the contribution of Thornton is the epitome of this quality. This is a phenomenal concept that we would never survive without. Thank you Benjamin Thornton!

When you do a search on who invented the automatic answering machine usually the names of Willy Muller or Mueller and Benjamin Thornton come up.

This device used to record phone messages while the receiver remains on the telephone has been referred as an ansafone, an answerphone, or just simply the automatic telephone answering device.

To confuse matters just a little more about who invented the answering machine we find the following pictures on a site called Recording History with this information to support the possibility that Thomas Alva Edison should receive credit for the invention.

“Edison recognized the need right away, developing a technology designed for telephone recording in 1877, merely months later than the announcement of the telephone in 1876. Unfortunately, his first telephone recorder did not work, but fortunately it could be used for other purposes. He called it the phonograph. “

Then in 1900 a Danish inventor named Valdemar Poulson invented the telegraphone. It worked in recording phone messages but not automatically. Edison answered back (no pun intended) in 1914 with a gadget called the Telescribe. Then in the 1920’s several inventors worked on wax cylinder concepts including Truman Steven who patented what could be considered legitimate answering machines.

In 1935 Willy Mueller a Swiss inventor commercialized an innovative invention to replace the old technology used in telephone recording devices. His answering machine was based on clock technology and could both record and send messages. It was however a huge device standing 3 feet in height. Meanwhile in the US Benjamin Thornton makes his contribution in 1936. Ipsophon was introduced in 1936 and worked on a magnetic tape concept. This was the Benjamin Thornton contribution.

Thornton’s patents for the answering machine
• 1931 patent # 1831331 – apparatus for automatically recording phone messages
• 1932 patent # 1843849 – apparatus for automatically transmitting messages over a telephone line
Research more about black Inventors and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 7 1989- David Dinkins

GM – FBF – I hope that you had an opportunity to vote and if you didn’t shame on you. Today’s story is about a man who hails from Trenton, NJ and rose up to become New York City’s 1st Black Mayor, Enjoy!

Remember – “ The sign on my city says “Trenton Make the World Takes” and I am here NY” – Mayor David Dinkins

Today in our History – November 7, 1989 – David Dinkins becomes NYC’s first black mayor.

In 1989, David N. Dinkins defeated his challenger, former federal prosecutor Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani, to become the first African American mayor of New York City.

David Norman Dinkins was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1927. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and served briefly in World War II. After the war, he attended Howard University, graduating with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1950. Dinkins moved to New York City and received a law degree from the Brooklyn Law School in 1956. Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
David Dinkins’s political career began when he joined the Carver Club headed by a charismatic politician, J. Raymond Jones who was known as the Harlem Fox. Dinkins befriended three up and coming black New York politicians; Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, Sr., and Percy Sutton.

In 1965, Dinkins won his first electoral office, a seat in the New York State Assembly. Shortly afterwards Dinkins was offered the position of deputy mayor of New York by then Mayor Abraham Beam. Dinkins could not accept the post when it was revealed he had not paid income taxes for the past four years.

Dinkins did manage to secure the position of city clerk for New York which he held from 1975 to 1985. On his third run for the office, Dinkins was elected Manhattan’s Borough President in 1985. In 1989, Dinkins decided to run for Mayor of New York. He surprised political observers by defeating three time incumbent Mayor Ed Koch in the Democratic primaries. Despite facing a strong Republican challenger in former federal prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani, Dinkins narrowly won the mayor’s race.

Dinkins presided over a city well known for its municipal crises. His term, however, was particularly turbulent because an unprecedented crack epidemic and the resulting drug wars swept through the city. Especially affected were the impoverished African American and Puerto Rican neighborhoods that formed the core of Dinkins’s constituency. The crack epidemic also spawned a crime wave that exacerbated racial tensions.

Two episodes particularly tested the Mayor’s ability to be an effective municipal leader. In 1989, shortly after Dinkins took office, a young white woman was allegedly raped and brutalized by marauding black youth in Central Park. Months later a black teenager was murdered when he ventured into a white ethnic Brooklyn neighborhood. In both episodes Dinkins calmed racial tensions and earned an image as a peacemaker. Although Dinkins presided over a decrease in crime in the city, balanced the city budget by turning a $1.8 billion dollar deficit into a $200 million surplus, and maintained racial peace after the Rodney King verdict sparked rioting in a number of cities across the nation, he never completely shed his image as an ineffective political leader. The 1993 election proved a political rematch of 1989. This time, however, Rudolph Giuliani narrowly defeated David Dinkins for the Mayor’s office.

Former Mayor Dinkins accepted a professorship at Columbia University’s Center for Urban Research and Policy in 1994. Although he has endorsed various political candidates and clashed with fellow New Yorker and Presidential aspirant Al Shapton, Dinkins has not sought elective office. Research more about Black males in politics and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 4 1872- Pinckney Benton Stewart

GM – FBF – Today’s story is about the first Black man to sit as Governor in one of the U.S. States. This man was from Macon, GA. but found his way to the streets of New Orleans and to fame. Just like Revered S. Howard Woodson who sat in as Governor of New Jersey when as Lt. Governor the circumstances were right. This Black leader of reconstruction, civil rights, homeland defense and business. Will always be remembered as the first to sit as a Black Governor. Enjoy!

Remember – “A large number of white people feel just as sad as we do, but unfortunately for them, they dare not come out and express their opinion. They are ground down in a slavery worse than ours. They are slaves to a mistaken public opinion.” – P. B. S. Pinchback

Today in our History – November 4, 1872 – Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was elected congressman at large from Louisiana.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback was born on May 10, 1837 to parents William Pinchback, a successful Virginia planter, and Eliza Stewart, his former slave. The younger Pinchback was born in Macon, Georgia during the family’s move from Virginia to their new home in Holmes County, Mississippi. In Mississippi, young Pinchback grew up in comfortable surroundings on a large plantation.

At the age of nine, he and his older brother, Napoleon, were sent by his parents to Ohio to receive a formal education at Cincinnati’s Gilmore School. Pinchback’s education was cut short, however, when he returned to Mississippi in 1848 because his father had become seriously ill. When his father died shortly after his return, his mother fled to Cincinnati with her children for fear of being re-enslaved in Mississippi. Shortly thereafter, Napoleon became mentally ill, leaving 12 year old Pinckney as sole-provider for his mother and four siblings.

Pinchback found work as a cabin boy on a canal boat and worked his way up to become a steward on the riverboats which ran the Ohio, Mississippi, and Red Rivers. He was taken under the wing of professional gamblers who worked the riverboats, and soon became a skilled swindler himself. During these years, he sent as much money as possible to Cincinnati to help support his mother and his siblings. In 1860 when he was 23, Pinchback married Nina Hawthorne, a 16 year-old from Memphis, Tennessee with whom he would have four children. When the Civil War began the following year, Pinchback ran the Confederate blockade on the Mississippi River to reach Union-occupied New Orleans, Louisiana where he raised a company of black volunteers to fight for the North. In 1863, after being passed over for promotion a number of times, Pinchback resigned from service.

At the close of the war, he moved his family to Alabama to test out their new freedom. After encountering dreadful levels of prejudice in Alabama, Pinchback moved his family to New Orleans.

Upon settling in New Orleans, Pinchback organized the Fourth Ward Republican Club, and was a member of the delegation that established a new constitution for the state of Louisiana in 1868. Later that year, he was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, and subsequently became the institution’s president pro tempore. In 1871, the Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, Oscar Dunn, died of pneumonia and Pinchback was chosen by the state senate to succeed Dunn. He served as lieutenant governor until the winter of 1872 when impeachment proceedings were initiated against Governor Henry Clay Warmouth. From December 9, 1872, to January 13, 1873 Pinchback served as acting governor of Louisiana, making him the first person of African descent to serve as governor of any state.

Before ascending to the office of governor, Pinchback had run for both a U.S Senate seat and a seat in the U.S. Congress simultaneously in 1872. He won both contests but was barred from taking his congressional post when his opponent contested the election and was awarded the position. Pinchback was denied his seat in the senate as well as a result of charges of election fraud.

In 1887, at age 50, Pinchback decided to embark on a new career and entered law school at New Orleans’ Straight College, where he graduated in 1889. He moved his family to New York City, New York in the 1890s where he served as U.S. Marshall from 1892 to 1895, before relocating again to Washington, D.C. Pinchback remained in Washington and was active in politics until his death on December 21, 1921. Research more about blacks in politics and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 3 1992- Carol Moseley Braun

GM – FBF – Today’s story coincides with the flavor of today which is the elections on this coming Tuesday, so I hope that you have early voted or have plans to vote on Tuesday. This young lady was born in Chicago, Illinois, came up through the city’s school system and graduated from the University of Illinois. Worked for the people in many aspects of government work and went on to become the first female Senator elected from Illinois and the first African American woman in the U.S. Senate. Enjoy!

Remember – “It’s not impossible for a woman – a Black woman – to become President.” Carol Moseley Braun

Today in our History – November 3, 1992 – Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.

Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate, was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 16, 1947. She attended the Chicago Public Schools and received a degree from the University of Illinois in 1969. She earned her degree from the University of Chicago Law School in 1972.

Moseley Braun served as assistant prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago from 1972 to 1978. In the latter year she was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives and served in that body for ten years. During her tenure Moseley Braun made educational reform a priority. She also became the first African American assistant majority leader in the history of the Illinois legislature. Moseley Braun returned to Chicago in 1988 to serve as Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

Capitalizing on the public furor over the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy and in particular the way in which Hill was treated by U.S. Senators, Carol Moseley Braun upset incumbent Senator Alan Dixon in the Illinois Democratic Primary in 1992 and went on to become the first female Senator elected from Illinois and the first African American woman in the U.S. Senate. During her term in the U.S. Senate (1992-1998) Moseley Braun focused on education issues. She served on the Senate Finance, Banking and Judiciary Committee; the Small Business Committee; and the Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

In 1998, Moseley Braun was defeated for re-election in a campaign marred by allegations of illegal campaign donations during her 1992 campaign, although she was never formally charged with misconduct. Moseley Braun was also hurt by her business ties to Nigerian dictator Sami Abacha. After her 1998 defeat President Bill Clinton nominated Moseley Braun to the post of U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, a post she held until 2001.

Late in 2003 Moseley Braun announced her candidacy for the Democratic Nomination for President. However, she failed to attract financial support and withdrew from the race on January 14, 2004.

After teaching briefly at Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, Moseley Braun returned to Chicago where she now lives. Research more about black female political figures and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

October 31 1950- Earl ” Big Cat” Lloyd

GM – FBF – Today’s story is a man who was a trailblazer because he did what no other had done before him. He was the first Black man to play in the NBA and the sad thing about it a lot of basketball players who are playing or watching the professionals, college or High Schools never heard of him.

The excuse is that basketball wasn’t as popular back then as it is now but that is no excuse for not knowing who paved the way for the rest. Learn and enjoy and pass the story on.

Remember – “Here I am, a young black kid — from kindergarten right through graduating from college, I never had a white classmate. And you’re born and raised in the den of segregation; you’ve been treated third-class all your life. So you tend to believe that you’re inferior. And when you walk into a pro training camp … the first thing you ask yourself, very quietly, [is] ‘Do I belong here?’ And at training camp, where it’s on, and you start scrimmaging these guys and playing against them, you know — then the bulb lights up, and tells you that you belong.”- Earl “Big Cat” Lloyd

Today in our History – October 31, 1950 – Earl ‘Big Cat’ Lloyd became the 1st African American to play in an NBA game.

Earl “Big Cat” Lloyd, who broke color barriers on the basketball court, is being remembered for more than the game following his death this week at the age of 86.
“The one thing that I think we all really realize when we had the opportunity to meet Earl Lloyd is that, more than a basketball player, he was a great human being. He was a true gentleman,” said Brian Hemphill, president of West Virginia State University.

Lloyd played for West Virginia State in Kanawha County beginning in 1947 when it was called West Virginia State College. During his sophomore year, the Yellow Jackets went 33-0. He lead State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships.

“The best teachers I ever had were those guys,” Lloyd said of his State teams during a guest appearance last year on MetroNews “Hotline.” “They took care of me and I said, ‘Look, this is a once in a lifetime shot, so you better do the best you can.’”

His best got him to the NBA. Lloyd said he found out the Washington Capitols had drafted him from a classmate who stopped him on the Institute campus to tell him that she’d heard it on the radio.

“The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs,” Adam Silver, NBA commissioner, said in a statement. “Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated. He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class and pride.”

Lloyd’s first 1950 game for the Washington Capitals was scheduled ahead of those for Sweetwater Clifton and Chuck Cooper, two other black men who were drafted the same year as Lloyd.

Lloyd later played for the Syracuse Nationals and Detroit Pistons.
In addition to being the first black man to ever play in an NBA game, he was the first black man to win an NBA championship and the first black man to be named an NBA assistant coach and bench coach.

He returned to West Virginia State, his Alma Mater, last year when the Earl Francis Lloyd Lobby and a statue of him were unveiled at the new West Virginia State University Convocation Center.

“We had an opportunity to have him back on campus last year and really acknowledge him and thank him for all that he gave West Virginia State, but also all that he gave for anyone that he ever encountered,” Hemphill said.

Several NBA stars were part of the event. “They all acknowledged and paid tribute to the person who started it all, who opened the door for each of them,” said Hemphill on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Research more about Black Basketball Athletes and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

October 15 1890- The Alabama Penny Savings Bank Founded

GM – FBF – Today let’s remind you that blacks are still operating in American. It was challenging for you to Invest in a bank at all during this time in America. The people of America in the state of Alabama did take advantage of this. Enjoy!

Remember – “The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky–seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” – W. W. Cox

The Alabama Penny Savings Bank, founded October 15,

1890, was the first African-American owned and operated financial institution in Birmingham, and one of the first three in the United States. One of the organizers of the Penny Savings Bank was 16th Street Baptist Church pastor William Pettiford, who provided the initial $2,000 in capital. Other officers included physician Ulysses Mason, Indianola banker W. W. Cox, and an unnamed saloonkeeper. In its early years the bank’s officers did not take salaries, helping the bank survive the 1893 panic which spelled failure for other institutions.

Educator Booker T. Washington said this about the institution in an address given in Birmingham on January 1, 1900:
“I wish to congratulate you among other things upon the excellent and far reaching work that has been done in Birmingham and vicinity through the wide and helpful influence of the Alabama Penny Savings Bank. Few organizations of any description in this country among our people have helped us more, not only in cultivating the habit of saving, but in bringing to us the confidence and respect of the white race. The people who save money, who make themselves intelligent, and live moral lives, are the ones who are going to control the destinies of the country.”

The bank’s first building, a three story stone and brick structure, was located at 217 18th Street North. In 1913 the bank constructed a new six-story building one block north, now known as the Pythian Temple. It was built by the black-owned Windham Construction and some have identified its style with the work of African American architect Wallace Rayfield, who kept an office in the building for a time. The bank did provide financing for many of the homes that Rayfield designed for Birmingham’s black professionals.

In 1915 both black-owned banks operating in the city, the Alabama Penny Savings Bank and the Prudential Savings Bank, founded by Ulysses Mason in 1910, were faced with bankruptcies. Washington helped to coordinate assistance in the form of secured loans and a last-minute effort to effect a merger. Later that year the Penny Savings Bank closed. The building was purchased by the Grand Lodge of the Knights of Pythias, and. since then, their building has been known as the Pythian Temple. Research more about Black banks in American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

October 14 1834- Henry Blair

GM – FBF – Today’s story is about an Inventor Henry Blair was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, in 1807. Blair was an African-American farmer who patented two devices designed to help boost agricultural productivity. In so doing, he became the second African American to receive a United States patent. Little is known about Blair’s personal life or family background. He died in 1860.

Remember – “The short successes that can be gained in a brief time and without difficulty are not worth much.” – Henry Blair

Today In Our History – October 14, 1834 – Henry Blair receives a U.S. Patent.

Henry Blair was born in Glen Ross, Maryland, in 1807. Little is known about Blair’s personal life or family background. It is clear that Blair was a farmer who invented new devices to assist in the planting and harvesting of crops. Although he came of age before the Emancipation Proclamation, Blair was apparently not enslaved and operated an independent business.

A successful farmer, Blair patented two inventions that helped him to boost his productivity. He received his first patent—for a corn planter—on October 14, 1834. The planter resembled a wheelbarrow, with a compartment to hold the seed and rakes dragging behind to cover them. This device enabled farmers to plant their crops more efficiently and enable a greater total yield. Blair signed the patent with an “X,” indicating that he was illiterate.

Blair obtained his second patent, for a cotton planter, on August 31, 1836. This invention functioned by splitting the ground with two shovel-like blades that were pulled along by a horse or other draft animal. A wheel-driven cylinder behind the blades deposited seed into the freshly plowed ground. The design helped to promote weed control while distributing seeds quickly and evenly.

In claiming credit for his two inventions, Henry Blair became only the second African American to hold a United States patent. While Blair appears to have been a free man, the granting of his patents is not evidence of his legal status. At the time Blair’s patents were granted, United States law allowed patents to be granted to both free and enslaved men. In 1857, a slave owner challenged the courts for the right to claim credit for a slave’s inventions. Since an owner’s slaves were his property, the plaintiff argued, anything in the possession of these slaves was the owner’s property as well.

The following year, patent law changed so as to exclude slaves from patent eligibility. In 1871, after the Civil War, the law was revised to grant all American men, regardless of race, the right to patent their inventions. Women were not included in this intellectual-property protection. Blair followed only Thomas Jennings as an African-American patent holder. Extant records indicate that Jennings received a patent in 1821 for the “dry scouring of clothes.” Though the patent record contains no mention of Jennings’s race, his background has been substantiated through other sources. Research more about Black Inventors and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

September 30 1975- Virgie M. Ammons

GM – FBF – The story that we will look at today is about a Black female Inventor that you may have never heard of from a state that most people don’t think of going to. I lived and worked there for two years in Morgantown, a University town and the county seat called Monongalia and found the state charming and the people kind and God fearing.

This Inventor took something that was an everyday concern for many people in the state and parts of the nation and discovered a way to prevent it. Like many black inventors there is no record that a manufacturer picked up the patented Invention and used it and it was hard to find out more about this Inventor’s life. Enjoy!

Remember – “You and I may go to Harvard, we may go to York of England, or go to Al Ahzar in Cairo and get degrees from all of these great seats of learning. But we will never be recognized until we recognize our women.” ― Elijah Muhammad

Today in our History – September 30, 1975 – Virgie M. Ammons invented the Fireplace Damper Actuating Tool.

Virgie M. Ammons was born on Dec. 29, 1908, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. At a young age, her family relocated to West Virginia, where she spent the rest of her life. Ammons was a self-employed caretaker and a Muslim woman by faith, attending services in Temple Hills.

Little is known about the life of Virgie Ammons. Ammons filed her patent on August 6, 1974, at which time she was living in Eglon, West Virginia.

Fireplace Damper Actuating Tool – Patent US 3,908,633
A fireplace damper actuating tool is a tool that is used to open and close the damper on a fireplace. It keeps the damper from opening or fluttering in the wind. If you have a fireplace or stove, you may be familiar with the sound of a fluttering damper.

A damper is an adjustable plate that fits in the flue of a stove or the chimney of a fireplace. It helps control the draft into the stove or fireplace. Dampers could be a plate that slides across the air opening, or it could be fixed in place in the pipe or flue and turned so the angle allows more or less air flow.
In the days when cooking was done on a stove that was powered by burning wood or coal, adjusting the flue was a way of controlling the temperature.

Virgie Ammons may be have been familiar with these stoves, given her date of birth. She may also have lived in an area where electric or gas stoves were not common until later in her life. We have no details as to what her inspiration was for the fireplace damper actuating tool.

With a fireplace, opening the damper allows more air to be drawn into the fireplace from the room and convey the heat up the chimney.

More air flow can often result in more flames, but also in losing more heat rather than warming the room.
The patent abstract says Ammons’ damper actuating tool addressed the problem of fireplace dampers that flutter and make noise when gusty winds affected the chimney Some dampers do not remain fully shut because they have to be light enough in weight so the operating lever can open them easily. This makes small differences in air pressure between the room and the upper chimney draw them open. She was concerned that even a slightly open damper could cause a significant loss of heat in winter, and could even result in loss of coolness in summer. Both would be a waste of energy.
Her actuating tool allowed the damper to be closed and held closed. She noted that when not in use, the tool could be stored next to the fireplace.No information was found as to whether her tool was manufactured and marketed.

Virgie M. Ammons, 91, Eglon, WV, died July 12, 2000, as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Aurora, WV. She was a daughter of the late Samuel and Mary (Jones) Claggett. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Charles Ammons, and three brothers, Joseph, Thomas, and Eugene Claggett. Survivors include one daughter, Sharon Ammons, Washington, DC and one sister, Rowena Leva Huggins, Frederick, MD. She was a self-employed caretaker. She was a Muslim by faith and attended church in Temple Hills. Cremation services were provided by the Browning Funeral Home in Kingwood, WV. Research more about this great Black Woman Inventor and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!