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A tribute to African American men and women

Monday 21 February 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in On the Street, Opinion


A tribute to African American men and women
The Selma to Montgomery march was a key part of the civil rights movement for African Americans in 1965. PHOTO CREDIT: WILLIAM LOVELACE/GETTY IMAGES/22022007

February is black history month and a tribute to African American men and women who have made significant contributions to America and the rest of the world in the fields of science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and many other fields.

It’s celebrated now due to the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14. Lincoln, the 16th US president, is famous for his Gettysburg Address abolishing slavery. Douglass was a leader in the abolitionist movement which sought to end slavery. Both men advocated equal justice and rights, as well as citizenship for blacks.

There are a number of things that were invented by American Blacks that we use and are most likely unaware of like – potato chips, gas mask, protective mailbox, blood bank, three light traffic light, refrigerated trucks, electret microphone, automatic gear shift, modern ironing board, home security system, automatic elevator doors, colour IBM PC monitor, super soaker water gun,  tissue holder, clothes dryer, folding chair, wooden golf tees, ice cream scooper, lawnmower, lawn sprinkler, modern toilet, the mop, reversible baby stroller, drag queens, rotary engine, stainless steel pads, torpedo discharger, disposable syringe, corn planter, cotton planter, street sweepers, horseshoe, train alarm, radiation detector, image convertor, automatic fishing reel, printing press, envelope seal, laser fuels, pressure cooker, window cleaner, portable pencil sharpener, fire extinguisher, rocket catapult, hair brush, heating furnace, hand stamp, sugar refinement, cellular phone, curtain rod, uranalysis machine, door stop, door knob, modern guitar, motor, lantern, bicycle frame, wrench, egg beater, air conditioning unit, internal combustion engine, refrigeration controls, bottle caps, electric lamp, hydraulic shock absorber, fire escape ladder, electric cut off switch, relay instrument, telephone system, roller coaster, auto air brake, helicopter, pace maker, programmable remote controllers, video commander, multi-stage rocket, and the multi-players playing video games.

Some of these inventions one could overlook their importance. The ironing board for instance isn’t one of my favourites after years of slaving over one every Sunday while watching the afternoon movie taking the wrinkles out of school uniforms, work shirts, sports shorts and pillow cases, back in the day when it was important.  I however have lauded and hoarded the spring collection of 2016 where designers brought in the pre-wrinkled clothing range, not messy and inelegant but thoughtful and chic creases. Yeah, that’s me.

Potato chips never meant I could only eat one of and then stop. These came about as a response to a diner who didn’t like the fries George Crum was serving at Moon Lake Lodge Resort in Saratoga Springs New York in 1853. The diner complained the fries were too thick and not crunchy enough. In a rage Crum set out to teach the diner a lesson, so he sliced the potato as thinly as he could, fried it to a crisp and added a sprinkle of salt on top, he served the pile of crispy chips to the diner who was immediately impressed and so the potato chip was born.

France and the United States are the largest consumers of chips in the world. In the US one company Lays whose parent company is Pepsi, sell over 200 million bags of chips which is over a billion dollars in sales. Pepsi also bought out the NZ company Bluebird in 2006 for $245 million.

Golf invented by the Scots in the late middle-ages has attracted the interesting and arresting to its addiction. In 1899, Boston dentist Dr George Grant, frustrated with the tedious and messy process of trying to make a stand for the golf ball out of wet sand, invented the first wooden tee which was sturdy at the bottom but had a flexible soft rubber cup at the top. He never capitalised on his invention instead he made them for himself and handed them out to friends and family. It wasn’t until the 1920s that another dentist William Lowell manufactured a tee, painted it red and called it the reddy tee that it became popular. In 1991 the US Golf Association finally gave Grant recognition for his contribution to the game of golf. It is a strange game, it seems you yell fore, hit a 7 and write down a 5.

In 1898 Lyda D. Newman invented an improved hairbrush with synthetic bristles to last longer and separated wide enough to allow for easy combing, and allowed for easy cleaning. The original combs found 5000 years ago were used to detangle hair and remove bugs and lice. The evolution of combs from bone and ivory to wood and animal hairs were for the same purpose. In all my research it showed nothing on the evolution of the flat paddle hair brush as a child disciplinary tool of the 1960s to 1970s although I can attest it did exist, was effective but is no longer popular.