African-American Inventors and Achievers Exhibit at HHS
Curated by Shirley Jones-Harris
The “Tribute to African-American Inventors and Achievers” reflects Shirley Jones-Harris yearning to mount a culturally enriching exhibition that fosters public awareness of the countless contributions to a better life for all peoples everywhere made by African-Americans.
She is frequently asked if Blacks were really the first to invent the artifacts and processes represented in the exhibition. The search for “pioneering” inventors has never been the principle focus of her labors. Her purpose was to document the many significant inventive contributions to the common good attributable to African-Americans, especially during the 1800’s – a period in our nation’s history when it was difficult for many people of color to realize opportunities, or to receive recognition for the contributions they did, in fact, make.
It is her personal observation that it is of relatively little consequence whether African-Americans were “the actual originators” of this, that, or the other; few inventors are. By and large, most inventions are something built on what is already known and already in existence through development of “improved” means and methods that lessen our burden or otherwise brighten our lives.
Her research also reveals that inventions do not easily move from mind to marketplace. Official approval of an invention may take years. Inventors may die or have their invention expropriated before their dreams see the light of day. In even the best circumstances, the journey from conception to application can be a long and trying one. But, more than a few African-Americans have successfully made that journey – acting irresistibly on the innate human ability to envision and the human urge to create.
This exhibition is her endeavor to broaden the awareness of all races, everywhere, with respect to the very substantial place occupied by the African-American inventor, in the ongoing march of progress. As an educator, it is her fervent hope that this exhibition will also inspire our young to engage their imaginations to the fullest and to arouse, at least in some, that innovative and creative impulse that truly lives in each of us.
The exhibition was brought to Hastings High School by the PTSA.