(music) (mumbling) - Girl, what?
- Does today feel weird to you?
- Yeah, when I woke up I didn't have a bed.
My mattress was just like on the floor.
- Me too.
We used to have beds right?
- Why are you folding wet clothes?
- I don't know, there's no dryer.
(car crash) - We can't shift gears.
- Oh no!
It's a day without black inventions.
- okay, that's enough You get it, we get it - Black people invented stuff end of episode?
- No, there's more to it - Like what?
- Slavery (music) - Okay, explain - Here's the thing Evie poo - Don't call me that - All about the benjamins - Money?
- Right, sure, that's what I meant.
Money, as in we couldn't make any for 250 years and I'm not talking about picking cotton.
- Thank God - I'm talking about not owning our intellect See black people been equal to white people in every way.
- Preach - Didn't lose their intellect just because they were in bondage.
We were inventing solutions to every day problems but the one problem black people couldn't solve was the discrimination that made it impossible for them to patent and profit off their inventions.
Take for instance Ned.
Ned was a slave in Mississippi - Oh God, poor Ned - But he found a way to make his cotton picking easier - I thought you said no cotton picking.
In 1857 Ned invented a very effective new cotton scraper.
- Go Ned!
- So his Master, Oscar Stewart, decided to patent it.
He didn't invent anything.
- Exactly, so the patent office said nope.
- Good - But was it though?
Because Oscar just started selling it without a patent.
- No he didn't.
- He sure did and he got away with it by making sure that every ad said clearly that it was his slave Ned's invention.
- That's something I guess?
- Wait, I'm not done.
The ad also said that Ned's invention proved that slavery was good for black people and does not, as the abolishonists said, dwarf the mind of the negro.
- Well, this negro is about to dwarf him.
- Pre black people were inventing things all the time.
- That's right!
- Like Henry Boyd, he was born into slavery in 1802 and he purchased his freedom in 1826.
- I am so proud of him.
- Me too.
He was a carpenter and he invented a corded bed with wooden rails connected to a headboard and a footboard.
- And he was free so ka-ching?
- No because he was still ka-black.
He knew that his patent would likely be rejected and his invention might be stolen.
So he decided to partner with a white craftsman and have him apply for the patent.
- That's only half the benjamins.
- Messed up but partnering with the white guy also made it possible for him to have a company with black and white employees.
By law free black people could not employ white people and since there weren't many free blacks to employ it was almost impossible to build your business without owning slaves which no, no way.
- Yikes, so okay do you have any good stories?
- No, not really - Well, I do.
Meet Benjamin Montgomery.
- Oh tell us about the Benjamin.
- Wait, was that was you meant, nevermind Benjamin was a slave in Mississippi and in the 1850's he invented a steam boat propeller especially designed for shallow water.
- Ooooh, shallow, I love shallow - Yeah, shallow was good because shallow water was where boats carried small necessities like food - Oooh food I love food.
- Right, and steamboats were getting stuck in the water all the time delaying the deliveries.
Well, Montgomery applied for a patent and it was - Rejected?
- Yes, rejected because he was a slave.
So his Master who happened to be Joseph Davis, Jefferson Davis' brother - Okay, weird coincidence - Applied to patent it and that was also - Rejected - Why are you so excited?
- I love life!
- Yes, it was rejected because he didn't invent it.
But that's okay because Montgomery started selling it anyway.
- Bold move man - Joseph Davis had this deal with his slaves where they could work for themselves and keep the cash if they paid him for the time they would have spent in his fields.
- Uh, thanks?
- So Montgomery sold his propellers giving a lion shared his owner til after the Civil War when he was free.
- Take that Davis brothers - And then he sold it for himself still without patent protection and was able to amass a sizable fortune.
- Go Ben, it's your birthday - That's not a thing anymore Azie - Oh, I think it is.
- Back to me I got one more.
Benjamin Bradley do we have time?
- Anything for Benjamin - Born a slave in 1830 this Benjamin not unlike the other had a natural skill and curiosity toward math which he learned secretly from his master's kids.
- Aw, those kids were bad.
- Sometimes being bad is good.
His master rented him out as an office worker to the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland.
- Uh, I'm sorry, what?
- He was essentially an employee of the Naval Academy but his pay went to his master.
- Oh that sucks - Well, slavery Professors at the academy were so impressed with his scientific mind that they made him an assistant in the science department.
There Bradley developed the first model of the steam engine for a warship.
- War, what is it good for?
- Making bank.
Of course he couldn't patent the engine cause he was a slave but he sold it anyway.
- Like Benjamins all want to do.
- And the money from the sales allowed him to purchase his freedom.
- Well, he earned it - Freedom isn't earned Azie everyone is born free.
- You are so wise Ev - I know right?
- Hi Nadia, thanks for talking to us Hi, thanks for having me - So, how difficult is it to obtain a patent and why do they even matter?
- so it's very difficult to obtain patent simply because there's not really any data collected once you're applying for a patent.
So, while that may seem like that seems like a fair process unfortunately it doesn't allow for public policy or analysts or anyone to really understand who are creating these patents and how are we attracting more diverse applicants as well as how we make opportunities for there to be a diverse pool of people participating in the patent making economy.
So, as we stand today there are about an estimated 8 trillion dollars being made from the US Patent economy so that's about one third of the US GDP.
So that alone breaks down how important patent making is not only to you know, America being progressive or the United States being the forefront of innovation but also in terms of impacting our economy.
- So we figured out that black people had to navigate a difficult patent system throughout history, how does that affect the US as a whole today?
- This system now contributes greatly to our US economy.
Not only in money making but also in terms of providing a substantial amount of job opportunities.
So about 27 million jobs come directly from IP intensive industries.
And then if you break those numbers down even further you see that about 30% of all employment in the US actually comes from the patent economy so it's very important that the US makes sure that there is an opportunity for everyone to participate in this so that way, again, we are staying ahead in terms of innovation.
- So who are some of your current faves out here inventing?
- Lonnie Johnson who invented the Super Soaker water gun.
I think we've all played with one of those.
As a kid they were really great devices to keep you cool.
And then you have Bishop Curry at 10 years old who invented a device that helped preventing infants from dying in hot cars, when cars get too warm.
I thought that was, I was in awe of that.
I remember always ranting and raving about Madam C.J.
Walker who created the first successful hair care products for African American women.
- Thanks Nadia, bye.
- No problem, let me know if you need anything else.
- What invention are you waiting to come along?
How would it help you?
- I like that thing in Star Trek where you just type in what food you want and then it just comes out.
- I'm thinking more like a device that will de-tangle your hair for you.
- Oh no, that's amazing.
- I'm saying.
- Well, that's all we got today - Wait, no Benjamin Bannacker - No time - Benjamin Franklin - He was white.
- Subscribe, follow, social media etc we owe a lot to black inventors and so instead of our usual credits we'd like to offer them the credit they so often did not receive.
Roll em (music) - Thanks Jim Oh my God, I love Super Soakers - All right, this is getting ridiculous - Cell phone technology oh my God, take a nap black people stop this being prolific stuff - Ambitious - Okay, black people