The exhibition - The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, 1619-1930 - focused on outstanding black inventors, as well as anonymous innovators, who, as slaves, craftsmen and workers, made important contributions to the United States. Included are actual inventions, such an Jan Matzelieger's "shoe-lasting" machine, which revolutionized shoe production, and Garrett Morgan's safety hood and automatic traffic signal, forerunners of the modern gas mask and traffic stop light. The exhibition examines such topics as African influences on Colonial technology and how the slave system stymied technological innovation. Individual inventors such as Lewis Temple, Elijah McCoy, James Forten, and Norbert Rillieux are profiled. Also featured are artifacts from some of the expositions of the late 19th-century, which celebrated this new surge of black inventiveness. The exhibition was curated by Portia James and organized by the Anacostia Museum. It was held at the museum from May 1989 - May 1990.
During the audio tour of exhibition, The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, narrator Robert Hall presents contributions made by black inventors to American technology from 1619 to 1930. Inventions and innovations by Benjamin Banneker, Elijah McCoy, Lewis Latimer, James Forten, Lewis Temple, Norbert Rillieux, Ned (slave), Benjamin Montgomery, George Washington Carver, Solomon Harper, Madame C.J. Walker, and Marjorie Joyner, among others, are highlighted. This history, challenges, and successes of patent licensing for inventions created by black inventors, including the question of patents for inventions created by slaves, are discussed.
Audio tour narration. Part of The Real McCoy: Afro-American Invention and Innovation 1619-1930 Audiovisual Materials. Undated.
The Real McCoy: Audio Tour with Robert Hall, Exhibition Records AV03-026, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
African American women
African American inventors
Patent laws and legislation
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Some items are not accessible due to obsolete format and playback machinery restrictions. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu