Black history is a study that may escape students when preoccupied with Valentine’s Day festivities. There is no excuse to neglect this February tradition now that John Carroll University has brought a special exhibit, “Reflections in Black: African-American History on Wheels,” to campus.
Its main purpose is to educate and inspire others by sharing little known information about the contributions of African-Americans throughout history.
It is a traveling exhibit founded in 1998 by Clifton J. Brown. According to Brown, the exhibit is meant to “celebrate the accomplishments that brilliant African-Americans have made to world civilization.”
Accomplishments of African-American inventors, war heroes, sports heroes, singers, musicians and political leaders are on display.The exhibit is located in the entrance of the Grasselli library near the reference section.
John A. Burr made it easy for people to trim their lawn when he invented the lawn mower in 1899. Debrille M. Ratchford allowed anyone to be a couch potato when he invented the programmable remote control. Thomas W. Steward made a contribution to household cleaning products when he invented the mop in 1892.
One invention that is used literally everyday is the refrigerator. In 1891, John Standard patented his new and improved refrigerator. He paved the way for the high tech refrigerator that is used today. Standard also patented a design for the oil stove.
Though Standard did not initially invent the refrigerator, his contributions were dually important because he met the new needs of people and contributed to the progression of science and electronics.
As soon as Standard made his discoveries, he patented his work. A patent represents something that has not been done before and most utility patents are issued for what is called an “improvement.” Improvements are the work of inventors and often it is the improved design that succeeds in the market. Another item that was on exhibit was the desktop pencil sharpener used by millions of teachers everyday.
The desktop pencil sharpener was invented by John Lee Love in 1897. John Lee Love claimed that it really wasn’t all that plain because it could also be designed in a very ornate fashion and could be used as a desk ornament or paperweight. Four years before he invented the pencil sharpener, Love invented the “Plasterer’s Hawk,” which was used to spread plaster or mortar.
“I think it’s awesome that they have this exhibit. I have learned so much about Black History,” said sophomore Kate Glass.
Junior Megan Teter said, “Going to the exhibit gave me insight into things that I never knew about everyday ordinary objects and their significance and accomplishments for black history.”
Everywhere you turn you experience a little bit of Black History through the inventions that African Americans have made. Whether it is mowing the lawn or watching TV a black inventor can be attributed. The exhibit in Grasselli is definitely worth seeing. It is fascinating and a wonderful way to celebrate Black History Month.