Online Chat with Lady Sala Shabazz
Wednesday, Feb. 10, 1999
Ever wonder who invented the traffic light? The gas mask? Lady Sala Shabazz, curator of the Black Inventions Museum was online live to answer these questions and many others. The Black Inventions Museum is a traveling exhibition featuring artifacts and inventions created by people of African descent.
Shabazz is also the author of the "Best of the Little Known Black History Facts," a compilation of African American trivia.Read the transcript of the discussion below.
Woodbridge, VA: While listening to the "TJMS" today, the little black known history fact was spoken on Booker T. Washington. My question is, what does the letter "T" stands for in his name?
washingtonpost.com: For our readers who don't know, Lady Sala's "little known black history facts" are featured daily on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" (TJMS), a syndicated radio program (ABC radio networks).
Lady Sala Shabazz: Listen to the show on Friday to find out.
Washington, DC: I am developing a multimedia presentation on the contributions of African-Americans to American Transportation. I've found some good information on Garrett A. Morgan and Elijah McCoy, but little else. I'm a bit stymied as to where to look for more on this subject. Can you recommend some good sources of comprehensive information? Thank you.
Lady Sala Shabazz: There is a book written by Charles Gibbs called "Black Inventors from Africa to America." He covers 2 million years of invention and innovation. I'm working on a publication and one of the segments deals with transportation.
soperton, ga: where did you learn to re-invent history. Perhaps the same country that gave you the title "lady"
Lady Sala Shabazz: I am not reinventing history. I have just uncovered things that have not before been known to the general public because of prejudice and bias. My information is available in the public library. Many people stop at the immediate source such as an encyclopedia and don't research as I have.
Alexandria, VA: Why is it that so few people (both white and black) are aware of the incredible history and accomplishments of black people? Everyone seems to think (if they even think about it at all) that it begins and ends with George Washington Carver.
Lady Sala Shabazz: Unfortunately, the individuals who are commissioned to write text books many times exhibited prejudice and omitted other historical information. In an effort to cover large spans of time, they have briefed history and left out so many other important facts and that's something that many people have not been aware of for as long since school districts have been established. That's why we have libraries to house that kind of information.
Washington, D.C.: Do you have any information on a black biologist named Dorothy McClendon (sp?) ?
Lady Sala Shabazz: No, I don't but you're welcome to forward it to me. I am always uncovering information and you're welcome to contact me at a later date, but at this time I don't.
Silver Spring, Md: Are these facts, and your information on Black inventors compiled into books, and if so where can I purchase them?
Lady Sala Shabazz: Yes, they can be purchased at certain African American bookstores and they can also be found in the library.
The Smithsonian has a book called the "Real McCoy" by Portia James. Another book is called "Black Inventors of America." by McKinley Byrd, Jr. If you're interested in a bibliography you can contact my P.O. Box and I will send you one write to: P.O. Box 76122 Los Angeles, 90076
For early inventions, you can check out "Before the Mayflower." by Lerone Bennett, Jr.
Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan also covered inventions by Egyptians
washingtonpost.com: Have any relatives of deceased inventors received compensation for patents you've uncovered in your research?
Lady Sala Shabazz: No, they haven't and they seldom get recognized for those contributions. I'm in the middle of another publication about the descendants of which I've met over 30, including Dr. George F. Grant who invented the golf tee. Granville T. Woods who had over 80 patents in electrical inventions. I've also met descendants of Elijah McCoy and Louis Lattimer.
Ashburn, VA: What are your sources? How do you know if your information is accurate?
Lady Sala Shabazz: My sources are the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the descendants of the inventors who bring me the patents and pictures of their relatives and those inventors themselves who are still alive whom I've met through my travels who bring me pictures and proof of their inventions.
Upper Marlboro, MD: I heard Tom Joyner say this morning that Booker T Washington, was born to a Jane Ferguson, can you give more information about the parentage of this well known scholar, as well as how a person would go about doing genealogical research?
Lady Sala Shabazz: There are manuals about genealogical research in African American bookstores. Sometimes other bookstores have them, but not often.
Washington, DC: Do you only research Black inventors, or have you done research on other aspects of Black history as well?
Lady Sala Shabazz: Yes, other aspects of history I've covered include African history and it's global significance as well as African-American firsts. But, I focus on inventors.
Woodbridge, VA: My question is a little different, I would like to know your future plans for having your exhibition in the Washington Metropolitan area.
Lady Sala Shabazz: Right now,the only future plans include a visit to the Congressional Black Caucus in September and we have been consulted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on some information that we have.
Jacksonville, Fl: I just wanted to know when did you start the compilation of Black history facts and what inspired you? Secondly, I am encouraged by everyone bit of information that you collect and pass on to our people, ( so that we can pass it on to our children). Thank You
Lady Sala Shabazz: I was doing a Black Inventions Museum for the Congressional Black Caucus in 1994 and Tom Joyner came along and said he was looking for information of this type for his program. So, we entered into a partnership for stories of this type of pertinent issues dealing with African American history.
Washington, D.C.: Is it true that a black man invented the tractor trailer refrigerator unit, that are in use to this very day in million of truck? Also invented the automatic transmission?
Lady Sala Shabazz: Yes, Frederick McKinley Jones invented refrigerated trucks and railroad cars. He held over 80 patents for a company called Thermo King. And he also invented a portable X-ray machine and the ticket dispensing machine you see when you go to the movies.
And yes, the automatic transmission was invented by Mr. Richard B. Spikes.
I recently met his grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter.
Arlington, VA: It seems to me that we assume many historical figures are white (often because their race is not mentioned in the history books), have you found that to be the case?
Lady Sala Shabazz: Yes and sometimes it's purposely omitted. Carter G. Woodson who founded Black History Month wrote in his book, "The Miseducation of the Negro," that if you want to control a man's actions, you control his thinking. So if you tell him that he has done nothing and will be nothing, he will follow through. So if you tell him that there is no back door his will make one.
Oklahoma City, OK: Do you have any biographical information on Lloyd Ray, African-American inventor, of the dust pan? My granddaughter needs to do a report on him and his inventor and have been unable to locate any information. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Lady Sala Shabazz: Unfortunately there is no biographical information because when his invention was recorded in the 1800s it was not fashionable. Only a record of his invention as recorded by Henry Baker exists at the trademark office but a lot of times the race of the inventor was not mentioned or it would not be accepted.
washingtonpost.com: We are almost out of time in this live online discussion with Black Inventions Museum curator, Lady Sala Shabazz.
Send your questions by clicking on the Submit Question hyperlink.
Johannesburg SA: What the use of claiming Africa inventions when there is no shift in paradigm
Lady Sala Shabazz: Because hope of a paradigm shift is not dead. Youth will have other positive role models other than sports and entertainment and perhaps an opportunity to change the paradigm.
washingtonpost.com: What is the most important or interesting fact you have ever discovered?
Lady Sala Shabazz: The one that I talk about alot is when archeologists went into the Tanzania Gorge in Africa and found what they now call "Lucy" and took a carbon dated sample (and testing all nationalities in the world)determined that civilization began in Africa.
Myersville, MD : How many inventions have been patented in the US? How many of those were invented by African Americans?
Lady Sala Shabazz: It's estimated between 5-10,000 patents have been recorded or are in the process of being issued to African Americans.
I remember an incident when I went to a mostly-black middle school in Kansas City. (I'm white)
Lady Sala Shabazz: If you like, you can look up Garrett Morgan who invented the traffic light in 1923 who then sold it to General Electric and it became the traffic light we know today. The patent is Patent no. 1,475,024 date Nov. 20,1923.
You have to go further than the Encyclopedia Brittanica because they do not have a comprehensive view of history.
PATUXENT RIVER, MD: WHO INVENTED THE TELEGRAM?
Lady Sala Shabazz: I'm not sure about telegram, but railway telegraphy was patented in 1887 by Granville T. Woods that is used by railroads and I was told by firemen when they were approaching fires. But, remember that a lot of these inventions are modified for other uses and sometimes the original source is left out of the new innovation.
rockville,md: Please tell me some names of black inventors in the area of medicine.
Lady Sala Shabazz: Percy Julian invented medications for asthma, glaucoma and menopause using a soy bean. Ernest Just who worked on egg and cell reproduction, Dr. Patricia Bass who lives in the D.C. area invented an apparatus to remove cataracts from the eyes of people who were considered hopelessly blind.
We're out of time now … so let's bring this discussion to a close. Lady Sala Shabazz, curator of the Black Inventions Museum has answered your questions. If you'd like to meet her, she will be in the Washington area with the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" on Friday morning at the Lincoln Theater . Thanks to all for participating.
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