There’s a new effort during this Black History Month to highlight the work of a man who helped get people talking about Black inventors: Henry Edwin Baker.

This is I think the first time we’ve ever done a show about a second assistant patent examiner, but then Baker wasn’t your usual second assistant patent examiner.

(Of course, I can’t say I know about many second assistant patent examiners. Nonetheless, the point stands.)

Baker was born in 1857.

He was the third Black cadet ever accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy.

While working on a degree from Howard University’s law school, Baker got a job at the U.S. Patent Office.

The office didn’t collect demographic information about the people who applied for patents or received them.

And in that time, many people believed that African Americans weren’t creative or capable enough to invent anything.

Baker made it his mission to prove those people wrong.

He sent out thousands and thousands of letters to companies, newspapers, lawyers, and more to track down Black inventors.

Then he compiled the names of these inventors and published them.

At a time when Black inventors weren’t often recognized for their achievements, Baker showed the world just who was doing all that inventing, from Sarah Boone’s improved ironing board, to Alexander Miles’ automatic elevator doors to Garrett Morgan’s traffic light.

The U.S Patent and Trademark Office is honoring Baker this month.

They’ve been showcasing his handwritten list of Black inventors and featuring works about some of the people on his list.

This weekend in Waseca, Minnesota, it’s the annual Sleigh & Cutter Festival.

It’s part of the weeks-long winter festival in town, and features a series of horses pulling sleighs and their cousins known as cutters as parade watchers cheer them on.

Though it’s Minnesota in February, so bundle up out there!

How one man’s list gave Black inventors the credit they deserved (WTOP)

Henry E. Baker (1857-1928) (BlackPast)

Waseca Sleigh & Cutter Festival 

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Photo via Wikicommons