As with many teaching stories within the US historical context, there is a mixture of fiction and facts. In the coming weeks, this story will be our focus as we dissect fact from fiction, and present you with the accurate information of African American contributions to American society, and daily life, throughout the decades. Stay tuned . . . and if you are curious now, click on each person’s name to read more!

What If There Were No Black People?

This is a story of a little boy named Theo, who woke up one morning and asked, “Mom, what if there were no black people in the world?"

Well, Mom thought about that for a moment and then said, "Son, follow me around today and let's just see what it would be like if there were no black people in the world.

Get dressed and we will get started."

Theo ran to his room to put on his clothes and shoes. But there were no shoes, and his clothes were all wrinkled. He looked for the iron, but when reached for the ironing board, it was no longer there. You see Sarah Boone, a Black woman, invented the ironing  board and Jan E. Matzelinger, a Black man invented the shoe lasting machine.

"Oh well", Mom said, "Go and do your hair." Theo ran in his room to comb his hair, but the comb was not there. You see, Walter Sammons, a Black man, invented the comb. Theo decided to just brush his hair, but the brush was gone. You see Lydia O. Newman, a Black woman invented the brush.

Well, he was a sight, no shoes, wrinkled clothes, hair a mess without the hair care inventions of Madam C. J. Walker, . . . well, you get the picture. Mom told Theo,

"Lets do the chores around the house and then take a trip to the grocery store."

Theo's job was to sweep the floor. He swept and swept and swept. When he reached for the dustpan, it was not there. You see LIoyd P. Ray, a Black man, invented the dustpan. So he swept his pile of dirt over in the corner and left it there. He then decided to mop the floor, but the mop was gone. You see, Thomas W. Stewart, a Black man, invented the mop.

Theo thought to himself, "I'm not having any luck." "Well, son," Mom said. "We should wash the clothes and prepare a list for the grocery store. When he was finished, Theo went to place the clothes in the dryer, but it was not there. You see, George T. Sampson, a Black man, invented the clothes dryer.

Theo got a pencil and some paper to prepare the list for the market, but noticed that the pencil lead was broken as well, he was out of luck because John Love, a Black man, invented the pencil sharpener.

He reached for a pen, but it was not there because William Purvis, a Black man, invented the fountain pen As a matter of fact, Lee Burridge invented the type writing machine, and W. A. Lavette, the printing press.

So they decided to head out to the market. Well, when Theo opened the door, he noticed the grass was as high as he was tall. You see the lawnmower was invented by John Burr, a Black man.

They made their way over to the car and found that it just wouldn't go. You see Richard Spikes, a Black man, invented the automatic gear shift and Meredith Gourdine invented the catalytic converter.

 They noticed that the few cars that were moving were running into each other and having wrecks because there were no traffic signals. You see, Garrett A. Morgan, a Black man, invented the traffic light.

Well, it was getting late, so they walked to the market, got their groceries and returned home. Just when they were about to put away the milk, eggs and butter, they noticed the refrigerator was gone.  You see, John Standard, a Black man, invented the refrigerator.  So they put the food on the counter.

By this time, they noticed it was getting mighty cold. Theo went to turn up the heat and what do you know, it was not there.  You see, Alice Parker, a Black woman, invented the heating furnace. Even in the summer time they would have been out of luck, because Frederick Jones, a Black man, invented the air conditioner.

It was almost time for Theo's father to arrive home.  He usually took the bus, but there was no bus because its precursor was the electric trolley, invented by another Black man, Elbert T. Robinson. He usually took the elevator from his office on the 20th floor, but there was no elevator because Alexander Miles, A Black man, invented the elevator.

He usually dropped off the office mail at a nearby mailbox, but it no longer was there because Phillip Downing, a Black man, invented the letter drop mailbox and William Barry invented the postmarking and canceling machine.

Theo sat at the kitchen table with his head in his hands. When his father arrived he asked, "Why are you sitting in the dark?" Why?? Because Lewis Howard Latimer, a Black man, invented the filament within the light bulb.

Theo quickly learned what it would be like if there were no Black people in the world.

Not to mention if he were ever sick and needed blood. Charles Drew, a Black scientist, found a way to preserve and store blood, which led to his starting the world's first blood bank.

And what if a family member had to have heart surgery.  This would not have been possible without Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, a Black doctor, who performed first open heart surgery.

So if you ever wonder, like Theo, where we would be without Blacks?  Well, it's pretty plain to see, we could very well still be in the dark!!!

Barbara Leahy 1998

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