Post Thanksgiving Gratefulness 2014
An acquaintance says to me, “Black people should be grateful to America for all the opportunities she has provided for them. In spite of all the adversities, you have fared well.”
I gave that statement a great deal of consideration and decided to focus on the upside of it. In spite of all that has happened to black folk getting here, a great many of us are doing well. I focused on the word grateful and his declaration prompted me to wonder how much gratitude my Caucasian friend might have for black people being brought to America as their chattel slaves. Surely if I should be grateful for what America has done for me, certainly America should be reciprocally grateful for what my ancestors did for it, right?
I can’t recall hearing many stories about white people being grateful to black people for creating so much comfort in their lives. I don’t remember reading many stories about how instrumental black people have been in the creation of wealth in America.
So I thought I’d take this time to remind us all of how grateful we should be to our ancestors…
America’s Meal Ticket-The Enslaved African
Henry Blair – Sewer of Seeds
How would it make you feel to learn that Macy’s, Fruit of the Loom, Martha Stuart, Tommy Hilfiger, General Mills and a host of others owe all their fame and fortune to a black man from Montgomery County Maryland who was never taught to sign his name. Indeed the entire American agricultural industry rest on the shoulders of a little 5’ 5” dark complexioned black man with a green thumb.
If it weren’t for a freed son of an enslaved African, born in 1807 by the name of Henry Blair, most of us wearing designer jeans and multi-colored underwear, sleeping on 400 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, being warmed under quilted woolen blankets in the dead of winter would not be able to enjoy any of these creature comforts, had not this long forgotten genius loaned us his talent.
This little Black Maryland Farmer only lived to be fifty-three years old but America owes him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. What is sad is that the admirable contributions he loaned this society and the world have been buried under an avalanche of miss-education, blatant and subtle racism. Hardly any of us know anything about this great man who signed his name with an X because it was illegal for him to read or write.
Henry Blair is the only inventor on record in the U. S. Patent and Trademark office listed as “a colored man.” On October 14th 1834 he was awarded the patent for the Seed-Planter, which enabled farmers and growers to multiply their harvest many times over and increase the wealth of this country. Two years later, in 1836, he received the patent for inventing the Cotton Planter (http://www.blackinventors.org) which revolutionized the cotton industry.
Mechanics Magazine 1836 (Notes and Notices)Corn and Planting Machine - A free man of colour, Henry Blair by name, has invented a machine called the corn-planter, which is now exhibiting in the capital of Washington. It is described as a very simple and ingenious machine, which, as moved by a horse, opens the furrow, drops (at proper intervals, and in an exact and suitable quantity,) the corn, covers it, and levels the earth, so as, in fact, to plant the corn as rapidly as a horse can draw a plough over the ground. The inventor thinks it will save the labour of eight men. He is about to make some alterations in it to adapt it to the planting of cotton. - New York Paper. From: The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal, and Gazette; Publ. J. Cunningham, London (6 Aug 1836) Vol XXV, No. 661, page 320. Retyped from copy Digitized by Google (source)
It is important for Black folk, young and old, to consider that this man was forbidden education and not allowed to develop his propensity. He was denied the resources that would have made him a giant had he been recognized. Just think of what Mr. Blair may have accomplished had he been encouraged to pursue his ideas with his ingenuity supported instead of suppressed. Imagine what else he may have invented had the playing-field been level and the color of his skin not been held against him.
A cursory search on Google turned up 166 manufacturers of cotton blankets and another search revealed 17,834 apparel companies, all of which owe Mr. Blair a debt of gratitude. But we need to also consider Delmonte and Green Giant, who sell peas, carrots and corn. The Wonder Bread Company, Kellogg and Post Cereals, Hunt’s Ketchup and Gulden’s Mustard owe Henry for helping them plant all those seeds. The list is as long and the Mississippi River.
The overwhelming majority of Black folk in this country have no clue as to how much their ancestors have contributed. They were taught that Blacks have always been shiftless and lazy. Slaves were beaten in to believing that they have neither the desire nor the capacity to be productive. Far too many descendants of slaves have bought in to being penitentiary patrons and welfare recipients because it is expected. Far too few of us know the truth about ourselves and that America owes virtually all of its wealth to Black’s who provided free labor and genius to American enterprise.
So the next time you’re dining out, wearing that Donna Karan or Armani suit, and the waiter brings you that baked potato or those sautéed onions, remember it was the brilliance of a brother named Henry Blair who sewed the seeds that made it all possible way back in 1834. And when the waiter brings your check, be grateful to almighty God that you can sign it with more than an X.
Ty Gray-EL, the Minister of Poetry, is an author, lecturer, playwright and human rights activist. He is the CSO of Gray-EL Edutainment Media Syndicate, a Cultural Enrichment Company dedicated to raising consciousness and self-esteem among African Americans www.breathofmyancestors.com