Dispatches From the Internets


Thomas Jennings Put His Money on the Line

I hadn’t heard about Thomas Jennings until recently, but his story is a pretty impressive one. Did you know he invented dry cleaning? Yeah, a white man is often credited with the invention of modern dry cleaning, but Thomas Jennings invented the “dry scouring” technique that gave birth to modern dry cleaning. He also successfully patented the idea, becoming the first black man to be awarded a patent for his invention. In 1821, a full 42 years before the Emancipation Proclamation!



Harriet Really Was a Spy

While the history of slavery in America was covered in my schooling, that education was largely superficial. I do have vivid memories of learning about Harriet Tubman and the “underground railroad” that helped smuggle slaves out of the slave-owning Confederacy into freedom (such as it was) in the United States and Canada during the Civil War. What I didn’t know is that there is so much more to Harriet Tubman. She was the first woman to lead a U.S. military expedition and she was a spy (and recruiter) for the Union army!


LeVar Burton Changes Lives, One Book at a Time

Growing up, I was a casual viewer of the various Star Trek series, but was never a huge fan. Sure, I had a passing familiarity with LeVar Burton’s character, Geordi La Forge, on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but to me he will always be the host of Reading Rainbow. And I’m no alone. Millions of late GenX-ers (like me) and young Millennials grew up watching and learning from his PBS show.


“God” Was a Complicated Man Who Did Some Revolutionary Things

Before the January 28th episode of The Nod dropped, I’ll be honest, I had absolutely no idea who Father Divine—a black man who claimed to be God—was. You should definitely listen to the episode—it’s fascinating—but I wanted to take a moment to share a few pieces of Father Divine’s story that really stuck out to me.


Unbought and Unbossed

I’ll start by admitting that Shirley Chisholm was not a woman I had much familiarity with growing up. Even though I spent a good portion of my youth in New York, my family (my mother especially) leaned heavily republican when it came to politics. Over the years, her name cropped up, but it wasn’t until Kelly became a recipient of Girls, Inc.’s “Unbought and Unbossed” award that I began to look into her history and appreciate the lasting impact of her life on this earth.



Why Oscar’s Middle Name Is “Ellison”

I don’t remember the class or the year, but back in high school I remember being asked to choose one from a selection of books to read and write a report on. That was my first exposure to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and my first glimpse into the realities of racism as seen from the perspective of a black man in America.