5 Food Inventions by Black Inventors

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 | Posted under Black History, Food Culture

I’m going to squeeze in one more post for Black History Month before February ends. I know that I’m lucky that I had an extra day.

If you’ve noticed that I didn’t do any Black History Month posts re: food, you’re perceptive. I know that there are historical figures in food, but it took a little more effort to find them than I thought it would. I found these five inventors and their inventions and were surprised by many of them.

1. George Crum invented the potato chip as we know it in 1853 in Saratoga Springs, New York.

My favorite potato chips. What are yours?

2. George Washington Carver, scientist and inventor, creates 145 different products utilizing peanuts, including peanut butter.

My favorite peanut butter. Do you like crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
3. Joseph Lee invented and patented improvements to the dough kneading machine, the precursor to modern day bread making machines.
My mom has one of these. If you make bread at home, do you use a machine or do it the old fashioned way?
4. Alexander P. Ashbourne invents the biscuit cutter in 1875.

5. Alfred Cralle invented and patented the ice cream scooper in 1897 after noticing that ice cream shops dispensed ice cream in an inefficient way.
I wish it were warmer outside, so I could actually eat ice cream. 🙁
Which of these inventions is your favorite?
Many facts via Soul Food Advisor


Matthew Henson

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 | Posted under Black History

After losing his parents at a young age, Matthew Henson (1866-1955) had a few odd jobs before becoming a cabin boy on a merchant ship. His time on the ship started a life of full of travel experiences, which included adventures in China, Japan, Russia and the Phillipines and turned him into a skilled navigator, mechanic and carpenter.

Henson is known for being one of the first people to reach the North Pole as part of an expedition led by Commander Robert Peary in 1909. It was one of his many expeditions with the Commander, which included visits to the Arctic where he learned the Inuit language and various cold weather survival skills. Accounts of the story vary (when I was researching this post, I found two different ones!). In one account, Commander Peary was not able to continue at a certain point during the North Pole expedition. Henson led another group that continued northward, and Henson ended up reaching the exact position of the North Pole first. Another account has them both Henson & Commander Peary reaching the North Pole at the same time.
Unfortunately for Mr. Henson, he wasn’t acknowledged as being one of the first men to set foot at the North Pole for many years. Henson was later recognized for his accomplishment by Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before his death in the 1950’s. He’s also been honored by the Explorers’ Club and the National Geographic Society.
Matthew Henson is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
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Bessie Coleman

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 | Posted under Black History

It’s Black History Month here in the U.S. Last year, I had hoped to include more about historical figures of African descent in the realms of food and travel on the blog, but I never really got around to it. I’m going to make a better attempt this year. I have a degree in African American Studies (which is really a misnomer since I studied a lot about the Black experience in the U.S., Caribbean and South America as well social justice movements and women’s history), so I have a tendency to be interested in historical figures. If you’ve been reading the blog for any period of time, you might have noticed that I am a bit of a nerd. 🙂

I just learned about Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman (1892-1926) last week (from Pinterest no less! Thanks Sanura Weathers!).

She became the first Black woman in the world to hold an aviation license and the first Black person PERIOD to acquire an international pilots’ license, which she received in 1921 from the Federation Aeronatique Internationale in France.
Since Coleman was barred from flight schools here in the U.S. because she was both Black and a woman, she traveled throughout Europe seeking advanced instruction and greater opportunity to hone her flying skills. Since commercial flights were not an option then (aviation technology just wasn’t there yet), she had to find other ways to fulfill her flying dreams. What did she do? Miss Coleman became a stunt pilot! She performed death-defying stunts and occasionally suffered physical harm during her performances. Planes weren’t as safe as they can be now.
Bessie Coleman died very young at the age of 34 before she had the chance to complete her project of opening an aviation school for aspiring Black pilots so that they could have the same opportunities she did without having to leave the U.S.
I’m trying to imagine accomplishing some of the things that Bessie Coleman did during that era in history. I salute her for her bravery and for following her dreams.
P.S. Has anyone seen Red Tails yet? My weekends have been full, and I haven’t had a chance to see it. I’m hoping to this weekend.


Taking the Time to Remember MLK

Monday, January 16th, 2012 | Posted under Black History

Today in the U.S. many people have the day off from work and school in remembrance of this man.

Unlike last year when I blogged about one of his speeches, I thought I would leave you with something I found with some of his more notable quotations along with pictures.

For those of you with plans to visit Washington, DC this year, I hope you’ll pass by the new Martin Luther King Memorial. I know I will when (and if) I get a chance to visit DC this year.
Wherever you are, I hope you’ll take a few minutes today to remember Dr. King’s contribution to the U.S and to the world.


Return to Wadadli – Betty’s Hope

Monday, September 12th, 2011 | Posted under Antigua, Black History

I thought that I would NOT start out talking about Antigua by mentioning its beaches. They are fabulous, but they are one of the main reasons why people go there. I want you all to get a more holistic view of what Antigua is (I’ve already mentioned this), so I thought I would start out by mentioning one of a handful of its preserved historic landmarks, Betty’s Hope.
I often wonder why many people don’t get a chance to visit and understand historical sites in the Caribbean. Are the beaches a distraction? 🙂 Maybe people are not interested in hearing about slavery? Have the tourist boards of these countries decided to ignore their own history? I’m not sure, but you have to understand the role of sugar production and the descendants of Africans slaves to understand Caribbean culture at some level.
Betty’s Hope is comprised of the remains of portions of a plantation that was built by Sir Christopher Codrington and named after his daughter, Betty. Sir Codrington came to Antigua from Barbados and would later go on to establish Codrington, the main town on Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda.
The showpiece of the Betty’s Hope national park is the restored sugar mill. At the height of sugar production in Antigua there were over 160 plus sugar mills dotting the island. The remains of 90 of them are a common sight throughout the country.

Once inside the mill, you can see the machinery used to process the sugar cane.

The machinery was used to crush the sugar cane in order to extract as much juice as possible. The juice was then boiled, and eventually parts were fermented and made into rum. This little description has a much better explanation than I could give.

The rest of the Betty’s Hope site consists of scant remains of various parts of the plantation. It’s not much to see, but it does give you a physical reminder of what used to stand here.

The Great House

Manager’s Quarters

There’s also a small structure that houses artifacts and an exhibit detailing the sugar making process and Antiguan history.
Tools that the slaves used to plant and harvest the sugar.

A model of what the plantation looked like while it was in use.

A list of the primary group of slaves working on the sugar harvest.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Betty’s Hope is that I have a family connection to this place…sorta. There is supposed to be a plaque dedicated to my great-grandmother Ellen Green, who was a prominent trade union organizer in Antigua. Even though slaves were emancipated in Antigua on August 1, 1834, their lives and those of their descendants didn’t change very much. Many continued to live on the plantations as wage workers with very low salaries and little ability legally or otherwise to address their working conditions. In the 1930’s regionally within the Caribbean, there was movement to organize workers to demand better conditions. My great grandmother was one of those persons leading the charge in Antigua.
The problem with my visit to see my great grandmother’s public recognition? I couldn’t find the plaque!! Plus, there was no one there (I don’t know why), so I couldn’t even ask a worker where to find it. Ugh…next time I guess.
Anyway, I was glad to finally visit Betty’s Hope and learn more about Antiguan history.
If you’ve been to the Caribbean, have you had a chance to learn about its history during your visit?


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