Black Excellence on View at San Francisco Public Library
The Library partners with local civic leader Rev. Dr. Carolyn Ransom-Scott to spread the joy of Black inventions throughout history
Press Conference: September 1, 2022, 10:30 a.m. at Potrero Branch Library, 1616 20th St, San Francisco. RSVP to Kate.Patterson@sfpl.org
SAN FRANCISCO - Have you ever wondered who you have to thank for the common inventions that make our lives easier today? For centuries, the inventions of Black/African American people have been taken for granted and their contributions to society have gone unrecognized. It’s Black inventors who we have to thank for conveniences such as dry cleaning, the lawn mower and everyone’s favorite snack–the potato chip! For decades, Rev. Dr. Carolyn Ransom-Scott has chased the stories of Black inventors in an effort to preserve their memories and add them to the historical canon. In partnership with San Francisco Public Library (SFPL), Ransom-Scott created the Black Excellence, Black Invention exhibit, and, after a successful run at the Main Library last spring, the exhibit will spread the joy and resilience of Black invention to the Potrero and Bayview branch libraries this fall.
Using library materials and archival resources, Black Excellence, Black Invention educates about the institutionalized racism that prevented Black inventors from being celebrated for their work. When asked about the importance of the Black Excellence, Black Invention exhibit, Ransom-Scott said, “I have discovered the African American nation is viewed globally as ‘non-contributors’ to the world and society around us. This is due to misinformation and a lack of historical recognition. Our true stories are not included in American history books...”
Visitors to the exhibit will enjoy learning about Lewis Howard Latimer whose inventions produced better carbon filaments for light bulbs; Alexander Miles who invented automatic doors for elevators; Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the three-way stop light, gas mask and respirator mask; 2019 Congressional Gold Metal recipient Dr. Christine Darden of Hidden Figures fame who worked at NASA for 40 years as a data analyst, engineer, sonic boom researcher, which helped make supersonic planes quieter and Eric Williams, a Bayview resident with more than 20 patents in plastic technology, who improved the modern-day stent used in heart surgeries, to name just a few. According to Ransom-Scott, “The exhibit is drawing attention to and giving hope and education to our city. It is my hope, dream and vision that the exhibit will travel the state, nation and world educating and leading in healing our country with better relations throughout the world.”
Shawna Sherman, SFPL’s African American Center librarian, spoke more about the significance of this exhibit and how its message ties in with the Library’s pre-existing work: “In the African American Center we preserve the history of our culture, offering information in the form of stories, whether in programs, through books or exhibits.” Sherman highlights the ways in which Black Excellence, Black Invention is actively working against anti-blackness, “Non-white people have been deprived of seeing a reflection of themselves in literature. The Black Excellence, Black Invention exhibit aims to provide a mirror for Black people, and all people–providing examples of people who have succeeded against severe odds and honoring their accomplishments.”
The Black Excellence, Black Invention exhibit will be moving to the Potrero Branch from August 31 - November 1, 2022. Next, the exhibit will travel to the Bayview Branch between November 19 - March 2, 2022. All exhibits are free and open to the public. More information can be found at sfpl.org.