The Colored Inventor
Still another instance is that of Robert Benjamin Lewis, who was born in Gardiner, Me., in 1802. He invented a machine for picking oakum, which machine is said to be in use to-day in all the essential particulars of its original form by the shipbuilding interests of Maine, especially at Bath.
It is of common knowledge that in the South, prior to the War of the Rebellion, the burden of her industries, mechanical as well as agricultural, fell upon the colored population. They formed the great majority of her mechanics and skilled artisans as well as of her ordinary laborers, and from this class of workmen came a great variety of the ordinary mechanical appliances, the invention of which grew directly out of the problems presented by their daily employment.
There has been a somewhat persistent rumor that a slave either invented the cotton gin or gave to Eli Whitney