Meet the Black Scholar Who Has Spent 30 Years Researching Inventors of Color
Keith C. Holmes has spent over 30 years researching inventors of color. His company, Global Black Inventor Research Projects, Inc., which he launched in Brooklyn and now has branches on six continents, provides a canopy under which students of all ages can expand their perspectives on African creativity and spark their own inventive genius.
In 2008, Holmes published Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success, a book highlighting the innovative accomplishments of Black men and women from six continents and more than 70 countries. One of the book’s focal points is the pioneering work of Henry E. Baker, an African American who attended the United States Naval Academy and worked as a copyist with the United States Patent Office in the early 20th century. Baker was interested to know how many men and women of color in the world had filed for patents.
While Western countries have a system of filing patents, not all inventions are registered in patent offices. In fact, every society and civilization has developed its own ideas and inventions with or without patents. So Baker sent more than 2,500 letters to lawyers across the United States to learn if people of color had filed for patents. He received a number of responses from people who scoffed at and ridiculed the idea of black men and women inventing anything. Undaunted and undeterred, Baker continued his inquiries and ultimately received a number of letters documenting more than a thousand inventions by Black men and women from Canada, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and the United States.
For Holmes himself, it all started in 1988, when he attended the International African Arts Festival in Brooklyn and a book called Black Inventors in America by McKinley Burt caught his eye. After buying and reading the book, he was so fascinated and enlightened by its contents that he considered purchasing additional copies and selling them.
Instead, his mentor and his family encouraged him to write his own book about Black inventors. Holmes initially laughed the idea off, but, still intrigued by Black Inventors in America, eventually took their advice and embarked on a research journey that took over 20 years to complete. His research proves that the invention bug did not only burrow into the African American imagination but also into that of Africans in the diaspora.
For more information about Holmes’ book and his other efforts to promote the accomplishments of Black inventors, visit GlobalBlackInventor.com.