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The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, 1619-1930

May 21, 1989 – May 31, 1990

Location: Main Gallery

This exhibition focuses on outstanding black inventors, as well as anonymous innovators, who, as slaves, craftsmen and workers, made important contributions to the United States. Included are actual inventions, such an Jan Matzelieger's "shoe-lasting" machine, which revolutionized shoe production, and Garrett Morgan's safety hood and automatic traffic signal, forerunners of the modern gas mask and traffic stop light. The exhibition examines such topics as African influences on Colonial technology and how the slave system stymied technological innovation. Individual inventors such as Lewis Temple, James Forten, and Norbert Rillieux are profiled.

Also featured are artifacts from some of the expositions of the late 19th-century, which celebrated this new surge of black inventiveness.