SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Drury University English Professor Richard Schur spent four years researching African-American inventors’ history and how they impacted our society today.

Schur started his research with a curiosity of 1970’s hip-hop music and how DJ’s transformed record players into turntables and creating a whole new genre. As he dove deeper into his research, he focused heavily on a Springfield native inventor, Walter Majors.

“A guy from Springfield ultimately went to St. Louis. He invented things for taxi cabs, heaters, African American hair products, hair dryers. He got patents for all of those things, but to say that he invented a taxi cab meter would not be completely accurate. He invented one kind of taxi cab meter,” said Schur.

A recent post on Facebook lists products, who they were invented by, and the year. Schur says the list can be inaccurate similarly to what he said about Majors.

“African Americans were interested in inventing all sorts of things, and like so many products, it’s almost hard to say who invented the product we use today,” says Schur.

Schur says Black inventors gave African Americans pride during the late 1800s and early 1900s because the inventors would break away from the stereotypes of African Americans.

“They [the stereotypes] were backward, rural, and not very smart. But if you could invent something and get a patent for something even if it wasn’t used, it conferred status on you, and that was really important,” says Schur.

Schur talks about three inventors from Southwest Missouri:

  • George Washington Carver
  • Walter Majors
  • Hardrick Brothers Grocery

Schur says, looking at the struggles and achievements of Black inventors will show society’s status quo.

“A lot of times people will assume whatever we see in our world, that’s just the way it is. When it gets to why we have such a small percentage of African Americans who are getting patents and owning businesses, it’s because of education, it’s because of the prison system, there’s so many things that need to be changed,” says Schur.

He ties in the current Black Lives Matter movement and how African Americans have structural constraints in society to say one can see those roadblocks by studying Black inventors.