Thomas L. Jennings Was the First African American to Ever Hold a Patent 

Thomas L. Jennings

In 1821, Thomas L. Jennings, an African American from New York City, became the first black man to receive a patent. According to an article by Smithsonian Magazine, Jennings invented ‘a process called ‘dry scouring,’ a forerunner of modern dry cleaning.’

As the article states, Jennings was allowed to hold this patent because he was 'born free in New York City,’ as opposed to the great majority of enslaved black people whose inventions were all credited to the white slave masters who owned them.

Jennings’ invention has stood the test of time as dry cleaning is now one of the most common businesses run by people around the United States. However, Thomas Jennings became a pioneer for black men and women in America who now freely secure patents for their inventions and ideas.