The Entrepreneurial Spirit of African American Inventors
by Patricia Carter Sluby
March 2011, 250pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-36335-1
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-36336-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

After patenting over 40 innovations in the research chemistry field while working at the Glidden Company, Dr. Percy Lavon Julian decided to establish his own company—Julian Laboratories, Incorporated—in Chicago during the turbulent, racist climate of the 1950s. Over his lifetime, Julian received more than 130 chemical patents. Julian is just one of many, mostly unknown, African American inventors and entrepreneurs.

This book not only documents the valuable contributions of African American thinkers, inventors, and entrepreneurs past and present, but also puts these achievements into context of the obstacles these innovators faced because of their race.

Successful entrepreneurs and inventors share valuable characteristics like self-confidence, perseverance, and the ability to conceptualize unrealized solutions or opportunities. However, another personality trait has been required for African Americans wishing to become business owners, creative thinkers, or patent holders: a willingness to overcome the additional barriers placed before them because of their race, especially in the era before civil rights.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of African American Inventors provides historical accounts of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship among black Americans, from the 19th century to the present day. The author examines how these individuals stimulated industry, business activity, and research, helping shape the world as we know it and setting the precedent for the minority business tradition in the United States. This book also sheds light on fascinating advances made in metallurgy, medicine, architecture, and other fields that supply further examples of scientific inquiry and business acumen among African Americans.


  • Presents a chronology of patents issued to African Americans from the period of slavery to the present
  • Includes illustrations of patents and trademarks as well as advertising copy and photographs of African American entrepreneurs and patentees
  • Provides a bibliography of significant materials from the fields of invention, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, and business
  • A helpful index offers access to the entries by inventor, invention, patents, trademarks, periodicals, and field/profession
  • An appendix holds a comprehensive roster of African American patentees listing the inventor's name, U.S. patent title and number, and date of issue
Patricia Carter Sluby is a freelance writer, registered patent agent, lecturer, former U.S. primary patent examiner, and past president of the National Intellectual Property Law Association. Her published works include numerous journal articles, Praeger's The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity and Creativity and Inventions: The Genius of Afro-Americans and Women in the United States and Their Patents.


"The Entrepreneurial Spirit of African American Inventors provides insight on notable figures of black enterprise to produce a thought-provoking and informational text. In many cases, these thinkers have advanced the social, health and physical sciences, to the benefit of mankind. These achievements are worthy of our attention. The book provides a comprehensive overview, from the earliest black patent holder (1821) through and including Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker."—Adam D. Mandell, Esquire, Arlington, Virginia

"In this second volume of her remarkable series on African American invention , former patent examiner Sluby breathes real human life into the patent record. She shows how Black innovators from slavery to modern times overcame incredible odds not only to obtain a U.S. patent but to bring their ideas and dreams to market, thereby helping all Americans achieve a better life."—Arthur P. Molello, Director, Smithsonian's Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation

"Pat Sluby has done it again. This book is a fascinating and important contribution to understanding the significant contribution that African American inventors as entrepreneurs have played in shaping our evolving economy and our daily lives. Using the same ingenuity, tenacity, and will to succeed that enabled these inventors to create important technical contributions, their struggles to bring their inventions to commercial reality provide an insightful new perspective on the American experience. The struggles of these African American entrepreneurs are set within a wide variety of social, business, economic, cultural, and political challenges reflecting societal norms of the time. While being an entrepreneur is difficult at any time, this remarkable book will provide readers with a new vantage point to understand the magnitude of their achievements. A must read for any scholar concerned with these subjects." —Andrew D. Hirsch, MA, JD, Former Director of Congressional Affairs, United States Patent and Trademark Office

"Pat Sluby's message is an incredibly instructive one: The brilliant Black inventor without an implementation strategy is akin to the extraordinary minister whose sermon cannot spawn generosity in tidings: talent must be accompanied by advertising and other assertive entrepreneurial behavior!" —Maceo Crenshaw Dailey, Jr., Director, African American Studies, University of Texas, El Paso

“'OK I finally obtained my patent. Now what?' In accessible fashion, Pat Sluby describes the extraordinary efforts, failures and successes of African American innovators over time. As such, this narrative history of how African Americans have commercialized their inventions inspires us all."—Charlotte N. Douglass, JD, Retired from U.S. Copyright Office as Principal Legal Advisor to the General Counsel
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