Recognizing the hidden legacy of Black ingenuity
Juneteenth was more than just a day of long-overdue freedom and celebration; it was also the catalyst for a wave of progress and opportunity. Formerly enslaved people engaged in the political, economic and social life of the South for the first time, with dozens of members of congress and 100s of state legislators. They pursued higher education and built businesses both large and small, and transformed communities across the country.
The Reconstruction Era also unleashed a two century wave of Black ingenuity, sparking inventions and innovations that form the foundations of our daily lives today. Despite educational and economic obstacles, Black Americans reimagined technologies and sought patents in huge numbers. Their inventiveness led directly to the industrial revolution. But history has whitewashed much of this legacy, as explored in this report from Brookings, stripping us of this proud and powerful history.
As we reflect on the Equitech vision today, it is frustrating that, 157 years after Juneteenth, so many Black Americans are still deprived of the tools to pursue their creativity and ingenuity – access to capital, networks, and critical infrastructure – and the hard-earned and deserved credit for their legacy of accomplishment. It’s time we acknowledge the authentic record of Black innovation, and the policies and practices that are still impeding progress. We can’t move forward as a city or a country if we can’t look with clear eyes at the history that put us here today.