Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Anthony B. Bradley ― When Freedom, Creativity, and Opportunity Meet

Thomas L. Jennings (1791–1856) was an African-American tradesman and abolitionist in in New York City, New York. He was a free black who operated a tailoring and dry-cleaning business, and in 1821 was the first African American to be granted a patent.

Thomas L. Jennings (1791–1856) was the first African-American to be granted a patent, for his discovery of a process called “dry-scouring” -- what we now know as “dry cleaning.” Jennings’ life is a model of what happens when people of virtue have the freedom to use their skill to meet needs in the market place and contribute to the common good. What the United States and the rest of the world need are social, political, and economic contexts where people can flourish in the same way that Jennings did.
Jennings was born a free man soon after the state of New York banned the slave trade in 1788. In the ensuing years New York slowly began to expand the sphere of freedom for blacks, creating more opportunities for their participation in all levels of society. As a young man, Jennings dug trenches on Long Island during the War of 1812. After bouncing around from job to job, he  finally landed an apprenticeship with a clothier, which set the stage for him to become an expert tailor. In fact, Jennings was so remarkably skilled that people from all over the New York City area would come to him for alterations or custom-tailored items. The demand for his services was so great that, in his early 20s, he was able to open his own store on Church Street, which soon grew into one of the largest clothing stores in New York City during that era.

Read more: http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2013/02/27/when-freedom-creativity-opportunity-meet