It is widely known that African Americans have contributed a variety of innovations that span everything from early dry-cleaning processes to groundbreaking surgical procedures in eye health. For centuries, Black people have changed the American landscape with ingenuity and inventiveness, leading the charge for future pioneers to help add to that great legacy. For the Institute of Black Invention and Technology, their mission is to make certain that college students and young people of color are aware of the past and help continue to shape the future.
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Founded by husband and wife Carroll and Sandra Lamb (both pictured), the Institute is essentially a travelling museum, taking their show on the road and visiting a variety of college campuses and school districts across the country. While the Institute is settled in Kansas City for a few weeks, NewsOne spoke with Mr. Carroll Lamb about the impetus of the Institute and its future goals.
NewsOne: How did the Institute begin and what does it do?
Carroll Lamb: The Institute was founded by my wife and I approximately 12 years ago. We are a traveling museum. We have a main exhibit known as the Black Inventors Showcase, which includes a little of 100 Black inventors, their inventions, portraits, biographies and patent drawings. We also have a school-age program that’s called the “Traveling Trunk of Black and Hispanic Inventors.” This is an exhibit we take into public schools, which is why we’re in Kansas City, and we talk to them about 15 to 18 inventors.
We engage the kids in dialog so that they understand what an invention is, what innovation is and what a patent is. We’re also encouraging them to take advantage of STEM, which are science, technology, engineering and math courses at their schools. This is where the jobs are now, and this is where the jobs will be in the future. We want to think about the job market beyond becoming an entertainer or an athlete.
NO: What inspired you to begin the Institute?
CL: My wife and I were down in Philadelphia at a Black cultural expo, and one of the things at the event was a traveling museum out of Los Angeles, which had a focus on Black inventors. We knew a lot about Black history but very little about Black inventors, which is very true of most people today. My wife is in the field of early childhood education and thought that this would be a great thing for the kids. I thought that we should try to inform everyone, and so we began building our own travelling museum.
NewsOne: Given the number of Black and Hispanic inventors who are nearly nonexistent in the annals of history, does it motivate you to teach at every stop?
CL: We want to not only talk to children but adults about our history. We go to colleges and universities. There are so many people who don’t know the breadth of what our contributions [are] in the technological development of this country. The focus on Black history in this country has been on our social history but not their technological history. We’ve invented so much, like the lemon-scented Cascade dish detergent formula. The godfather of cellular communication is Jesse Russell, who invented a way to make bandwidth more efficient so that more people can use it. It goes on and on. The man who invented an innovative sugar refining process was a man named Norbert Rillieux, back in 1843, which we still use today. It truly does go on and on.
At the close of Carroll’s interview, he cited the achievements of modern Black inventors, including Institute participant Tahira Reid of Purdue University, 11-year-old inventor Joel Williams of Texas, and Chrysler executive and car designer Ralph Gilles. Carroll hopes that his traveling museum will inspire the next generation of great minds to continue running the institute. As a curator of such an important piece of Black history, the Lambs have provided a great service to not only African Americans, but the world.
To learn more about the Institute of Black Invention and Technology, click here.