Heritage – Thomas L. Jennings

Thomas L. JenningsThomas L. Jennings was an African-American abolitionist, tailor, and dry cleaner who resided in New York City, New York. On March 3, 1821, Jennings became the first African-American to be granted a patent for his dry cleaning process known as dry scouring – which eventually transformed into modern day dry cleaning. During this era, slaves could not own the rights to their own inventions, as it was legally the property of their owner. Nevertheless, Jennings was a free man and therefore retained the rights of his invention. Jennings was a devout abolitionist who used the profits from his invention to free his family from slavery. He also used his money to further fund the abolitionist agenda. He served as assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in addition to being the founder and president of the Legal Rights Association. Jennings died in 1856.

Jessie Carney Smith, Black Firsts 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events, Visible Ink Press; 2nd edition (December 1, 2002)
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