Focused, determined and brilliant, these three words only begin to describe the engineering genius of the man they called the “Black Edison,” and “The Electrician” was also known to the world as GRANVILLE T. WOODS – African-American Communication and Transportation Pioneer by David L. Head.
Even from humble beginnings his curiosity nurtured what would become his life-long passion. Born in Columbus, Ohio in 1856, his father named him after the British abolitionist, Granville Sharp. As an adult he found it necessary to fabricate a tale that he was Australian because he felt he would have better success as an inventor than if he said he was an African-American.
At an early age GRANVILLE Tailor WOODS had “A marked mechanical ability, keen powers of observation and talent for retaining minute details…This ability was further developed while he was working in a “railroad shop [where] it became necessary to read diagrams, write and calculate linear measurements to build and repair precision tools.”
In every successful person’s life there are people who see their potential and choose to help them succeed. There were two men whose mentorship was instrumental in GRANVILLE T. WOODS’ growth and development. First there was Brawley Green, a Scottish man who was “The central figure in [his] early development process,” and then there was David Jenkins. This free African-American whose “Vigilant activism and constant agitation for equal rights” was a constant source of inspiration helped to prepare him for the challenges he would face.
Over the course of his lifetime Mr. Woods became a very busy man. From 1883-1904 he secured 43 patented inventions, pioneered 15 railway systems dating back to 1886 and was a professor. Interestingly enough, he had been involved in so many cases that he eventually became a patent attorney. Some of his phenomenally patented inventions still impact our daily and leisure lives in ways we take for granted.
- The “Multiple Distribution Station system also known as the Third Rail (aka The New York City Subway system).”
- The “Figure Eight,” the world’s first electric rollercoaster at the Coney Island Amusement Park, New York.”
- The Electric Motor Regulator which “prevented wooden electric streetcars from overheating by regulating the main motor.”
His path wasn’t easy and was marred with “The unjust, repressive “Black Codes” [that] denied Negroes their civil rights.” There were numerous court battles from various highly powerful and financially profitable sources. These entities did not want to fully acknowledge and/or fully compensate him as his contemporaries of the day, such as Thomas Edison. Although he lost many court battles he managed to prevail despite the odds in some significant cases.
THOUGHTS for your SOUL:
- “An invention idea is only as good as the timeliness with which one can market it for practical use.”
- “A person receives two educations. One is given to you, the other you give to yourself.” – Carter G. Woodson.
- “Each generation must examine, define, interpret and claim its history.”
Books are not only to educate, but they can also serve to expose the misconceptions, falsehoods and “secrets” that have been buried in the annals of engineering history. This book was well researched, well written and packed with information that may never have seen the light of day.
As principal researcher and curator, David L. Head does a fantastic job in chronicling the life and accomplishments of GRANVILLE T. WOODS in this illustrated book for young readers. Through this book painstakingly persistent efforts we are reminded of the significant contributions made by a man whose “Ultimate goal was to receive a certified seal patent from the US Patent Office.” Due to Mr. Head’s painstaking commitment to honor Mr. Woods and “Keep his inspirational saga and extraordinary railroad legacy alive” he was able to accomplish numerous major feats.
- 2004 – Metropolitan Transportation Authority Sponsorship of the Subway Centennial GRANVILLE T. WOODS Commemorative exhibit.
- 2004 – 4 million GRANVILLE T. WOODS commemorative New York City Metro cards (2 million in Spanish).
- 2008 – Stillwell and Mermaid Avenues in Brooklyn, NY were renamed “GRANVILLE T. WOODS WAY.”
- 2009 – He was inducted into the Coney Island Hall of Fame or creating the world’s fist electric rollercoaster.
- 2010 – Transit News Telly Award.
- 2012 to Present – Science Saturdays at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, Detroit, Michigan.
Let’s BOND over BOOKS rates GRANVILLE T. WOODS as EASY & ENGAGING (150 or less pages)… straight-forward, light and to the point.
Permission granted by the author, David L. Head.