When Freedom, Creativity, and Opportunity Meet
Successful entrepreneurs need space to profit and serve
Innovation is part of the American DNA. In “When Freedom, Creativity, and Opportunity Meet,” Dr. Anthony Bradley, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, discusses the life of Thomas L. Jennings, the first African-American ever to be granted a patent. Bradley argues that the United States needs “social, political, and economic contexts where people can flourish in the same way that Jennings did.”
Jennings was born as a free man in New York at a time when the state was just beginning to expand freedom for blacks. This liberal expansion, Bradley writes, led to “more opportunities for their participation in all levels of society.”
As Jennings took on work as a trench-digger and then a clothier, he gained the skills and experience to become one of the most well-respected tailors in New York City. In his early 20s, he opened his own store on Church St. In 1820, Jennings filed a patent for a cleaning process that protected delicate fabrics called “dry-scouring.” Thus, the practice of drycleaning was born.
Later in life, a career in tailoring would grow into a love of philanthropy and public service. In 1831, Bradley recounts, “Jennings became assistant secretary to the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and he spent many years fighting for the liberation of blacks.”
But would a Thomas Jennings be as successful today?
“Ironically, if Jennings were alive today,” Bradley observes, “he would have had a much more difficult time succeeding because of the obstacles to innovation and philanthropy erected by ever-increasing federal regulations and ever-expanding government bureaucracy.”
“If we could only get our politicians and regulators to get out of the way of the yet-to- be-discovered innovators like Jennings, we could all enjoy the benefits.”
Click here to read the full article on Acton.org.
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