Thomas Jennings, born in 1791, is believed to have been the first Black inventor to receive a patent for an invention. He was 30 years old when he was granted a patent for a dry cleaning process known as "Dry Scouring". He received his patent on March 2, 1821. Jennings was a free tradesman and operated a dry cleaning business in New York City. His income went mostly to his abolitionist activities. In 1831, he became assistant secretary for the First Annual Convention of the People of Color in Philadelphia, PA.
Story and Picture ~ www.riseandgrind.com/.../
04/thomas-l-jennings/ and http://inventors.about.com/od/blackinventors/a/Early_History.htm