Thomas L. Jennings was a abolitionist, tradesman, and business owner from New York. He was born free and, as a child, learned the trade of being a tailor. He would later use his skill to open a his own tailor shop. Jennings married and had children, but amazingly enough had to use earnings from his business to buy the freedom of his wife and some of their children.

Under New York's 1799 abolition law, his wife Elizabeth was not eligible for full emancipation until 1827. This inhuman statute meant she had to live as an indentured servant until she finished her so-called apprenticeship (25 years for women and 28 years for men) compensated her owner for the future loss of his property. Trying to free his wife is how he became an early pioneer for the civil rights movement. In 1831, he became assistant secretary of the First Annual Convention for the People of Color in Philly.

Needless to say, he worked tirelessly to help the Black community till his death. Jennings left a rich legacy behind in making history as the first Black man to receive a patent in America in 1821. Running a successful tailor shop, Jennings discovered a better way to clean custom-made suits and clothes called dry scouring. This method proved to be groundbreaking and led to him opening one of the first dry cleaners in the country.

LOOK: A history of Black representation in movies

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