Historical Events  People
Eli Whitney

He invented cotton gin

Eli Whitney was born in 1765 and lived through the worst ravages of the US slave years, He is known for inventing cotton gin, which transformed the economy of the day. He's also credited with many other inventions which contributed to the industrial revolution.

Many people have an alternate memory of Eli Whitney being black. Searches today show this wasn't the case, and he was even featured on a US postage stamp in 1940. So why are so many people sure they were taught in school he was black?

This could be connected to the slave trade. Cotton gin actually invigorated the slave trade by making it profitable, not by making the slaves lives easier when they drank it, which common sense says wouldn't have gone down too well with the plantation owners at the time. However, if people just had a vague memory of cotton gin and slaves, without getting the actual details right, it's possible to see a "hero" figure inventing this way of making the slaves lives better, and so in this narrative he'd naturally be one himself.