Black History Month 2019

September 20, 20199:22 amLeave a Comment

Lucean Arthur Headen – an African American inventor in Camberley

October is Black History Month! Surrey Heritage supports this international awareness campaign as part of our continuing aim to record and celebrate the lives of our county’s diverse communities.
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This month American academic and author, Dr Jill D Snider, reveals the inspiring and fascinating life of a Black American who became a leading industrialist in Camberley and whose inventions played a key part in the British war effort.

Lucean Arthur Headen’s passport photograph, 1915 (U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. National Archives, Washington D.C)

Lucean Arthur Headen’s passport photograph, 1915 (U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. National Archives, Washington D.C)

As he stepped aboard the S.S. Majestic in New York harbour in late May 1931, bound for England, Lucean Arthur Headen looked ahead with excitement and apprehension to a long sea journey, and to an unknown future. The almost 52 year-old inventor and entrepreneur was long past the age when many would have risked financial stability for a dream, but Headen had never seen the value in a conventional life. Born the child of former slaves in the small town of Carthage, North Carolina, he had aspired to be an inventor, and his passion had already carried him on some impressive journeys.

In America the ‘Jim Crow’ colour-bar laws took effect, blocking Headen’s access to advanced technical training and skilled work. He had already joint-patented the ‘Headen-Petit spark ignition’ system which made it easier to use plentiful, cheap crude oil in automobiles and lorries and he came to England with the hope of marketing his further inventions.

Read Jill D Snider’s account of this remarkable man here.

Front cover of Jill D Snider’s biography Arthur Headen, The Making of a Black entrepreneur and inventor, published by University of North Carolina Press.

Front cover of Jill D Snider’s biography Arthur Headen, The Making of a Black entrepreneur and inventor, published by University of North Carolina Press.

Jill D Snider’s new biography Arthur Headen, The Making of a Black entrepreneur and inventor, published by University of North Carolina Press (direct link to the book order page: https://uncpress.org/book/9781469654355/lucean-arthur-headen/). Details of a forthcoming talk and book launch at Surrey History Centre for Black History Month 2020 will be announced nearer the time.

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Written by ESP Admin

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