BACK IN BLACK: Black physical therapist makes strides in medicine

It’s not until after death that some blacks get recognition for their inventions. Throughout history, there have been many unknown black individuals who have created inventions that are now essential to humanity.

Bessie Virginia Blount is one of the many blacks to invent a device that helped other blacks.

Blount was born on Nov. 24, 1914 in Hickory, Va. Her fascination for the human body inspired her to study physical therapy at Panzar College in New Jersey. She completed her studies at Union Junior College in Chicago, receiving her degree in physical therapy.

After World War II ended, she became a practicing physical therapist for injured World War II amputees. In 1951, Blount patented a device that helped war veterans with the task of feeding themselves without assistance.

Blount’s invention helped amputees regain their self-esteem and independence. The tube device was made to send little pieces of food to the individual at their own pace.

The task was simple; all the patient had to do was bite down on the tube for the food to be delivered to the mouthpiece, and the next mouthful would be delivered on cue from the attached machine.

In 1951 in Newark, N.J., she received a patent under her married name, Bessie Griffin, for her simpler device which included a neck brace for support when using a dish.

Two years later, Blount was the first woman or black person to appear on a program called “The Big Idea.” She attempted to demonstrate her ideas to the American Veterans Association. But despite the impact her ideas had on thousands of lives, she didn’t receive much support.

After all her hard work and persistence, she donated the rights of both her inventions to the French government whom later gave her support. She continued to create multiple inventions among the inventor community and shared ideas with her friends Thomas Alva Edison and Theodore M. Edison.

Blount also came to invent a disposable cardboard emesis basin out of water, newspaper and a baking and molding mixture of flour. The American Veterans Administration Hospital refused to take a chance with yet another invention, so she sold her item to Belgium who, to this day, use her designs in variations in hospitals nationwide.

Blount started her second career in 1969 working in law enforcement. She worked in Virginia and New Jersey conducting forensic science research for police departments.

In 1977, she was the first black woman to receive an opportunity to train and work at Scotland Yard in England. She then started operating her own business until the age of 83 after being turned down for a job with the FBI.

Blount used her forensic training to examine slave papers also known as pre-civil war documents.

Throughout Blount’s life, she made great accomplishments with her help in forensic science and technology while becoming a role model for blacks and women through her pioneering work.