Eli Whitney

Updated July 24, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

The Question:

Was Eli Whitney an African-American?

The Answer:

No. Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin and was responsible for developing methods of mass industrial production that are still used today, was white. Born in Westboro, Mass. in 1765, he was the son of English immigrants.

While he was a tutor at Mulberry Grove, the plantation of Mrs. Nathanael Greene, Whitney was encouraged by Mrs. Greene and visiting cotton planters to try to find some device by which the fiber of short-staple cotton could be rapidly separated from the seed. After 10 days of work, Whitney completed an early version of his cotton gin in 1793.

For a photo of Whitney and more information visit the Eli Whitney Museum online.

For information on important African-American inventors and other historical figures go to infoplease.com's spotlight: Black History Month.

-The Editors

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