English professor Mursalata Muhammad is building a collection of documents and artifacts from the life of her grandfather, working to honor his legacy and recognize the contributions he made as a Black inventor.
While Muhammad’s project, which she’s named The Claude Harvard Project, is personal, she plans to use it in her English classes to show the value of doing primary research.
“I can say, ‘I did this work,’” she said of how she plans to create personal connections to research with her students. “Now I have such a rich appreciation for it.”
Muhammad’s grandfather, Claude Harvard, invented more than 25 items at Ford Motor Company in Detroit, but he’s still not credited for all of his work. She’s working to change that by building awareness and finding as many resources as she can to link Harvard to his work.
“The biggest part (of the project) is to trace and figure out which inventions should have his name on them,” said Muhammad, who has taught at GRCC for 20 years.
One of Harvard’s first inventions was the automated piston pin measuring machine, which used radio waves to check, shape and sort piston pins by size. As an example of the prejudice he faced, an advertisement for the machine first featured Harvard but later was changed to replace him with a white man.