THERE’S A WELL-KNOWN story among surveillance studies scholars and students of Black innovation: that of Marie Van Brittan Brown, a Black woman from Jamaica, Queens, New York who is now recognized as having invented the home security system in 1966. Brown worked long hours as a nurse and often came home late at night. Her husband also worked “irregular hours,” and Brown worried about who might knock on her door if she were home alone at night. Similar versions of Brown’s story can be found at the MIT Lemelson Center and all around the internet, including on Wikipedia, the African American history site Blackpast, and the history site Timeline. It’s understandable that attention would be paid to Brown’s pioneering work as a Black woman inventor whose contribution has rightly been cited in the development of subsequent home security systems and as the origin point for a massive industry.
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