Lunsford Lane, the black man depicted in the meme, didn’t invent Wicks, but he was a successful businessman, writer, and abolitionist who bought his own freedom.

Vicks VapoRub is a topical ointment commonly used to relieve cold symptoms.

A meme which was first published during Black History Month in 2022, and widespread on social networks throughout the year, argued Vicks VapoRub was invented in 1880 by a black man from North Carolina named Lunsford Richardson. Several people who commented on the posts on social media seemed surprised to discover that a black man may have created the popular medicine.

Also Google Trends data for 2022 shows that many people on the Internet wondered if the information in the meme was true.

QUESTION

Did a black man named Lunsford Richardson invent Vicks VapoRub?

SOURCES

ANSWER

No, a black man named Lunsford Richardson did not invent Vicks VapoRub. The inventor was a white man. The man depicted in the viral meme is actually Lunsford Lane, a successful black businessman and abolitionist.

WHAT WE FOUND

Vicks VapoRub was not invented by a black man named Lunsford Richardson in 1880.

Real Lunsford Richardson was a white pharmacist and entrepreneur born in Johnston County, North Carolina in 1854. About 1890 Richardson moved to Greensboro where he and his partner John Ferris bought the WC Porter Pharmacy.

While running the pharmacy, Richardson began developing new cold remedies for the Vicks Family Remedies Company, which was owned by his brother-in-law Joshua Vick. Richardson invented Vicks Croup & Pneumonia Salve in 1894, “out of love and concern for his sick son”, Wix the company reports on its website. This ointment is now known as Vicks VapoRub.

The black man depicted in the viral meme actually appears Lunsford Lane. In accordance with National Park Service and North Carolina History ProjectLane was a successful businessman, writer, and abolitionist who was born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1803.

As a child, Lane worked in the home of his slave, Sherwood Haywood, in Raleigh. During this time, he began to engage in various business ventures such as selling peaches, marble, and chopped firewood in order to one day accumulate enough money to buy his freedom.

Eventually, with the help of his father, Lane founded a a successful tobacco business where he sold the unique pipe and the popular tobacco blend he created to members of the North Carolina state legislature and other wealthy white businessmen in Raleigh.

In 1835, Lane bought his freedom with the money he had saved. However, growing hostility toward free blacks in North Carolina forced Lane to flee North in 1840, leaving his wife Martha and their six children behind, according to the National Park Service. Lane briefly returned to the state to buy his family’s freedom before they settled in Massachusetts.

In 1842, Lane wrote and published an account of his life entitled “The Story of Lunsford Lane“, in Boston. There was a book well received and sold many copies in the USA and England.

The state of North Carolina approved a historical marker in honor of Lane’s legacy in 2018, and it was erected in Raleigh over the next year.

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