A huge part of AMERICAN History is African American History. There’s more to black history than the Civil Rights Movement, MLK, Malcolm X or Rosa Parks. Contrary to what we’ve been taught, what some of you readers may believe and how some may even value black contribution in American history, if you do your own research you will see that A LOT of things that make everyday life run smoothly, was invented by a African American.
Garrett Morgan, 1877 – 1963
“Safety Hood” now known to the world as Gas Mask. It was originally used by local police and fireman. Once they found out it was created by a black man, they discontinued use on the force choosing death over using Morgan’s invention.
His mask was later used by the United States Army in World War 1. He is credited for saving thousands of lives.
“Automatic traffic signal” – After witnessing an automobile collide with a horse and carriage resulting in the horse being killed, Morgan created the automatic traffic signal. He sold his rights to the device to General Electric for an astounding $40,000. Today’s modern traffic light is based off of Morgan’s design.
In 1963, Garrett Morgan developed glaucoma losing 90% of his vision. He later died and is credited for making this country a safer place.
Benjamin Banneker, 1731 – 1806
Born the son of a slave, Benjamin became fascinated when a family friend entered his home and had a watch on. After borrowing a book on geometry and one of Isaac Newton’s law of motion, he set out to create a “larger version” of that watch, mimicking a picture he had seen of a clock. 2 years of designing the clock and carving each piece by hand, Banneker successfully built the VERY FIRST clock in the United States.
President George Washington decided to move the nation’s capital from Philadelphia to an area surrounding Maryland and Virginia. Thomas Jefferson, who had been in correspondence with Banneker, requested that he be apart of the planning process for this move. The plans that Banneker drew is the basis for the layout of streets, building and monuments that exist to this day in Washington, D.C.
Granville Woods, 1865 – 1910
One of the early inventions from Mr. Woods was an improved steam boiler furnace and this was followed up by an improved telephone transmitter which had superior clarity of sound and could provide for longer range of distance for transmission.
In 1885, Woods patented a apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which he called “telegraphony,” would allow a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. The device was so successful that he later sold it to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, Woods developed his most important invention to date – a device he called Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph. A variation of the “induction telegraph,” it allowed for messages to be sent from moving trains and railway stations. By allowing dispatchers to know the location of each train, it provided for greater safety and a decrease in railway accidents.
Granville Woods often had difficulties in enjoying his success as other inventors made claims to his devices. Thomas Edison made one of these claims, stating that he had first created a similar telegraph and that he was entitled to the patent for the device. Woods was twice successful in defending himself, proving that there were no other devices upon which he could have depended or relied upon to make his device. After the second defeat, Edison decided that it would be better to work with Granville Woods than against him and thus offered him a position with the Edison Company.
He also developed the concept of a third rail for trains. This concept is used today for subway train platforms in every major city in the United States.
Sarah Boone received a patent on April 26, 1892 for a device which would help to neatly iron clothing. This device, the predecessor to our modern ironing board was made of a narrow wooden board, with collapsible legs and a padded cover and was specifically designed for the fitted clothing worn during that time period.
Jan Matzlinger, 1849 – 1886
We have been wearing shoes for a very long time. Although he did not create the shoe, he created the machine that attached the upper part of the shoe to the sole. Prior to this machine, there were people sewing these two parts together. They were called “lasters”. In 10 hours, lasters could only produce 50 shoes making them far to expensive for the average American to afford. Mr. Matzlinger’s invention was able to produce 700 shoes in a day. This machine is noted for putting shoes on the feet of Americans because now they were affordable to most.
These are just 5 of the thousands of inventions that we use on a daily basis. All of us wear shoes. Every street in America has a traffic light. Every house in a home has a phone. Millions of Americans step foot on a subway platform in cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, LA, Atlanta, Washington D.C. to travel. Every American uses that board to iron their clothes. Close your eyes and imagine life without these items. Imagine no traffic light. Imagine how long it would take that Amtrak train to go from Boston to New York if it did not have a third rail. Now open your eyes and mind to really learning about the contributions of African Americans in this country. You will be surprised who’s responsible for making your daily routine possible.
I dare you to educate yourself…