Some of the conveniences you enjoy every day as well as things may you depend on were invented by these African Americans; check out some of the great inventions by African Americans.
Sarah Goode, the first woman ever to receive a U.S. patent, spent her childhood in slavery and lived through the Civil War. When she finally escaped to Chicago, she opened a furniture store and invented the folding cabinet bed as an incentive to get more urban dwellers living in cramped spaces to come into her store. Today, you rarely see this exact type of furniture, but it was once a staple in inner-city apartments, serving as both a bed and a desk.
The food that is a staple or permanent occupant at tailgates, birthday parties, movie nights and on many kitchen counters was invented by George Crum. Crum was working as a chef at a resort in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. when an unhappy customer complained his French fries were “too thick, too mushy and not salty enough.” In a rage, Crum cut potatoes as thin as possible, fried them until they were crispy and doused them in salt, sending them back to the disgruntled customer. Much to his surprise (and our benefit) the customer loved the crunchy creation and it went on to be one of the most-ordered dishes at that restaurant.
This device is how airplane pilots know how and when to take off and land without colliding with other planes. But the device was first built for trains, and the mind behind it was Granville T. Woods’. Woods created the multiplex telegraph in 1887, and it enabled dispatchers and engineers to communicate with moving trains from their respective stations. The device also allowed inter-train communication between conductors and greatly cut down the number of train collisions.
You may not have your favorite thing to spread on bread, dip apple slices into and blend up in your protein smoothies if it weren’t for George Washington Carver. Carver was a botanist who researched and promoted how to grow alternate crops to cotton, like peanuts and soybeans, so that poor farmers could have an easy food source.
You may never have heard of this device, but you’ve probably heard a closely affiliated term: the Real McCoy. Here’s where the term came from: Elijah McCoy, born to parents who had escaped slavery, earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering before going on to work a job oiling the moving parts of trains. He eventually realized this job could be done by machine instead of by hand, and he invented the automatic oil cup, which lubricates a train’s axles and bearings while it is moving. His invention of course spurred copycats, but savvy engineers would always ask for “the real McCoy” when ordering the device.
You might believe Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but he was simply the one to perfect it: dozens of inventors were working on commercial lighting projects at the same time, including Lewis Latimer. While working as an office assistant at a law firm that handled patents, Latimer picked up some tricks of mechanical drawing and was promoted to drafstman. At the time, Edison was working on a light bulb with a paper filament, but the filament kept burning up. Latimer created a light bulb that ran on carbon filament, which lasted longer and was cheap to make. Latimer’s creation made it possible for low-income families to finally light their homes.
Sarah Breedlove’s life started out rough: she was orphaned at age 8, and left a widow with children by age 19. She supported her children as a laundress for 18 years and her stress, poor diet and unhealthy conditions eventually led to her losing a lot of hair. This problem spurred a creation that would change her life: the Walker Hair Care System. Breedlove created a recipe from pomade that would regrow hair. Breedlove not only created a great product but also conceived of a great marketing plan. She was one of the first business owners to use door-to-door salespeople and she was one of the first women to come close to being a millionaire.
After earning masters degrees, Charles Richard went on to Columbia University to earn a doctorate in medical science. During his studies, he took an interest in the preservation of blood and discovered a method through which red blood cells could be separated from plasma, and the two components could be stored separately. Drew’s discovery meant that for the first time in history, blood could be stored allowing for more blood transfusions. Drew’s essay on his findings inspired the first blood bank. Drew went on to set up blood banks for the U.S. Army and Navy.
Before 1891, people didn’t have the luxury of knowing their birthday cards and rent checks would arrive at their destinations safely. At the time, mailboxes were semi-open, which made mail subject to thievery and damage from harsh weather. Philip B. Downing solved that problem with his invention of a mailbox that featured both an outer door and an inner safety door. The way this worked was that when the outer door was open, the inner door shut; so people could only put things in the mailbox, but never take things out.
When Garret Morgan (who had a sixth grade education) was working as a handyman, he taught himself how to use, fix and make sewing machines. He went on to open a shop that sold and repaired the machines and while working on a fluid that would polish needles, he stumbled upon a formula that could straighten human hair. This only spurred him to keep inventing, and he went on to create two lifesaving inventions: the “safety hood” which protected firemen from smoke and delivered fresh oxygen to them, and an early prototype of a traffic signal.