5 of the World’s Most Infamous Black Inventors and Their Inventions

garret morgan's gas mask invention
Written by Tinaya Sallie

There are so many useful gadgets that we use today; however, have you ever stopped to wonder who came up with the ingenious ideas for some of them? Many of these inventions have gone on to greatly change the way we go about our everyday lives. With that said, here’s a look at a few famous black inventors who have made their mark in history.

Benjamin Banneker

Renowned Motown legend Stevie Wonder made a song about him titled Black Man, in salute to black men as a whole. Despite his many skills as the self-taught son of a former slave, the invention that propelled his reputation was the clock. In the early 1750’s, he borrowed a pocket watch from a rich friend, took it apart, and studied the components. After returning the timepiece, he developed a precise, fully operational clock from carved wooden pieces that ticked for decades, which led to him opening his own clock and watch repair business.

 Granville Woods

Ever heard of the telegraph? More like an old-time instant messenger, it’s an electrical instrument used to transfer messages in real time between far distances. It also allowed trains to communicate, which would help prevent crashes and avoid dangers on railway tracks, and assisted dispatchers in locating trains that were lost.

George Washington Carver

Carver is probably one of most famous African-American inventors in history. Fondly called the plant doctor as a young man, he was known for the discovery of more than 100 uses for the peanut. These uses came about after following his passion for agriculture through college, where he devised a way to replenish soil by using peanuts in crop rotation. Due to the surplus of the legume, other innovative ways were developed as well, such as cooking oil and printer ink.

Alexander Miles

Think about using an elevator where you had to close those big heavy doors by hand. Miles relieved this tedious task, with the invention of the automatic elevator door. This system allowed the door to open and close by means of a self-trigger. This feature ensured that the elevator ride up and down was much safer for all involved, in part because it would prevent people from falling through the shoot if they forgot to close the shaft door.

Garrett Morgan

Do you know any World War veterans? Well, many of them have Mr. Morgan to thank for saving their lives, due to his invention of the gas mask. The device was made with the aim of making poisonous air safer to breathe. It was put to use in 1916, allowing the safe rescue of workers from a collapsed tunnel in Ohio. The device has been innovated and is still widely used today.

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Tinaya Sallie

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