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7 Inventions You Didn’t Know Were Created by African American Inventors

In the tapestry of innovation and progress, the contributions of African American inventors have often been overlooked or understated. From everyday conveniences to life-saving devices, these inventors have left an indelible mark on history. In this blog, we’ll shine a light on seven remarkable inventions that you might not have known were the brainchildren of African American inventors, showcasing their creativity, resilience, and lasting impact.

1. Traffic Light – Garrett Morgan (1922)

In 1922, Garrett Morgan, after witnessing a traffic accident, became inspired to improve road safety. His solution was the creation of a traffic light equipped with folding arms, a groundbreaking addition that added an extra layer of control to intersections. Morgan’s innovation eventually earned him $40,000 when he sold the patent.


2. Smoke Hood – Garrett Morgan (1916)

Garrett Morgan’s commitment to safety extended beyond roadways. In 1916, during the Waterworks Tunnel explosion, Morgan’s protective hood proved invaluable for firefighters dealing with heavy smoke. His invention, a forerunner to the modern gas mask, played a crucial role in saving lives.


3. Home Security Systems – Mary Van Brittan Brown (1969)

In 1969, nurse Mary Van Brittan Brown and her electrician husband, Albert, introduced a revolutionary home security system. This system, featuring cameras, a monitor, and a police alert button, laid the foundation for modern home security. Their creation aimed at providing safety in their Queens neighborhood has since become an integral part of residential security.

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4. Potato Chips – George Speck (1883)

The crispy delight we know as potato chips owes its existence to the ingenuity of chef George Speck. Faced with a customer complaint about soggy French fries, Speck responded by slicing potatoes thinner, frying them longer, and inventing what would later become a beloved snack.


5. Gas Heat Furnace – Alice H. Parker

Alice H. Parker, a college-educated New Jersey woman, sought a more efficient way to heat her home than the traditional fireplace. Her invention of the gas heat furnace marked a significant leap in home heating technology, providing a more controlled and comfortable solution.


6. Golf Tee – George Grant

George Franklin Grant, a distinguished Boston dentist and Harvard’s first African American professor, left his mark on the world of sports. In 1899, he revolutionized golf by inventing the first wooden-rubber golf tee. This simple yet ingenious creation transformed the game, making it more accessible and enjoyable for players.


7. Automatic Gear Shift – Richard Spikes (1932)

In 1932, Richard Spikes patented the automatic gear shift, simplifying the driving experience for many. Despite lacking formal education, Spikes became a prolific inventor, amassing numerous patents, all while making a living as a barber. His automatic gear shift innovation spared non-drivers the need for stick shift skills.

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