Beyond Stereotypes: 10 African-American Inventors You Should Know

In this article, we look at 10 of the most important African-American inventors whose contributions continue to resonate today.

  • Published on 2 months ago
George Washington Carver

Throughout American history, African-Americans have played a crucial role in shaping the technological landscape of the United States. Despite facing immense challenges due to systemic racism and discrimination, their ingenuity and perseverance have led to groundbreaking inventions that have improved the lives of millions. Here are 10 of the most important African-American inventors whose contributions continue to resonate today.

10 Black Inventors

  • Garrett Morgan (1877-1963): Beyond the iconic gas mask, Morgan invented the automatic traffic signal, revolutionizing road safety. He also improved the smog hood and created a hair-straightening device, showcasing his diverse ingenuity.
  • Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919): More than just a haircare pioneer, Walker revolutionized Black economic empowerment. Her specialized hair products for African American textures not only addressed a crucial need but also built a business empire, making her America’s first self-made female millionaire.
  • Charles Drew (1904-1950): A surgeon and researcher, Drew’s groundbreaking work on storing and preserving blood plasma saved countless lives during World War II and continues to do so today. His advocacy for equitable access to blood transfusions cemented his legacy as a champion for social justice.
  • Elijah McCoy (1844-1929): Nicknamed “The Real McCoy” for the quality of his inventions, McCoy holds the record for most patents granted to an African-American (over 50!). His automatic lubricator for train engines significantly improved safety and efficiency, solidifying his place as a mechanical engineering legend.
  • Alexander Miles (1838-1918): Inspired by a near-tragedy with his daughter, Miles invented the automatic elevator doors, ensuring safety and convenience for millions. His dedication to safety exemplifies the ingenuity that drives progress.


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  • Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999): Brown developed a home security system in the 1960s with a closed-circuit camera and two-way audio. This was due to safety concerns in her neighborhood. Her vision laid the groundwork for modern security systems, empowering individuals and communities.
  • Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1968): The portable refrigerated unit for trucks, Jones’s invention, revolutionized the food and transportation industries. He tirelessly fought discrimination to secure recognition for his game-changing innovation, paving the way for future inventors.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019): An ophthalmologist, Dr. Bath developed the Laserphaco Probe, a groundbreaking tool for cataract surgery. This invention improved accessibility and outcomes for millions, showcasing the transformative power of medical innovation.
  • Lonnie Johnson (born 1949): Lonnie Johnson, an aerospace engineer with over 80 patents, is the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun. He also played a significant role in the development of the stealth bomber project and the Galileo space probe, showcasing his vast scientific impact.
  • Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): NASA mathematician Johnson broke barriers with crucial calculations for early space missions, including Apollo 11. Her story embodies the power of determination and inclusion in driving scientific progress. Consequently, her life story was dramatized in the movie Hidden Figures.

These are just a glimpse into the vast contributions of African-American inventors. Their stories serve as a testament to the resilience and innovation that thrive despite adversity.

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