Most people have heard about the famous inventions of the light bulb, the cotton gin, and the iPhone; however, there are countless other, often overlooked inventions that make our lives much easier. Among the creative minds that have come up with these inventions are African American inventors. From the traffic light to the ironing board, here is a list of products that have sprung from the minds of Black inventors.
- Ironing Board, Invented by Sarah Boone in 1892
The ironing board is a product that is pretty much used every day just as much as its inventor is overlooked. In the late 19th century, Sarah Boone, an African-American woman who was born a slave, improved upon an already existing design of the ironing board. Boone was one of the first African Americans in U.S. history to receive a patent. She expanded upon the original idea of the original ironing board was essentially a wooden block that was patented in 1858. With Boone’s additions, the board began to feature a more narrow and curved design, which made it easier to iron the garment, especially women’s clothing. Boone’s design would eventually morph into the modern ironing board design that we use today.
- Home Security System, Co-Invented by Mary Van Britten Brown in 1966
Before security systems became a staple in many homes today, a nurse named Mary Van Britten Brown devised an early security unit for her own home. She had spent many nights alone at her home located in Queens, New York while her husband was away, and she began to feel unsafe with the high crime rates located in her area. On top of that, the police were unreliable and unresponsive. So she created her own device that would make her feel safe.
In 1966, Brown invented a system that used a camera that could slide into and look through four peepholes in her front door. The camera’s view would then appear on a monitor in her home so that she could see any unwelcome guests.
- The Three Traffic Light, Invented by Garrett Morgan in 1923
With only an elementary education and being the son of enslaved parents, Black inventor Garrett Morgan came up with several inventions, including the improved sewing machine and the gas mask. However, one of his most famous inventions was the improved traffic light. Without his invention, driver’s across the country would be directed by a two-light system.
- Refrigerated Trucks, Invented by Frederick McKinley Jones in 1940
If you have any refrigerated product that you bought from your local grocery store, then you can thank African American inventor Frederick McKinley Jones. Jones was able to take out more than 60 patents in his lifetime, including a patent for the roof-mounted cooling system that is used to refrigerate goods on trucks during extended periods of transportation. He received a patent for his invention in 1940 and co-founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company, later known as Thermo King. This company was instrumental during World War II, helping to preserve blood, food, and supplies during the war.
- Color IBM PC Monitor and Gigahertz Chip, Co-Invented by Mark Dean c. 1980 and 1999
Before flat screens and hi-definition LCD monitors were the norm, PC displays were limited to screens with no color that were tethered to computers with limited processing power. That all changed thanks to Black inventor and engineer Mark Dean. Dean began working for IBM as a chief engineer in the early 1980s, making up a team of 12 people who would develop the first IBM PC. In addition to helping create IBM’s original machine in his early years with the company, he also worked to develop the color monitor and led the team that developed the first gigahertz processor. The massive chip, built in 1999, would allow for higher processing rates at faster speeds within PCs.