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Black History Month


Black History Month celebrates the history and achievements of African Americans from all walks of life. What are contemporary African American scientists and inventors achieving today? In celebration of Black History Month, Inventors will highlight the accomplishments of African American inventors.
  1. Introduction to Black History Month
  2. Contemporary African American Inventors
  3. African American Patent Holders
  4. Black History Month Stories
  5. Benjamin Banneker
  6. George Washington Carver
  7. Garrett Morgan
  8. Lewis Latimer
  1. Madame Walker
  2. Elijah McCoy
  3. Granville T. Woods
  4. Jan Matzeliger
  5. Jack Johnson
  6. Lonnie G Johnson
  7. African American Women Inventors
  8. Black History Month Fun

Introduction to Black History Month

Carter Godwin Woodson

What we now call Black History Month was originated in 1926 by Carter Godwin Woodson as Negro History Week. The month of February was selected in deference to Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln who were both born in that month. Photo: Carter Godwin Woodson

Contemporary African American Inventors

Robert Bryant works in in a lab located in the Advanced Materials and Processing Building.

While the word "history" is right in the middle of "Black History Month", the best part of inventing is about bringing something new to the world. Modern-day inventors have been responsible for groundbreaking developments that are changing the world we live in. Learn about the achievements of contemporary African American inventors.

African American Patent Holders

Elijah McCoy - Drawing For Patent #129,843

An extensive list of black inventors holding patents listed by name, patent date and invention with history. Note: The black inventor patent holder database, photo galleries, and other articles are available online year round and are not limited to February or Black History Month. After all inventors don't just invent one month of the year. Patent Drawing: Elijah McCoy

Black History Month Stories

George Washington Carver

Many familiar black inventors are discussed along with a surprising amount of unfamiliar names in our special Black History Month Stories. What we know about early African American innovators comes mostly from the work of Henry Baker. He was an assistant patent examiner at the U.S. Patent Office who was dedicated to uncovering and publicizing the contributions of Black inventors. Photo: George Washington Carver

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker was a self-educated scientist, astronomer, inventor, writer, and antislavery publicist. He built a striking clock entirely from wood, published a Farmers' Almanac, and actively campaigned against slavery. He was one of the first African Americans to gain distinction in science.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

Botanist George Washington Carver, a former slave, contributed immensely to the understanding and development of the South's economic potential. He once declined an invitation to work for a salary of more than $100,000 a year (almost a million today) to freely continue his research in agricultural science on behalf of his countrymen.

Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan

The son of former slaves, Garrett Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877. As a self-educated man, he went on to make an explosive entry into the field of technology. He invented a gas inhalator when he, his brother, and some volunteers were rescuing a group of men caught by an explosion in a smoke-filled tunnel under Lake Erie.

Lewis Latimer

Lewis Latimer

Lewis Howard Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848. He enlisted in the Union Navy at the age of 15 and upon completion of his military service, returned to Massachusetts and was employed by a patent solicitor where he began the study of drafting. His talent for drafting and his creative genius led him to invent a method of making carbon filaments for the Maxim electric incandescent lamp.

Madame Walker

Madame Walker - Beauty Ad

Madame Walker was born in 1867 in poverty-stricken rural Louisiana. Walker was the daughter of former slaves, orphaned at the age of seven and widowed by 20. After her husband’s death, the young widow migrated to St. Louis, Missouri, seeking a better way of life for herself and her child. She supplemented her income as a wash woman by selling her homemade beauty products door-to-door. Eventually, Walker’s products formed the basis of a thriving national corporation employing at one point over 3,000 people.

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1843, the son of slaves who had fled Kentucky. Educated in Scotland, he returned to the United States to pursue a position in his field of mechanical engineering. During his lifetime, Elijah McCoy earned more than fifty patents,

Granville T. Woods

Granville T. Woods

Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1856, Granville T. Woods dedicated his life to developing a variety of inventions relating to the railroad industry. To some he was known as the "Black Edison" for being a prolific inventor.

Jan Matzeliger

Jan Matzeliger was born in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana in 1852. He immigrated to the United States at age 18 and went to work in a shoe factory in Philadelphia. Shoes then were hand made, a slow tedious process. Matzeliger helped revolutionize the shoe industry by developing a shoe lasting machine that would attach the sole to the shoe in one minute.

Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson

The world's first African American heavyweight champion patented a wrench on April the 18th, 1922. After champion Jack Johnson defeated James Jeffries, a leading white fighter, who came out of retirement to try to take the heavyweight championship back from Johnson, black poet William Waring Cuney captured the exuberant African American reaction in his poem, "My Lord, What a Morning"

Lonnie G Johnson

The Super Soaker was invented in 1988 under the original name of the "Power Drencher" and a whole new era of power water squirters began - invented by Lonnie Johnson, an Aerospace Engineer from Los Angeles, California

African American Women Inventors

madam walker

Famous and infamous African American women inventors - until about 1840, only twenty U.S. patents were issued to women of any color. Judy Reed may not have been able to write her name, but she patented a hand-operated machine for kneading and rolling dough. She was the first African American woman to obtain a patent. Photo: Madam Walker

Black History Month Fun

Test your knowlege of Black History Month by taking our fun quiz.

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