February is the time to celebrate Black History Month, and as such we’ve decided to take this month to celebrate black inventors and the amazing things they’ve created. We’ll be posting a new black inventor every week across our social media to spread awareness of what these people have gifted us with in our lives. We’ve started with none other than “The Peanut Man” himself, George Washington Carver!
George Washington Carver
Carver (1864-1943) was an African American scientist and inventor, and his primary claim to fame was his use of the peanut. Carver was born into slavery and became a teacher at Tuskegee Institute eventually, having become one of the most known scientists and inventors of his time. Carver created over 100 products using the peanut in his time, ranging from dyes and plastics all the way to gasoline, and 300 uses for peanuts in general. He also held a hefty belt consisting of 118 product variants for sweet potatoes. His inventions resolved problems as many seek to, but his inventions also solved a larger issue, that being the farmers in southern climates had an abundance of the crop but little demand. Carver’s inventions completely flipped that situation, creating more prosper for the farmers while solving other general problems that the peanuts could solve.
Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) was an African American female inventor, and made history as one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire, when that number was a far bigger feat than being a millionaire today. Walker invented specialized hair care products for African Americans after suffering hair loss from a scalp ailment she developed.
Walker was born Sarah Breedlove originally, the child of recently freed slaves. She would eventually have a child of her own and marry a man names Charles J. Walker, an advertiser who would later help promote her hair care business. During the 1890s Walker developed a scalp disorder that caused her to lose her hair, and she began trying whatever she could to resolve the issue. She was hired as a commission agent by Annie Turbo Malone, who was a successful black hair product entrepreneur. Walker then moved to Colorado and her husband helped create advertising for the hair loss remedy and a stage name of sorts – Madam C.J. Walker. Her hair care products took off, and she opened both a factory and beauty school in 1910, and the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company had become a resounding success.
Garret Morgan was an African American inventor who created a monumental path for black inventors who would follow in his path. Morgan held a myriad of patents for inventions like a breathing device, sewing machine, and an improved traffic signal to name a few.
Morgan (1877-1963,) was born in Kentucky and armed with only a basic elementary school education, and started his path as a sewing machine mechanic. He would go on to patent numerous inventions, such as a traffic signal and improved sewing machine. As a direct result of his sewing machine mechanic job, he would learn not only how it worked, but how it could be improved – and so he did. He created an improved sewing machine that he would then get a patent on, and opened his own sewing machine repair business which ended up being a complete success.
His new financial success would allowed him to open the G.A Morgan Hair Refining Company and sold a hair straightening cream he made for African Americans, and the the financial security provided by this new line of business would allow him to explore other inventing interests. Morgan patented a breathing device, also referred to as a “safety hood,” and had a white actor pose as the inventor to help drive sales due to racism being very relevant in the south still. Morgan and his brother would even use these masks to rescue 2 men and recover 4 bodies from a natural gas explosion.
Morgan was also the first man in Cleveland to own a car, and Morgan developed both the first friction drive clutch and a bit less of an advanced three signal traffic light, the predecessor of the same traffic lights we typically use today. Although he did acquire the patent to the traffic signal, he ended up selling it to General Electric for $40,000.
Marie Van Brittan Brown
Marie Van Brittan Brown was an African American nurse and inventor, going on to invent two very notable things even in this day and age.
Marie Van Brittan Brown (1922-1999) was a nurse located in Queens, New York. She lived in a rough neighborhood where break ins were not quite uncommon, and she sought a solution for this issue. Her solution was a two way communication surveillance system, which was the basis for many modern security systems. Alerting the police in her neighborhood would often result in them showing up too late, so she needed a means of alerting the authorities before the situation occurred. Her security system involved 3 three peepholes for three height levels, a camera, monitors, a two way microphone, and a button that would send an alert directly to the police over a perceived threat. She filed for the patent in 1966, and it was approved in 1969. She was then granted an award from the National Scientists Committee in response to her invention.
That concludes our line up of Black History month inventors, and we hope you enjoyed it! Inventing is a freedom that everyone should be entitled to, and at Lime Design we highly encourage that everyone do so, in order to improve the world day by day. If you’re looking to invent or have an idea already, check out our free Inventor’s Kit by clicking here!