5 Black Inventions That You Probably Don't Know About (But Should!)

Madame CJ Walker

They changed the course of agriculture, saved millions of lives around the world, introduced the improved light bulb, and some even became millionaires. Yes, we're talking about black inventors who changed the world. Yet most people don't know who they are or what they invented.

The Black Inventor Online Museum contains a ton of information about black inventions. The list tracks such inventions from as much as 300 years ago. Here are just 5:

#1 - The Better, Improved Lightbulb: Lewis Latimer was born in 1848 in Massachusetts, and is considered one of the most important top 10 inventors of all time. Thomas Edison may have invented the first light bulb, but Latimer made it better, longer-lasting, less expensive and more efficient. It was Latimer's improved light bulb that made it possible for electric lighting to be installed in homes and throughout streets.

#2 - Long-Term Blood Storage: Dr. Charles Drew was born in 1904 in Washington, D.C. He later spent two years at Columbia University in New York. At the same time, he was working as a resident at the Columbia University Presbyterian Hospital. It was here where Dr. Drew became interested in the preservation of blood plasma. He developed a technique for long-term storage of blood and was instrumental in setting up the very first blood bank.

#3 - Gas Masks and Traffic Signals: What do gas masks and traffic signals have in common? They were both invented by Garrett Morgan. Born in 1877 in Paris, Kentucky, Morgan also invented the first hair straightener, but it was his gas mask invention that was used by the United States Army and saved the lives of thousands of soldiers in World War I. He also made the world a safer place with his automatic traffic signal, the basis for today's modern traffic lights.

#4 - Lubricating Cup: Elijah McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada in 1844. In 1872, he invented a “lubricating cup” technique that automatically oiled the axles and bearings on trains. The invention enabled trains to travel longer. It revolutionized the railroad industry and was later applied to other types of machinery.

#5 - Black Hair Care Products: Madam C. J. Walker (pictured above) was born in 1867 in Delta, Louisiana, and became famous when she invented a successful line of hair care products for black women. In 1906, she created the “Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing Company,” and in 1908 she trained women to sell her products door-to-door. The company grew tremendously, making her the first woman in the U.S. to become a millionaire.
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