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LIST: 10 Great African-American Tech Pioneers Everyone Should Know

There have been numerous of inventions throughout history by great black pioneers. However, these great black inventors always get overlooked or downplayed for their historical groundbreaking contributions. Let’s take a look back at some of the greatest black tech pioneers and their inventions. These are only a few to name more will follow in the upcoming weeks.


1. Benjamin Bradley

Invention: Warship steam engine

Benjamin Bradley was born a slave in Maryland, around 1830, but became an engineer and inventor. It was illegal for him to learn how to read and write, however, he did so by his master’s children. At the age of 16, he began working around scrap metal which led to the model of a small working steam engine. As a slave he was not able to get a patent for his work. His master allowed him to sell the idea for the steam engine and use the money to purchase his freedom.



2.  Andrew Jackson Beard
Invention: The Jenny Coupler
Before the Jenny Coupler invention train cars were manually joined together. As one could imagine this tasks caused a significant amount of accidents, even causing some workers to lose limbs. Andrew Beard patented the device in 1897, the same year Congress created the Federal Safety Appliance Act, a law that made it illegal to operate railroad cars without automatic couplers.
3. Lewis Howard Latimer
Invention: Water closet
Lewis Latimer was best known for improving the railroad toilet system with the water closet which is a  it’s a flush toilet. Lewis Latimer was the original draftsman for Thomas Edison. He also was the only African American member of the twenty-four “Edison Principles,” Thomas Edison’s engineering division of the Edison Company.
4. Garret Augustus Morgan
Inventions: Gas Mask/ Traffic Light
In 1912, Garret Morgan invented the Safety Hood, the forerunner of the Gas Mask for which he was granted a patent in 1914.  He also created the three-position Traffic Signal in 1923.
5. Frederick McKinley Jones
Inventions: Automatic refrigerator system & military air-conditioning unit
Frederick McKinley Jones patented more than sixty inventions, however, he is best known for inventing an automatic refrigeration system for long-haul trucks in 1935 (a roof-mounted cooling device).
6. Ronald S. Demon
Invention: Smart Shoe
Ronald Demon patented smart shoe technology to use chips and sensors to adjust cushioning and communicate data wirelessly to computer applications.
7. Norbert Rillieux
Invention: Multiple Effect Evaporator
Norbert Rillieux revolutionized the sugar industry with the multiple-effect evaporator, a device that produced high-quality sugar and reduced production costs by using steam efficiently to evaporate water and prevent  sugar from burning or being discolored.
 8.  Lonnie Johnson
Invention: Super Soaker water gun
Lonnie Johnson is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun, which has ranked among the world’s top 20 best-selling toys every year since its release.
9. Granville T. Woods
Inventions: Telegraphing, third brake, improved air brake, and trolley conducting system
Granville T. Woods registered over 65 patents for electrical, mechanical, and communications devices which today we take for granted.  His inventions ranged from the electrified third rail common to most subway systems worldwide to 12 devices which modernized the railroad to an advanced telephone transmitter.
10. Henry Blair
Invention: Seed Planter
Henry Blair was the second African-American to receive a patent. Very little is known about his early childhood, but it is know that he invented the seed planter, a tool that would allow farmers to plant corn faster.

Written by How Africa

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