They say necessity is the mother of invention; if that’s true, it’s no wonder African Americans have created so many useful products designed to make work easier or to save money.
- African Americans who were slaves often came up with ideas to make their work more efficient. They invented better farm tools and fishing nets. They became expert basket weavers and ironsmiths.
- African Americans invented or improved folding chairs, ironing boards, light fixtures, supercomputers, train cars, saddles, golf tees, gas masks, blood banks, shin guards, engines, and even potato chips, according to Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson.
- Elijah McCoy invented a way to lubricate the gears of a train engine. Other inventors made lesser versions, but his was known as the “Real McCoy,” and it was the best.
- George Washington Carver was a brilliant botanist and inventor. He learned new ways to make plants grow and also invented ways to use those plants, such as making soap, ink, and synthetic rubber.
- Frederick M. Jones created a portable x-ray machine and refrigeration for trucks, ships, and planes that deliver food.
- Charles Drew learned how to separate plasma from blood cells.
- Garrett Morgan made the first automatic traffic lights.
- Otis Boykin invented a device that could control computers and missiles.
Questions and Answers
Question: What other contributions have African Americans made?
Answer: African Americans are perhaps most well-known for their contributions to music, including gospel, soul, blues, rap, and hip-hop. Many gifted athletes are African American, as well as artists, poets, scientists, scholars, businesspeople, and writers.
Visit Scholastic to watch a slideshow about African American inventors.
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Tobin, Declan. (2021). African American Inventors - American History For Kids. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/african-american-inventors/