Bookmark this site...Return to Glory: The Powerful Stirring of the Black Man


B l a c k     I n v e n t o r s    a n d    I n v e n t i o n s. . .

This is by no means a complete list. Dr. Ben Carson mentions some of these inventors in the award-winning Return To Glory film:
   Four Busts (below, 8" high) by African American sculptor/photographer, Inge Hardison (b. 1904) from the "Negro Giants in History" collection created in 1967. Stunning likenesses. Hardison is a sculptor whose major interest is contemporary and historical portraiture. Much of Hardison’s work is emotionally involved to her heritage as a woman of African decent. She was the only woman among the six artists who formed the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Hardison once said, “During my long life I have enjoyed using different ways to distill the essences of my experiences so as to share for the good they might do in the lives of others.” A life loyal to creativity and art speaks of the life of Inge Hardison. These sculptures are some of the items in Dr. Freeman's Black History Collection.


  Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877-1963) was an African-American businessman and inventor whose curiosity and innovation led to the development of many useful and helpful products. A practical man of humble beginnings, Morgan devoted his life to creating things that made the lives of other people safer and more convenient. Among his inventions was an early traffic signal, that greatly improved safety on America's streets and roadways. On July 25, 1916, Morgan made national news for using a gas mask he had invented to rescue several men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel beneath Lake Erie.

   After the rescue, Morgan's company received requests from fire departments around the country who wished to purchase the new masks. The Morgan gas mask was later refined for use by U.S. Army during World War I. In 1921, Morgan was awarded a patent for a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. Two years later, a refined model of his early gas mask won a gold medal at the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety, and another gold medal from the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
  Norbert Rillieux (1806 -1894) was revolutionary in the sugar industry by inventing a refining process that reduced the time, cost, and safety risk involved in producing sugar from cane and beets. As the son of a White French planter/inventor and an African American slave mother, Norbert Rillieux was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He viewed the methods for refining sugar from beets and cane were dangerous, crude and required backbreaking labor. The methods threatened the slaves who were required to take boiling cane juice from one scalding kettle to another to produce a dark sugar.

   Rillieux designed an evaporating pan which enclosed a series of condensing coils in vacuum chambers, issued as a patent U.S. 4,879. The invention was later used by sugar manufacturer in Cuba and Mexico. Rillieux's system took much of the hand labor out of the refining process, it saved fuel because the juice boiled at lower temperatures, and the new technique produced a superior final product. The Rillieux device was patented in 1846 and was used widely on sugar plantations in Louisiana, Mexico, and the West Indies. "It was stated by Charles Brown, a chemist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that [Rillieux's invention of the sugar processing pan] was the greatest invention in the history of American Chemical Engineering."

   Frederick Jones (1892 - 1961) was one of the most prolific Black inventors ever, holding more than 60 patents in a variety of fields. Frederick 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). Jones was the first person to invent a practical, mechanical refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars, which eliminated the risk of food spoilage during long-distance shipping trips. The system was, in turn, adapted to a variety of other common carriers, including ships.

   Frederick Jones was issued the patent on July 12, 1940 (#2,303,857).
Frederick Jones also invented a self-starting gas engine and a series of devices for movie projectors: adapting silent movie projectors for talking films, and developing box office equipment that delivered tickets and gave change.

   Lewis Howard Latimer (1843-1928) is considered one of the 10 most important Black inventors of all time not only for the sheer number of inventions created and patents secured but also for the magnitude of importance for his most famous discovery. A pioneer in the development of the electric light bulb, Lewis was the only Black member of Thomas A. Edison's research team of noted scientists. While Edison invented the incandescent bulb, it was Latimer, a member of the Edison Pioneers, and former assistant to telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell, who developed and patented the process for manufacturing the carbon filaments.

   Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848, and reared in Boston. His father, George Latimer, a former slave, had fled to Boston from Virginia during the 1830s. At sixteen Latimer joined the Union navy as a cabin boy on the USS Massasoit. After an honorable discharge in 1865 Latimer returned to Boston. Skills he had developed in mechanical drawing landed him a position with Crosby and Gould, patent solicitors. While with the company he advance to a chief draftsman and soon began working on his own inventions. His first patent, approved on February 10, 1874, was for a "water closet for railway cars." In 1880 Latimer left Crosby and Gould to work as a draftsman for Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the machine gun and head of the United States Electric Lighting Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The following year Latimer and fellow inventor Joseph V. Nichols received a patent for their invention of the first incandescent light bulb with carbon filament.

   Prior to this breakthrough, filaments had been made from paper. Latimer later became a chief draftsman and expert witness in the Board of Patent Control of the company that would eventually be know as General Electric. Latimer continued to display his creative talents over then next several years. In 1894 he created a safety elevator, a vast improvement on existing elevators. He next received a patent for Locking Racks for Hats, Coats, and Umbrellas. The device was used in restaurants, hotels and office buildings, holding items securely and allowing owners of items to keep the from getting misplaced or accidentally taken by others. He next created a improved version of a Book Supporter, used to keep books neatly arranged on shelves. He continued to invent and teach his drafting skills until his death in 1928.

Mail Box Paul B. Downing October 27, 1891
Pencil Sharpener J.L. Love November 23, 1807
Improved Horse Shoe J. Ricks March 30, 1885
Fountain Pen  W.B. Purvis January 7, 1890
Golf Tee T. Grant December 12, 1889
Spark Plug Edmond Berger February 2, 1839
Riding Saddle W.D. Davis October 6, 1806
Almanac Benjamin Banneker Approx. 1791
Improved Dust Pan Lawrence P. Ray August 3, 1897
Fire Extinguisher T.J. Marshall October 26, 1872
Lawn Sprinkler J.M. Smith May 4, 1897
Hand Stamp Walter B. Purvis February 27, 1883
Lunch Pail James Robinson 1887
Rolling Pin John W. Reed 1884
Ironing Board Sarah Boone December 30, 1887
Eye Protector P. Johnson November 2, 1880
Insect Destroyer Gun A.C. Richard February 28, 1809
Automatic Gear Shift Richard B. Spikes February 6, 1932
Rotary Motor Frederick M. Jones June 27, 1939
Door Stop C. Dorsey December 10, 1878
Gas Mask Garrett Morgan October 13, 1914
Traffic Light Garrett Morgan November 20, 1923
Curtain Rod Supporter William S. Grant August 4, 1896
Improved Electric Lamp Bulb Filament Lewis Latimer March 21, 1882
Blood Plasma & Bag Charles Drew Approx. 1945
Biscuit Cutter A.P. Ashbourne November 30, 1875
Chamber Commode T. Elkin January 8, 1897
Lubricating Cup Elijah McCoy
"Real McCoy"
November 15, 1890
Street Sweeper Charles B. Brooks March 17, 1890
Clothes Dryer G.T. Sampson June 6, 1902
Folding Chair Brody & Surgwar June 11, 1889
Egg Beater Willie Johnson February 5, 1884
Lemon Squeezer J. Thomas White December 8, 1806
Mop Thomas W. Stewart June 11, 1883
Telephone Transmitter Granville T. Woods December 2, 1884
Cellular Car Phone Henry T. Sampson July 6, 1971
Typewriter Burridge & Marshman April 7, 1885
Record Player Arm Jos. Hunger Dickenson January 8, 1916
Ice Cream Scoop A.L. Cralle February 2, 1897
Improved Hair Brush Lydia D. Newman November 15, 1868
Lock W.A. Martin July 23, 1889
Peanut Butter George Washington Carver 1806
Improved Sugar Making Norbert Rillieux December 10, 1845
Door Knob O. Dorsey December 10, 1845
Furniture Casting O.A. Fisher March 14, 1876
Thermostat Control Frederick M. Jones February 23, 1960
Automatic Cut-Off Switch Granville T. Woods January 1, 1889
Collapsible Bicycle Frame L.R. Johnson October 10, 1806
Lantern Michael C. Harvey August 19, 1884
Automatic Fishing Device G. Cook May 30, 1800
Straightening Comb Madame C.J. Walker 1905
Key Chain F.J. Loudin January 9, 1894
Improved Lawnmower J.A. Burr May 19, 1889
Stove T.A. Carrington July 25, 1876
Tricycle M.A. Cherry May 8, 1886
Baby Buggy W.A. Richardson June 18, 1800
Refrigerator J. Standard July 14, 1891
Air Conditioning Unit Frederick M. Jones July 12, 1949
Elevator Alexander Miles October 11, 1867
Fire Escape Ladder J.W. Winters May 7, 1876
Folding Bed L.C. Bailey July 18, 1800
Shampoo Headrest C.O. Bailey October 11, 1806
Stethoscope  Imhotep Ancient Egypt
(circa 2980 B.C.)

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