Young, Gifted, and Black...
A debate has been raging between this site and Mean Ol' Meany regarding the impact of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and reparations. During this debate a comment was made regarding the contributions of African Americans to modern day society. Below is just a small list of the many inventions by African Americans, most of which we take for granted everyday without even a thought of who invented them.
The idea of a blood bank was pioneered by Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950). Dr. Drew was an American medical doctor and surgeon who started the idea of a blood bank and a system for the long term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept longer than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and saved many, many lives. Dr. Drew set up and operated the blood plasma bank at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, NY. Drew's project was the model for the Red Cross' system of blood banks, of which he became the first director.
George Washington Carver (1865?-1943) was an American scientist, educator, humanitarian, and former slave. Carver developed hundreds of products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans, and soybeans; his discoveries greatly improved the agricultural output and the health of Southern farmers. Before this, the only main crop in the South was cotton. The products that Carver invented included a rubber substitute, adhesives, foodstuffs, dyes, pigments, and many other products.
The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum. Crum was a Native American/African American chef at the Moon Lake Lodge resort in Saratoga Springs, New York, USA. French fries were popular at the restaurant and one day a diner complained that the fries were too thick. Although Crum made a thinner batch, the customer was sill unsatisfied. Crum finally made fries that were too thin to eat with a fork, hoping to annoy the extremely fussy customer. The customer, surprisingly enough, was happy - and potato chips were invented!
Clatonia Joaquin Dorticus was an African-American inventor who received many patents. He invented an apparatus for applying dyes to the sides of the soles and heels of shoes, a machine for embossing contouring the paper of photographs, a device that helped develop photographs, and a leak stopper for hoses.
The street letter drop mailbox with a hinged door that closed to protect the mail was invented by Philip B. Downing. Downing, an African-American inventor, patented his new device on October 27, 1891.
Sarah E. Goode was a business woman and inventor. Goode invented the folding cabinet bed, a space-saver that folded up against the wall into a cabinet. When folded up, it could be used as a desk, complete with compartments for stationery and writing supplies. Goode owned a furniture store in Chicago, Illinois, and invented the bed for people living in small apartments. Goode's patent was the first one obtained by an African-American woman inventor
Lewis Howard Latimer (1848-1928) was an African-American inventor who was a member of Edison's research team, which was called "Edison's Pioneers." Latimer improved the newly-invented incandescent light bulb by inventing a carbon filament
Elijah McCoy (1843 or 1844-1929) was a mechanical engineer and inventor. McCoy's high-quality industrial inventions (especially his steam engine lubricator) were the basis for the expression "the real McCoy," meaning the real, authentic, or high-quality thing.
Garrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963), was an African-American inventor and businessman. He was the first person to patent a traffic signal. He also developed the gas mask (and many other inventions). Morgan used his gas mask to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine. Soon after, Morgan was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.
Norbert Rillieux (March 17, 1806-October 8, 1894) was an African-American inventor and engineer who invented a device that revolutionized sugar processing. Rillieux's multiple effect vacuum sugar evaporator (patented in 1864) made the processing of sugar more efficient, faster, and much safer. The resulting sugar was also superior. His apparatus was eventually adopted by sugar processing plants all around the world.
Madame C. J. Walker (December 23, 1867 - May 25, 1919) was an inventor, businesswoman and self-made millionaire. Sarah Breedlove McWilliams C. J. Walker was an African-American who developed many beauty and hair care products that were extremely popular. Madame Walker started her cosmetics business in 1905. Her first product was a scalp treatment that used petroleum and a hot comb. Sarah later invented a system for straightening hair. She added Madame to her name and began selling her new "Walker System" door-to-door. Walker soon added a hair-growing ointment and other cosmetic products to her line. The products were very successful and she soon had many saleswomen, called "Walker Agents," who sold her products door to door.
"Africa is not only the original home of humanity, it is the cradle of its intellect. It was on Africa's savannahs, riverbanks, highlands, deserts, and forests that the first men and women used the power of their minds to shape their environment in ways that suited them. Here man established himself as a tool maker and hunter and advanced social animal. Over the course of millions of years, groups of prehistoric Africans of the genus Homo reasoned, judged, understood, and created the basis for much of the technology and industry that exists in the world today." - John E. Pfeiffer.