5 African American inventors That Changed The World

Behind some of the greatest inventions that keep our world functioning are the African American Inventors that made them possible. In honor of Black History Month and beyond, here are a few African American inventors whose ideas changed the way society functioned forever.


Garret Morgan

The Three-Light Traffic Light - 1923

Garrett Morgan’s early inventions certainly made their impact on society, like the gas mask and improved sewing machine, however his most influential creation was the improved traffic light. If not for his contributions, drivers might still be directed by a two-light system. Morgan was motivated by a severe car accident he witnessed at an intersection in Cleveland, Ohio. Because of this he decided to that the current two-light system and add a yielding component that would warn oncoming drivers that they would soon need to come to a complete stop. His patient was approved the year after its creation in 1923. 

Alexander Miles

Automatic Elevator Doors - 1887

Before the invention of automatic elevator doors, taking a lift was elaborate, scary, and made people contemplate just hiking up the stairs instead. You had to remember to shut the doors on your own before the elevator took off, and forgetting to do so proved to be fatal on numerous occasions. Alexander Mile’s daughter almost fell down an elevator shaft herself one day, and from then on he was determined to develop a safer solution. He took out a patent for the mechanism in 1887 that would automatically open and close elevator doors, and his specific designs are still widely used today. 

McKinley Jones 

Refrigerated Trucks - 1940

In the mid 1930’s McKinley Jones took out a patent for the roof-mounted cooling system used to refrigerate  goods on trucks for long periods of transportation. He co-founded the U.S Thermo Control Company after receiving a patent for his creation in 1940. The company is now known as Thermo King, and was of great use during World War II by helping to preserve supplies, food, and blood at the time. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Home Security System - 1966

Nurse and inventory Mary Van Brown co invented the home security system, along with her husband Albert Brow. They Jointly applied for a patent that same year that was approved in 1969. Her contributions are still influencing home security system development to this very day. 

Lewis Latimer

Carbon Light Bulb Filament - 1881

Though the original lightbulb was invented by Thomas Edison, the innovation used to make a lightbulb that would be longer lasting through carbon filament was created by inventor Lewis Latimer. The invention helped make electric lighting more practical and affordable for the average household.