The Black Achievers Wall
The Greatest Black Achievers in History
With only an elementary school education, Black inventor (and son of an enslaved parent), Garrett Morgan came up with several significant inventions, including an improved sewing machine and the gas mask. However, one of Morgan’s most influential inventions was the improved traffic light. Morgan’s was one of the first three-light systems that were invented in the 1920s, resulting in widespread adoption of the traffic lights we take for granted today.
The ironing board is a product that’s used possibly just as much as it’s overlooked. In the late 19th century, it was improved upon by Sarah Boone, an African American woman who was born enslaved. One of the first Black women in U.S. history to receive a patent, she expanded upon the original ironing board, which was essentially a horizontal wooden block originally patented in 1858. With Boone’s 1892 additions, the board featured a narrower and curved design, making it easier to iron garments, particularly women’s clothing. Boone’s design would morph into the modern ironing board that we use today.
Elijah McCoy was the inventor of the lubricating oil cup that allowed railroad steam engines to be lubricated without stopping the train, saving time and money. McCoy was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada on May 2, 1844. His parents escaped from slavery in Kentucky to Canada on the Underground Railroad. As a child, he became interested in mechanical devices, often taking apart machines and reassembling them. At the age of 15, McCoy was sent by his parents to attend school in Edinburgh, Scotland where he was certified as a mechanical engineer.