Black History Month And The Inventions That Made An Impact
African Americans have contributed greatly to the fields of science and technology from the beginning of U.S. history. From traffic lights to caller ID, here’s a look at some of the innovative creations made by black people that make everyday life so much easier.
In 1892, Sarah Boone patented a design improvement for the ironing board. Boone expanded upon the ironing board’s original design, which was created by black inventor Elijah McCoy in 1874. Boone’s design took what was essentially just a horizontal block of wood and thinned it out to create a more narrow and curved board. Her design improvements made it easier to iron garments, particularly women’s clothing. Modern day ironing boards are designed based off of Boone’s invention. Boone was one of the first black women in U.S. history to receive a patent.
In 1940, Frederick McKinley Jones patented the cooling system that merchants used to preserve goods on trucks during extended periods of travel. Jones went on to co-found the U.S. Thermo Control Company, which later became Thermo King. The company played a vital role in World War II by helping preserve blood, food and other supplies. Before Jones’ invention, the only way to keep goods cold during transport was to use ice.
In 1923, Garret Morgan invented the three-signal traffic light featuring the yellow signal that alerts drivers when to yield. Morgan developed his design after witnessing a carriage accident in a busy intersection in Cleveland, Ohio. Morgan’s design inspired the modern three-way traffic light currently used in the United States, Britain and Canada. He later sold the rights to his patent to General Electric for $40,000.
Alice H. Parker patented the central heating furnace in 1919. Her design used natural gas to supply heat to homes instead of fireplaces, which were ineffective at heating more than one room. Parker’s furnace also allowed users to independently control the amount of heat used in each room. Many homes today use similar forced air heating systems modeled after Parker’s design.
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.