By Emerald Green
Most people already know civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X, but there are other African Americans who contributed to society in all different fields. Achievements of African American history are apart of everyday life– from the crunch of a potato chip and the traffic lights on Eastern to the squirts of the super soaker during the three smoldering days of summer.
Since 1976, February has been celebrated as Black History or National African American History Month. President Gerald R. Ford was the first president to recognize Black History Month as a national holiday after it evolved from Negro History Week. With the success of historical biopic “Hidden Figures” about how three African American women at NASA helped John Glen orbit the Earth in 1962, this past month celebrated the achievements of all African American activists and pioneers, both famous and unknown.
When drivers see Garrett Morgan’s traffic light, invented in 1923, they no longer have to guess when to yield, stop and drive.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be completely different if George Washington Carver hadn’t invented peanut butter in 1884.
Night owls wouldn’t be able to see as well without the invention of carbon filaments for light bulbs in 1880. Lights now shine brighter and longer because of Louis Latimer.
Madam C. J. Walker created her own line of hair products specialized for black hair after years of struggling to style her hair with products not meant for her. She has helped millions of black women feel proud and more confident of their hair.
Human civilization was forever changed in 1853 when George Crum invented the potato chip when a restaurant customer complained that the french fries were too thick.
Surprisingly, it was the boxing heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, who first patented the wrench in 1922.
People wouldn’t be able to make their own bread if Joseph Lee hadn’t invented the bread maker in 1895. After being frustrated with seeing huge wastes of bread being thrown out after just one day, the bread maker was born.
Summers would be a lot more boring without the Super Soaker, invented by Lonnie Johnson in 1989. He raised the bar for fun summer expectations when he took the water gun to a whole new level.
Remember that scene in “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” when London sleeps over at Maddie’s house? London was positively shocked when Maddie introduced her to a more recent version of Sarah Good’s 1985 folding cabinet bed.
Pencils would be a lot duller without John Love’s 1897 invention of the portable pencil sharpener known as the “Love Sharpener.”
Thanks to Philip Downing, mail is protected from nature in the mailbox. Back when it was first invented in 1891, the mailbox had a hinged door that closed to secure the mail inside the street letter drop box unlike now where it’s protected under lock and key.
For those with no washer or dryer in the house or apartment, thank Thomas Jennings for inventing the dry-cleaning process, originally “dry-sourcing.” In 1821, he was the first black man to receive a patent.
How would eggs be thoroughly beaten if Willis Johnson never invented the egg-beater in 1884? Over the last two centuries, millions of eggs have been whipped and mixed to perfection thanks to him.
The 1982 artificial pacemaker from Otis Boykin allows people with previous heart problems to live and love again. Ironically, Boykin died that same year from heart failure, but his invention has saved thousands of lives since.
Without these inventions the world would be a very different place. During times when African Americans were not accepted and discouraged in society, these brave African Americans objected the status quo of being small and silent by inventing things that pushed humanity farther . They saw holes in the world around them and decided to fill them, forever changing daily life as it was known.
- Egg-beater: Willis Johnson
- Scalp Ointment: Madam C.J. Walker
- Mailbox: Philip Downing
- Potato Chips: George Crum
- Portable Pencil Sharpener: John Love
- Wrench: Jack Johnson
- Super Soaker: Lonnie Johnson
- Stop Light: Garrett Morgan