top of page

Community Advocacy Organization

Inventions by African Americans That Changed History


Inventions by African Americans That Changed History

The United States and the world owe so much to African American people. As leaders in education, politics, culture, and science, they’ve made substantial contributions to society that have saved lives, influenced business, and so much more. Here are a few little-known or rarely attributed inventions by African Americans that changed history for the better.


Portable Refrigeration

It’s debatable who really invented air conditioning. Several individuals had a hand in developing modern PTAC units, but Frederick McKinley Jones invented the first portable refrigeration units. Jones had several impressive inventions and developments to his credit, including a ticket-dispensing machine for movie theaters, a device that synced audio with silent films, and a portable X-ray machine!


Jones’s most important invention might be portable refrigeration. He created refrigeration systems for trucks that worked well and weren’t disrupted by motion or jostling on the road. This invention became invaluable during World War II in the 1940s. Soldiers used refrigerated trucks to preserve and transport food, drugs, blood, and other perishables.


Traffic Lights and Gas Masks

It’s impossible to guess how many lives Garrett Morgan saved with his two best-known inventions: the gas mask and the traffic light. Reportedly, Morgan witnessed a horrific accident between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage. Seeing how the accident could have been prevented by better traffic signals, he developed a light that not only told drivers when to stop or go, but it also delivered a warning that the light was about to change. Gas masks, of course, have saved the lives of countless patients, firefighters, miners, and rescue and military personnel.


Carbon Filaments

Thomas Edison invented light bulbs, but Lewis Latimer made them shine for far longer. Latimer showed how to manufacture carbon filaments that didn’t break and helped the earliest incandescent bulbs burn brightly for far longer than Edison ever could. This led to light fixtures becoming more affordable and available to all.


As a side note, Latimer was hired by Alexander Graham Bell to draw up the plans for the telephone for his patent application, and he also worked on an early refrigeration system!


Security Systems

Another invention by African Americans that changed history is the first integrated security system for homes. Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband, Albert Brown, developed and later patented it. The system employed cameras, microphones, speakers, and monitors, allowing them to check out and speak with people at their door before letting them in or sending them away. The same basic system continues to protect people in homes, businesses, government facilities, and more places across the world.

7 views0 comments
bottom of page