Black Inventor Brilliance

During Black History Month we should all take the time to learn the inspiring history of notable African- Americans, both past and present. African – Americans are famous by leaps and bounds for everything from Hollywood to Wall street. As an engineer, most fascinating of these icons are the inventors, who have taken an innovative idea from conception to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Inventors are out-of-the-box tinkerers who are able to see the unseen and in most cases willing to fail forward.


“Education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom”  

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver (peanut products), Thomas Jennings (dry cleaning system), Norbert Rillieux (sugar-refining process) Garrett Morgan (improved gas mask), Marie Van Brittan Brown (audio-video alarm system), Charles Drew (blood preservation for transfusions), Dr. Patricia Bath (laser cataracts surgical device), Lonnie Johnson (super soaker and more than 80 other patents), Frederick Jones (refrigeration machine), Granville T. Woods (streetcar and telephone), Madame C.J. Walker (hair care products), Elijah McCoy (cotton gin and 57 total patents), Percy Julian (chemical synthesis of drugs), and Henry Blair (seed planter) just to name a few. These are some amazing pioneers that were able to achieve success through perseverance and trial and error during times in American history that were not so favorable for professional African – Americans. These genius inventions help us in our everyday lives and most of them we can’t live prosperous and comfortable lives without. 


“I want the great masses of my people to take a greater pride in their personal appearance and to give their hair proper attention” 

Madame CJ Walker

An awarded patent is automatic monopoly for the inventor for a period of time – which is a dominant asset. In American history there existed a time when African – Americans were not permitted to apply for patent rights because they were considered property and not extended the rights granted to those considered a whole human. At times some of the unknown inventors would apply for a patent under the name of their white slave owner of their respective lawyers, also generally white males. African – Americans knew during these times that they were more likely to have their patent approved using a white person’s identity. Unfortunately, during this time many of the slaves’ inventions were exploited by their white owners for economic and social gain. Nevertheless, these pioneers have fully contributed to the industrialization of a nation and the progress of a people. 


“Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man” 

Dr. Charles Drew

I’d like to take this time to say “THANK YOU” to these black inventors who embody the true entrepreneurial spirit. The intellectual contributions they have made to society through their devices and products will forever stand in perpetuity. I stand on the shoulders of these brave titans and others whose names we do not know and I celebrate their achievements not only during Black History Month but 365! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

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