As Black History Month comes to an end, we must remind ourselves that February isn’t the only month in the year to acknowledge the accomplishments of African-Americans, especially when we use some of the things that were invented by black people every day.
Black people have made some incredible contributions to society, including in the realms of music and culture. There are so many examples that we couldn’t fit them all in one post. But we decided to pulled together a short list of some of the things invented by black people that the world simply wouldn’t be able to live without — as a simple reminder that black history really is everyone’s history.
Ice Cream Scoop
Who doesn’t enjoy a fresh scoop of ice cream on a hot day? Alfred A. Cralle invented the ice cream scoop making it easier for people everywhere to enjoy their favorite treat. Cralle studied at a seminary, worked as carpenter and then became interested in mechanics. He was first black man to receive a patent in Pittsburgh.
Imagine what the roads would look like without traffic lights. Well, thanks to Garrett A Morgan, we don’t have to. Born to freed slaves, with only 6th grade level of education, Morgan owned a repair shop, clothing business and cosmetic product line. He started The Cleveland Call black newspaper in 1920, and patented the mechanical traffic light in 1923 and sold it to General Electric.
Super Soaker Water Gun
Lonnie G. Johnson changed childhoods forever when he invented the super soaker water gun. As a Tuskegee graduate who joined the Airforce and was assigned to Strategic Air Command, Johnson worked on the stealth bomber program. He also worked on the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. While working on an enviro-friendly heat pump, he invented the super soaker, and later started Johnson Research & Development and acquired some 100 patents.
The Potato Chip
Snacking just wouldn’t be the same if George “Speck” Crum hadn’t invented the potato chip. A cook and restaurateur, the story of Crum’s invention is quite entertaining. He was working at a restaurant that served french fries and a customer sent them back for being cut too thickly which upset Crum’s sister (and sous-chef), so he cut them extra thin to enrage the customer. But they obviously loved them. The snacks were originally called “Saratoga Chips”
Open Heart Surgery
Although Daniel H. Williams didn’t invent the procedure, he was the first surgeon to do it successfully. He also opened the first hospital with an interracial staff (Provident Hospital in 1893). In 1894, he was appointed chief of surgery of Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., which originally treated former slaves.
The Light Bulb
Thomas Edison may have invented the light bulb, but Lewis Latimer perfected it. Latimer was an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the first practical telephone, before joining Edison’s research team called “Edison’s Pioneers”. Edison’s prototypical light bulb had a filament that burnt out quickly, but Latimer invented a filament made with more durable carbon, and sold the “Incandescent Electric Light Bulb with Carbon Filament” patent to the United States Electric Company in 1881. He also patented the process to manufacture said filament in 1882, and then created the well-known threaded socket for the light bulb. We use tungsten light bulbs now, but he was famous for making use of electric light possible in public and at home. He oversaw installation of public electric lights in US, UK, and Canada. He also invented water closet for railroad cars and a precursor to the air conditioner.
Inglewood natives Cali Swag District released the song in 2010 after a friend encouraged them to make a song about the popular dance. However, rapper Doug E. Fresh is hailed as the originator of the popular dance, which is reportedly named after him, a feat he admitted he’s quite proud of. “This is the first time in history, in Hip-Hop, a rap artist didn’t make the dance himself, like make a song about the dance himself,” the rapper said during an interview. “This was people making the dance about you. Taking your dance and doing it about you. That ain’t never been done before. This is another level. It was blessing and I appreciated it. It Feels good that people know you created something and it wasn’t for money, it was for the love of Hip-Hop.”