Featured Image: Minnesota Historical Society


The recent developments in this country have shed light on a harrowing reality: there are two different Americas in the United States. There’s mainstream America, mostly occupied by Caucasians. This side of the country comes with the typical American Dream — a sizable dwelling place, a picturesque lawn typically protected by a white picket fence, access to quality education, and financial prosperity, usually in the form of excess. The other side of America is frequented by ethnic minorities. This side of America has liquor stores next to gun shops, lackluster public schools that are often underfunded, residences that are the equivalent of “shantytowns”, or homes that are abysmal in structure and functionality, and extreme poverty, usually paving the way for lifelong government financial assistance.

For over four hundred years, minorities, specifically Black Americans, have been the lynchpin for nationwide systemic racism. The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd show that America has a long way to go when it comes to fully accepting, appreciating, and embracing minorities. Making matters worse, our genius, insights, and talents have been exploited for personal or financial gain by the Caucasian majority for centuries. We’ve seldom garnered the positive recognition we deserve in spite of our various contributions that have helped advance mainstream society. So, without further ado, I’d like to shed light on a few major inventions by Black people to advance the greater good, all in an attempt to show that Black lives really do matter.

. . .

Sarah Boone.

In 1892, Sarah Boone improved the initial model for ironing boards. A former slave, she was one of the first women to receive a patent, which led to her invention. The new ironing board made it easier to iron garments of all sizes and materials. Interestingly enough, that same model is still in use to this very day.

Garrett Morgan.

In 1923, Mr. Morgan invented the three-light traffic light. Even more impressive than his invention is the fact that he only had an elementary school education when he invented this. Morgan also invented the improved sewing machine and the gas mask, to name a few others. Before his improved traffic system was implemented, a two-light traffic signal was how motorists navigated the roadways; it only consisted of red and green lights. Mr. Morgan’s invention drastically reduced the number of individuals involved in accidents by giving motorists time to slow down instead of having to come to an abrupt halt while moving at high speeds.

Frederick McKinley Jones.

Mr. Jones took out over sixty patents over the course of his life, including one for a roof-mounted cooling system installed on trucks to accommodate prolonged travel during the mid-1930s. He received the patent for his invention in 1940. After receiving it, he founded the U.S. Thermo Control Company, later on referred to as Thermo King. Thermo King played a pivotal role in World War II efforts, helping to preserve blood, food, and supplies for the nation’s soldiers during their war efforts.

Joe Louis.

Many know of Joe Louis the professional boxer, but seldom recognize Joe Louis the Army veteran. Louis is credited with helping put an end to segregation in the armed forces, specifically the Army during World War II. He fought in a charity bout that raised approximately $50,000 for the Naval Relief Society in 1942, then volunteered to enlist in the military the very next day! After training in an all-Black unit, Louis served in the Special Services Division.

Mary Van Brittan Brown.

Brown lived in Queens, NY, during the 1960s. A married woman, she often spent her days alone due to the rigor of her husband’s job. Couple loneliness with widespread crime in the area, and you have a recipe for unrest. To put her mind at ease, Brown created what is widely considered the first home security system, using a camera that could slide and look through the peepholes in her front door. The camera’s view then appeared on a monitor that could survey anyone outside her home. She even added additional features, like a microphone to chat with those present, a button that unlocked the front door, and a button to contact law enforcement if necessary.

. . .

These five minorities, and the plethora that I failed to mention, paved the way for Americans, and the world, to enjoy a broad range of innovations that make life easier to navigate. Yet to this day, Black people are viewed through a thin veil, one that is almost always negative in its scope, mostly due to how the media has portrayed us and the ensuing stereotypes that have come from this. If that is going to change, then more people need to be educated on the good that comes from us. More people need to realize that Black lives more than matter.

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