African American Inventors and Their Inventions


Although Black History Month brings African American inventors into focus every February, we as a society celebrate the ingenuity of these great men and women every day as we use their inventions. Many of these inventors created their items over the course of their career so that their jobs could be completed in a more efficient way. Others worked closely with other famous inventors and created items that would become part of famous inventions.

Here are 5 famous African American inventors and their inventions for your consideration.

1. George Washington Carver

Carver was concerned that the farms of the South were spoiling their soil. Crop production was going down and it was becoming a crisis. As he studied the problem, he realized that alternating cotton with peanuts could help to maintain soil nutrients. There was just one problem: nobody knew what to do with all those peanuts. In return, Carver came up with over 300 new uses for peanuts in his lab, from ink to coffee, so that the peanuts could be used. He didn’t, however, actually invent peanut butter.

2. Sarah Goode

Although Goode isn’t generally a household name, she became the first African American woman to receive a patent in the United States. After being born into slavery, when freed after the Civil War, she opened up a furniture shop. She realized that people living in the cities didn’t have a lot of space, so she invented a folding bed that stored itself in a cabinet. The Murphy bed is the most famous type of this invention, but Goode got her patent 30 years before the Murphy bed existed.

3. George Crum

While working as a line chef in 1853, Crum got a food return because some fries that he made were too thick, soggy, and plain. In a fit of frustration, he cut potatoes and thinly as he could and then fried them up. The customer loved the product, it became a regular menu item, and the modern potato chip or crisp was born. Crum never patented his invention, but anyone who loves a good potato chip have this man and his frustration to thank for it.

4. Elijah McCoy

You want the Real McCoy? Then you’re going to want an automatic oil cup. Used for early trains, it replaced the need for a conductor or engineer to lubricate the components of the engine by hand. McCoy was doing this oiling work by hand and thought that there must be a better way. He found it by attaching the cup that could lubricate the engine automatically. Many other inventors tried to copy McCoy’s invention, but none of them did as well. As a result, when the part was needed, they’d ask their supplier for the real McCoy.

5. Dr. Charles Drew

The blood bank was a natural extension of blood preservation that came about after his discovery that red blood cells could be separated from plasma and stored separately. This meant more people could receive transfusions when needed. He probably would have made an even greater impact, but he resigned from the military because they insisted that he store blood based on race and blood type.

Famous African Americans in History