Garrett Morgan Inventor of The Traffic Light

Garrett Morgan Inventor of The Traffic Light
February is celebrated as Black History Month, however, African American's contribution to their country, deserve more than one month of celebration. Oscar-winning (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Million Dollar Baby 2004) and outspoken actor Morgan Freeman, has said, “I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” I quite agree with Mr. Freeman when he states that Black history is American history. Here are just a few inventors who happened to be Americans of color, who made contributions so great that they changed history.

Dr. Charles R. Drew (1904-1950). Dr. Drew created the concept of saving or ‘banking’ blood until it was needed for blood transfusions. Today these ‘blood banks’ continue to save lives all across the world. In 1981 Dr. Drew’s portrait appeared on a stamp when the United States Postal Service paid tribute to Great Americans. The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in California is named in his honor and carries his mission of teaching and saving lives.

For more information see: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science
The Charles R. Drew house in Arlington County, Virginia is listed as a National Historic Landmark - May 11, 1976. , P.1

Garrett Morgan (1875-1963).“Walk, Don’t Walk--Walk, Don’t Walk.” We see these traffic signals everywhere, and don’t give them much thought, unless we are late for an appointment, then we pray for the light to change, or not, depending upon our situation and our destination. These Walk, Don't Walk signs first appeared in New York City, New York in 1952. Almost 30 years after Garrett Morgan received a patent for his traffic signal in November, 1923. Morgan was not the first person with the idea of a traffic signal, but his is the one that was purchased by the General Electric Corporation for $40,000.

And, where would we be without the gas mask? Garrett Morgan also received a patent on his “Safety Hood and Smoke Protector" in the early 1900's. In 1916 he used his Safety Hood and Smoke Protector to help rescue men who were trapped under water in an underground tunnel. Later, the safety hood, refined for military use allowed soldiers to protect themselves from noxious gas in World War I. There were other Morgan inventions, which helped to make life a little easier. However, with the invention of the traffic light and the gas mask, Garret Morgan made a place for himself in history.

"As word spread across North America and England about Morgan's life-saving inventions, such as the gas mask and the traffic signal, demand for these products grew far beyond his home town. He was frequently invited to conventions and public exhibitions around the country to show how his inventions worked. (

For more information concerning Garrett Morgan see Federal Highway Administration - United States Department of Transportation
They Made America, PBS

Sarah Boone. Boone’s invention does not save lives, nor does it advise you when to walk, as you are trying to cross a busy street. But, her invention is used somewhere in the world every single day. Sarah Boone invented the ironing board. No longer would women have to iron on the floor or a table. They did not have to find a board to put across a couple of chairs. Boone’s invention must have been a Godsend to women everywhere for whom ironing was a daily chore. Much like ironing boards today, Ms. Boone’s board was padded and had legs that collapsed when not in use. Sarah Boone’s ironing board was patented in 1892.

For more information about African American inventors these sites: or for invention information, worldwide, browse

Sources: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in California, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, USA, History Black Landmarks A Traveler’s Guide by George Cantor,, National Historic Landmarks Survey, City of Cleveland, Division of Water; and the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.

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