top of page

5 Black Inventors that just aren’t talked about enough

By: Ashantae Winestock

Black History Month is such an important time to highlight black individuals who not only advanced the life of black people through their activism but also made inventions to help the lives of everyone. Even though we hear about amazing black activists such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcom X, we don’t hear enough about black inventors and creators. For example, did you know that useful objects like the refrigerator, door knob and elevator were all created by black people? Even fun inventions like the roller coaster came from black inventors. Therefore, here are 5 black inventors who deserve their flowers.

Madame CJ Walker

Black women are known for their coily and kinky 4C hair. I bet you’re wondering, “How were black women able to manage their hair back in the day where hair products like Pantene didn’t exist?” Thankfully, Madame CJ Walker was there to save the day! Madame CJ Walker was an African American woman who created beauty supplies, specifically hair care products. Around the time of the 1890s, Madame CJ Walker, who was named Sarah at the time, had experienced hair loss due to a scalp disorder. Therefore, she decided to produce her own hair care treatments, not only for herself but for other African American women as well. Once she was recruited and hired by another black haircare entrepreneur named Annie Turnbo Malone, it all went uphill from there. Some of her products included hair grower, Glossing (pressing oil) and a vegetable shampoo. She even created a healthy hair routine called the “Walker System” which involves using hair grower, oil and hot combs. Eventually, she opened a beauty school and her own company called the Madam CJ Walker Manufacturing company. Her story doesn’t end there. Her profits from her businesses helped her become a self-made billionaire which allowed her to build an Italianate mansion she called the Villa Lewaro. Madame CJ Walker definitely gives off main character energy.

Augustus Jackson

Ever wonder why ice cream taste so good? Well, you can thank Augustus Jackson for that. Even though Augustus Jackson did not invent ice cream, he did find better ways to perfect it as well as manufacture it which is why he is known as the modern “Father of Ice Cream”. Originally as a White House chef in 1837, he left his job to move to Philadelphia where he made a variety of popular ice cream flavors and methods of manufacturing ice cream. An important and unique ingredient that he used was salt which lowered the temperature of the ice cream, causing it to be cold for a longer period of time. Salt also made the ice cream taste better. His method of packing and shipping ice cream is still used today. Some of his most famous flavors are vanilla, strawberry and mint. So, the next time you open up your favorite container of ice cream, just know that Augustus Jackson most likely had a hand in making it.

Robert Flemming Jr.

Music is such a huge part of African American culture. Turns out there were black people who created specific instruments as well. Robert Flemming Jr. was a free-born African American man from Baltimore, Maryland. After finishing his naval service, he moved to Massachusetts to pursue his love for music. While he did not invent the first guitar, Augustus did invent the modern-day guitar that we know and love today in the 1860s. The guitar that Flemming invented was called the Euphonica, which he thought would produce a louder sound than a traditional guitar. Luckily, he received U.S. patent and Canadian patent for his guitar creation. He ended up going into business for guitar manufacturing as well as becoming a music teacher. I just know he felt the music through his soul.

Patricia Bath

Patricia Bath is a true example of Superwoman with all of the accomplishments she had. Patricia Bath’s path for excellence runs in the family. Her father, Rupert Bath, became the first black motorman to work for the New York City subway system. The start of Bath’s success was back in 1973 when she became the first African American to complete a residency in ophthalmology, a medical field of eye and vision care. Some of the top-notch universities that she received her education from were Hunter College, Howard University and Columbia University. Two years later, she joined the Department of Ophthalmology at UCLA’s Stein Eye Institute and became one of the first women on the faculty board. Bath became an advocate for eye sight and co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which stands for giving everyone eye sight and eye care. In 1986, she invented the Laserphaco Probe which improved treatment for cataract patients. She had her device patented in 1988, making her become the first African American female doctor to obtain a medical patent. Wow, is there anything that Patricia Bush couldn’t do?

George Washington Carver

Last but certainly not the least, we have one of the most important black inventors of all time: George Washington Carver. George Washington Carver is most famously known for using peanuts and other crops to make his inventions. Always having an interest in art, Carver originally entered Simpson College as an art major. However, after his art teacher recommended him to change his major to horticulture, he decided to transfer to Iowa State College of Agriculture where he earned both of his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in botany and agriculture. Afterwards, with a little convincing from another important black figure Booker T. Washington, Carver decided to work at Tuskegee Institute as the Director of Agriculture where he would teach and conduct laboratory studies. While he was there, he promoted alternatives to cotton, which was the primary source of production and income at the time. Some of these alternatives include sweet potatoes and his most famous one, peanuts.

Some of his creations include:

· Face Bleach and Tan remover

· Lotions for hands and face

· Creams such as face and shaving creams

· Shampoo

· Face Ointment

· Face Powder

· Rubber

· Glue

· Papers

· Paints

· Ink for Printers and Writing

· Charcoal

· Plastics

· Pesticides

· Laxatives

I bet you all used at least one of these creations today and these aren’t even all of them. He is now known as the “father of biochemical engineering”. As he should be!

Now, you can see just a few out of a million inventions that black people created. All of the daily objects that you’re using were most likely created or involved with a black person. These inventors, and honestly black people in general, put their heart and soul into whatever goal they’re trying to achieve so it’s no wonder why all of these inventors that I mentioned were so successful. Please remember to uplift black voices at this time so black people can finally get the recognition that they deserve. Happy Black History Month everyone!

bottom of page