Historical Black Inventors Who Modernized The World

In 2019, the Patent and Trademark Office Organization(PTO) created a council to meet every month to develop a plan to promote the participation of underrepresented groups in the patent system. Amongst other programs like the Expanding Innovation Hub and Camp Invention hoping to close the gap for women and minorities in the world of innovation and technology.

Black history month was created to honor, recognize and celebrate the history of black heritage and accomplishments. From tonsil surgery to murphy beds, many modern-day inventions were created by black risk-takers and innovators. Today–and every day– we’re paying tribute to black inventors who have empowered us to take risks and think outside the box. 

Black Pioneers of Innovation

Read more about how these trailblazers paved the way for African American entrepreneurs for generations to come.

Madam CJ Walker -The Walker System / African American Hair Products

Madam CJ Walker -The Walker System / African American Hair Products celebrating Black inventors
Madam CJ Walker

Born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove, Madam CJ Walker was the first of five children born a free citizen to Owen and Minerva Breedlove after the Emancipation Proclamation. Her struggle with a scalp ailment and hair loss inspired her to invent ‘The Walker System’–a line of hair care products catered to African Americans. Madam CJ Walker’s system completely transformed the black haircare industry, and she later became the first self-made African American millionaire in America.

Lonnie Johnson- Super Soaker

Lonnie Johnson- Super Soaker
Source: CNN.com

Lonnie Johnson after graduating with a B.S degree in Mechanical Engineering and M.S degree in Nuclear Engineering he went on to work for the U.S Air Force and NASA. During his time working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he was a part of several space missions including the Mars Observer, the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, and the Galileo mission to Jupiter. 

Regardless of his many accomplishments within the Air Force and NASA, Johnson dreamed of becoming an independent inventor. While working on a heat pump design, he found that the prototype could blast out high-pressure water from the nozzle– and the Super Soaker was born. In 1989, Johnson formed his engineering firm, Johnson Research and Development Company, Inc., and eventually licensed production rights to the Larami Corporation for his Super Soaker toy that has been enjoyed for decades. 

Christina Jenkins- Hair Weave Method

Christina Jenkins- Hair Weave Method


While working for a wig manufacturer in Chicago, to create an easier way to secure wigs and hairpieces. In 1951, Jenkins received a patent for her invention of the hair weaving method that allowed hairstyles to be kept in place longer without the need for hairpins. This weaving method is still used today by hairstylists around the world for both men and women. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown-Home Security System

Marie Van Brittan Brown-Home Security System

Working late nights as a nurse, Marie Van Brittan Brown became fearful of her safety living in a neighborhood with rising crime. Alongside her husband, Albert Brown she invented the first closed-circuit television security system complete with multiple peepholes, cameras, remote, security television monitors, and a direct alarm to police. Her 1966 home security patent would later influence over 32 modern-day security systems that we use today.

George Washington Carver- The Jessup Wagon

George Washington Carver- The Jessup Wagon
Source: history.com

George Washington Carver was a well-documented Scientist of Agriculture. He was born into slavery a year before slavery became illegal. In the year 1894, he became the first African American in history to receive a Bachelor’s Degree of Science. Although known widely for his uses of nitrogen-fixing plants like the peanut and sweet potato, he was believed to have been most proud of teaching poor farmland owners how to affordably grow crops and take care of their land. He later used his knowledge to invent the Jessup Wagon, a mobile horse-drawn classroom focusing on the education of soil chemistry.

Bishop Curry V- “Oasis” Car Seat Device

Bishop Curry V- “Oasis” Car Seat Device
Source: tellersuntold.com

At 10 years old Bishop Curry heard the news of a local baby passing away from overheating after being left in their car seat by accident. Committed to making sure that never happens to another baby, Curry created a device that detects if a baby is left in a car seat as well as the temperature. He named it ‘Oasis’ and it detects a baby left behind in a car, it blows cold air out onto the baby and alerts the parents and authorities. In April of 2018, Curry received the patent for the Oasis and is seeking a manufacturer. 

Sarah Elisabeth Goode – Folding Cabinet Bed

Sarah Elisabeth Goode - Folding Cabinet Bed

After receiving her freedom at the end of the civil war, Sarah Elisabeth Goode moved to Chicago and became a furniture store owner, alongside her husband Archibald. Looking to offer creative solutions to her customers, the folding cabinet bed was invented with the intent of saving space for smaller sized homes. When the bed wasn’t in use it could be used as a desk with compartments for stationery and writing supplies. On July 14th, 1885, Sarah Elisabeth Goode was the first African American woman to receive a patent for her folding cabinet bed invention. 

William Harry Barnes – Tonsil Removal & Hypophyscope

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Source: blackpast.org

Born in 1887, William Harry Barnes was a well-known ear, nose, and throat doctor in the early 1900s. On May 16, 1927, Barnes became the first African American board-certified medical specialist in the United States. Dr. Barnes is known for perfecting tonsil removal in under 10 seconds with little to no bleeding. 

In the medical world, he is remembered most for inventing the hypophyscope. This medical instrument allowed for doctors to reach the pituitary gland with considerably less difficulty than previous medical instruments could allow.

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Despite inequality and injustice, these innovative pioneers changed the trajectory of modern medicine, beauty products, and innovation. They’ve inspired the world that anyone can create!

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