African-American Inventors

Abrams, W. B.
Invented the HAME attachment in 1891.
Bailes, William
Invented a ladder scaffold support (patented August 5, 1879).
Baltimore, Jeremiah Daniel
Invented the Pyrometer. An Instrument for measuring degrees of heat higher than those recorded by a mercurial thermometer.
Benton, J. W.
Invented a derrick for hoisting heavy weights. Walked from Kentucky to Washington to obtain his patent, on October 2, 1900.
Blackburn, A. B.
Invented a railroad signal, used to alert engineer in trains to danger along the route (Patented 1888).
Blair, Henry
Invented a corn planting machine. First black man to receive a U.S. patent (October 14, 1834).
Blair, Joseph N.
Invented an aerial torpedo for long range bombing (patented 1944).
Campbell, W. S.
Invented a self setting animal trap in 1881. The trap automatically resets after it catches an animal.
Davidson, Shelby J.
Invented a mechanical tabulator or adding machine.
Grand, George F.
Invented small wooden peg to hold golf ball for initial drive (Patented in 1899).
Lewis, James Earl
Invented Antenna Feed for Two Coordinate Tracking Radars in 1968.
Martin, W. A.
Invented a lock, that was an improvement over the 4,000 year
old bolt invented by the Chinese that could be fastened or unfastened from either side; a forerunner of modern door locks (Patented in 1889).
Pickering, J. F.
Invented an airship (dirigible). powered by an electric motor. It was the first to have directional control; it was patented on February 20, 1900. The first airship was developed in 1852 but was filled with hydrogen gas, which is very combustible.
Richardson, A. C
Invented Casket lowering device (Patented in 1894
Richardson, W. H.
Invented a leveler for a child's baby carriage to prevent it from tipping over (Patented in 1889).
Rickman, A. L.
Invented Rubberized shoe to act as covering to prevent feet from getting wet; forerunner of modern shoe rubbers (Patented in 1898).
Rillieux, Norbert
Invented a sugar refining pan (Patented in 1846).
Robinson, Elbert R.
Invented an electric trolley: using electricity in overhead wires to propel a passenger carrying vehicle (Patented in 1893).
Russel, L. A.
Invented guard attachment for beds, preventing invalids and infants from falling out (Patented in 1895).
Sampson, G. T.
Invented a clothes dryer; forerunner of present day gas and electrc dryers (Patented in 1892).
Scrottron, S. R.
Invented curtain rod. A long metal tube open at each end to attach curtains to a supporting wall structure, no further need to nail curtains over windows (Patented in 1892).
Smith, P. D.
Invented a potato digger which scopped the potatoes from the soil and left them exposed to be picked up (Patented in 1891).
Standard, J.
Invented a refrigerator, which used compressed air and ether as a coolant. (Patented in 1834). Invented Oil stove. (Patented in 1889).
Stokes, Rufus
Invented an air purification service to reduce to a safe level the gases and ash from furnace and power plant smoke (Patented in 1968).
Walker, Sarah Breedlove McWilliams
Invented a metal heating comb and conditioner for straightening hair (Patented in 1905).

Books and sites with more information on African American Inventors:

  • Black Inventors , by Bob Hayden
  • Black in Science and Medicine, by Vivian Ovelton Sammons
  • Real McCoy: African American Invention & Innovation, by Portia James
  • Afrocentric Experience (http://theafrocentricexperience.com/) Includes a longer list of inventors and inventions. This site also has a myriad of information on African American history.
  • The Black Inventor Online Museum (blackinventor.com). The site profiles more than 60 Black inventors and their contributions to society over the last 300 years.
  • The Network Journal (TNJ.com) - An online magazine for African American professionals and small businesses.

The initial list was provided by students C. Butler, and C. Isbell. The primary published source for the information on this page is from the book, Blacks in Science and Medicine, by Vivian Sammons.

Cite this page: "African-American Inventors" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 7/17/2006 National Academy of Engineering Accessed: Sunday, September 21, 2014 <www.onlineethics.org/Topics/Diversity/DiverseResources/black-inventors.aspx>