12 Amazing Black Inventors Who Didn’t Get Enough Credit

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The creations of Black inventors have been downplayed despite their contributions to society. Europeans and white Americans have always received high praise for innovations, while black people have constantly been left out. We’ve compiled a list of black inventors who didn’t get credit.

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1. Benjamin Bannecker 

Benjamin Bannecker is one of the black inventors who didn’t get credit for creating what is believed to be one of the first clocks in the United States. He made it entirely out of wood. He was born in 1793, and thus his invention was largely used throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Aside from that, Bannecker, a self-taught astronomist and mathematician, made the almanacs. This is an instrument that helped him to make astronomical calculations. His inventions caught the eye of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged them.

Additionally, Bannecker asked Jefferson to end slavery and promote equal rights. His voice laid the foundation for the advancement of civil rights. He also proved the ability of black people in science.   

2. Benjamin Bradley 

Born in the height of slavery and thus unable to acquire formal education, Benjamin Bradley is a self-taught engineer. He made the first iteration of a steam engine using a gun barrel, pewter, and steel. 

Bradley was taken to work at the Naval Academy, making him the first African American to do so. He ended up selling this engine and then created another one—the first engine that powered a warship.  

Unfortunately, due to slavery, Benjamin Bradley couldn’t patent his innovation which is why he’s one of the black inventors who didn’t get credit.

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3. Richard Spikes 

Thanks to one black inventor named Richard Spikes, you only have to use your keys to turn your car on. He invented the automatic gear shift to keep the gears constantly running at different speeds. He also made the automatic brake system directional signals and car washers.

Spikes also created the beer keg tap and a drafting machine for people who are blind. Luckily for him, he was able to patent all of his inventions. 

4. Doctor Charles Drew 

Charles Drew is another black inventor who didn’t get the credit he deserved. A medical student at McGill University, Charles Drew worked his way up. He taught biology at Morgan State College before he joined Howard University, where he taught pathology. 

Later, he earned a doctoral degree from Columbia University, where he did a thesis on blood preservation techniques. This shaped his career as he was given a full-time job during the World War to help save casualties’ lives. 

His invention led to the creation of the blood banks. He also made efforts to help eradicate racism. He encouraged authorities to stop blood separation between whites and African Americans.

5. Sarah Boone

Born in 1832 to enslaved parents, Boone improved the iron board. Originally, the iron board was rigid and didn’t allow for a seamless ironing experience plus, poorer women had to support it with chairs. 

Boone, who worked as a dressmaker, made an ironing board that accommodated the adjustments of the human body. As a result of her improvement, her invention was patented in 1892, making her the first black woman to receive a patent in the United States. 

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6. Madam C.J Walker

Madam C.J. Walker is another black inventor who didn’t get credit sufficiently. Her rise from grass to grace is a show of the resilience black people have. In her time, she was one of the wealthiest black women in history. 

Madam C.J. Walker created her wealth by selling hair products to black women. She was inspired after she got a scalp disorder that led to hair loss. Hence she sought treatment. 

She went door to door, showing people how to use the products, spending little on advertising. That’s how she built a business empire. Madam C.J. Walker used her wealth to advocate for the rights of the black community.

7. Jan Ernst Matzeliger

Before Matzeliger came around, people made shoes manually. He changed that forever after he made the shoe-lasting machine. It automated the industry and enabled the mass production of the product faster. 

The benefits also impacted the consumer. Due to the ability to make a lot of shoes, the cost went down, and thus more people could get them.

8. Mary Kenner

In the late 1950s, Mary Kenner, a black inventor who didn’t get credit, pioneered the first version of sanitary towels. She did this as a way of helping women menstruate with dignity. Despite her product getting patented in 1957, she struggled to sell it due to the stigma around menstruation. 

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9. Thomas L. Jennings 

If you can easily clean your clothes today, you have Thomas Jennings to thank. He invented the dry cleaning process, an efficient way of not only cleaning but making your clothes last longer. 

Back then, people owned a few clothing items, so they needed to take care of them. As a result, his innovation made him one of the first African American millionaires. He invented the dry cleaning process in 1821. 

10. George Washington Carver

There was a time when sweet potatoes, soybeans, and peanuts were only for eating until George Washington realized they could be useful in multiple ways. One of the things that came out of this was the ability to make synthetic rubber from peanuts. This changed the entire agricultural industry and inspired many other creations.

11. Garret Morgan

Garret Morgan did not attain the highest educational qualifications. But from the little he learned, he made revolutionary inventions. 

Having worked as a sewing machine mechanic, he pioneered the use of the traffic signal with the three colors – red, yellow, and green – and a respiratory device. The breathing device evolved to become the gas mask. Morgan patented all of his inventions.

12. Alice Parker

The cold winter in New Jersey inspired Alice Parker to make a heating system that would make her feel warm. Her invention used natural gas, which was a big advancement from when people used coal or wood. Her innovation was patented in 1919.

As you can see, there were a lot of black inventors in history whose stories haven’t been told as much. We hear of blood banks or traffic lights and not much about how they came to be. The onus is on us to ensure that the black inventors who didn’t get credit are acknowledged and celebrated for their work.  

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