African American Firsts

African American Firsts


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Oscar E. Brown received a patent for the Horse Shoe (August 23, 1892).

Lincoln F. Brown received a patent for the Bridle Bit (October 25, 1892).

Marie V. Brittain Brown received a patent for a home security system utilizing TV, surveillance (2 Dec 1969)

Madame C.J. Walker (left)                                                                                                                                     Benjamin Banneker (right)    



Some African-American Firsts & Inventions



James S. Adams patents a propelling means for airplanes (October 19, 1920)

Nathaniel Alexander received a patent for a folding Chair (July 4, 1911).

Charles W. Allen received patent for a Self-Leveling Table (November 1, 1898).

James B. Allen patents a Clothes Lines Support (December 10, 1895) and a Package-tie (April 14, 1914).

James S. Allen patents a propelling means for airplanes (October 19, 1920)

Thomas Allen was the first man to pilot a plane across the United States.

Virgie M. Ammons received patent for a Fireplace Damper Actuating Tool (September 30, 1975).

Alexander P. Ashbourne received a patent for a Process for preparing Coconut (July 27, 1880; a Biscuit Cutter (November 30, 1875); a process of Treating Coconut (August 21, 1877); and a process for Refining Coconut Oil (June 1, 1875).

Emmett Ashford becomes the first African American major league baseball umpire (April 12, 1966).


William M. Bailes received a patent for a Ladder Scaffold Support (November 5, 1879).

Leonard C. Bailey received a patent for a combined Truss and Bandage (July 18, 1899 and a Folding bed (September 25, 1883).

Charles Orren Bailiff received a patent for a Shampoo Headrest (October 11, 1898).

Bertram F. Baker received a patent for an Automatic Cashier (April 27, 1926).

David Baker received a patent for a railway Signal apparatus (February 2, 1913); Signal Apparatus High Water Indicator for Bridges (September 21, 1915); and Interliners to Prevent Tire Punctures (March 8, 1927).

William J. Ballow received a patent for a Combined Hatrack and Table (March 29, 1898)

Charles A. Bankhead received a patent for an Assembled Composition printing Process (May 13, 1930)

Benjamin Banneker received a patent for the first Farmer’s Almanac.

Andrew J. Beard, an illiterate, invented  and sold the patent rights to a railroad car coupler for $50,00 in 1897; and patent for a device he called the Jenny Coupler (November 27, 1897).

Alfred Benjamin received a patent for the Stainless Steel Scouring Pads (June 19, 1962).

Lyde W. Benjamin received  patents for a Broom Moisteners and Bridles (May 16, 1893).

Miriam E. Benjamin, the second African American woman to receive a patent, patents Gong and Signal Chairs for hotels (July 17, 1888).

James W. Benton received a patent for the Lever Derrick (October 2, 1900).

Edmond Berger received patent for the Spark Plug (February 2, 1839).

Bertha Berman received a patent for the  Fitted Bed Sheets (October 6, 1959).

M. William Binga received a patent for a street sprinkling apparatus (July 22, 1879).

Alfred A. Bishop received a patent for a Nuclear Reactor with Self-Orificing Radial Blanket (March 7, 1978).

Henry Blair was the second African American issued a patent by the United States Patent Office, inventing a corn-planting machine 1834; corn-harvesting and cotton planting machines, 1836.

John W. Blanton received a patent for a Hydromechanical Rate Damped Servo System (August 27, 1963).

Bessie Blount received a patent for a Device to Help the Disable Eat (1951).

Lockrum Blue received a patent foa hand Corn Shelling device (May 20, 1884).

Guion S. Bluford patents an Artillery Ammunition Training Round (February 13, 1951).

Peachy Booker received a patent for a Flying Landing Platform (October, 10, 1961).

Sarah Boone received a patent for the Ironing Board (December 30, 1887 or April 26, 1892).

Henry A. Bowman received a patent for a device for Making Flags (February 23, 1892).

Otis Boykin received a patent for the “Electrical Resistor” used in computers, radios, television sets and a variety of electronic devices including the Pace Maker Controls and Guided Missiles (February 21, 1961).

Henrietta Bradberry patents a Torpedo Discharge Means (Underwater Cannon) (May 25, 1943) and a Bed rack (December 11, 1945).

Charles B. Brooks received a patent for the first Street Sweeper Truck (March 17, 1896).

Phil Brooks received a patent for the disposable syringe (April 9, 1974).

Anthony Brown received a patent a Weather Detector (November 2, 1999); Severe weather Detector and Alarm (June 13, 2000).

Henry Brown received a “Receptacle for Storing and Preserving Papers” (November 2. 1886). It kept papers separated.

Oscar E. Brown received a patent for the Horse Shoe (August 23, 1892).

Lincoln F. Brown received a patent for the Bridle Bit (October 25, 1892).

Marie V. Brittain Brown received a patent for a home security system utilizing TV, surveillance (December 2, 1969)

Ronald H. Brown became the first African-American Chairman of the National Democratic Committee (April 3, 1996). As U.S. Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown died in Croatia while leading a trade delegation. “When I’m through, I want people to say that I not only made history, but that I made a difference.”

John Albert Burr received patent for the lawn mower (May 9, 1899).

William F. Burr received a patent for a switching device for railways (October 31, 1899).

Wilson Burwell received a patent for a Boot or Shoe (November 28, 1899).

Richard A. Butler received a patent for a Train Alarm (June 15, 1897).

John W. Butts received a patent for a Luggage carrier (October 10, 1899).

Turner Jr. Byrd received patent for Improvement in holders for reins for Horses Apparatus for Detaching Horses from carriages (March 19, 1872) and Improvement in Neck Yokes for wagons (April 30, 1872).


George Carruthers invented the Far-Ultraviolet camera, the Image Converter, and the Spectograph

George Washington Carver received patents for peanut butter, adhesives, bleach, chili sauce, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, paints, mayonnaise, paper process, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, talcum powder, lotions, soaps, and more.

Emmett W. Chappelle was a biochemist, photobiologist, astrochemist, and inventor.

John B. Christian received patents for new lubricants used in high flying aircraft and NASA space missions.

David Crosthwait received 39 patents for heating systems and temperature regulating devices. He is most well known for creating the heating system for New York City’s famous Radio City Music Hall.

Paul Cuffee was a wealthy merchant-mariner, shipbuilder, and humanitarian (circa 1759).

The Cuban Giants, African-American waiters from the Argyle Hotel in Babylon, New York, were the first salaried African-American baseball team.


Mark Dean received a patent for improvements in computer architecture that allowed IBM compatible PCs to use the same peripheral devices.

Dr. Charles Richard Drew was the first person to develop blood plasma and the blood bank

Claytonia J. Dorticus received a patent for a photo print wash and a photo embossing machine


Philip Emeagwali won the Gordon Bell prize in 1989, considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, for developing the fastest supercomputer software in the world.


Lt. Commander Evelyn Fields became the first woman to command a navy ship (November 16, 1989).

Robert Fleming, Jr. received a patent for a guitar.

Lelia Smith Foley became the first African American woman to be elected mayor of  a major city –Taft, Oklahoma.

James Forten, Sr. received a patent and perfected a sail designed to make the guiding of ships easier (1776). He  expended $300,000 in freeing African slaves, establishing his home as an Underground railroad way station and improving the condition of his people.


Sarah E. Goode was the first African American women to receive a patent (US #322,177), which was issued on July 14, 1885 for inventing the Cabinet Bed.

Meredith C. Gourdine was the inventor of electrogasdynamics systems.


Matthew Henson was a merchant seaman and an invaluable explorer, braving sub-zero temperatures and extreme conditions to become co-discoverer of the North Pole. because of his race, he was denied recognition until 1961, when a bill was passed providing for a bronze plaque crediting Henson for his achievement.

Alonzo Herndon was one of the first African-American millionaires in the South, opening a large barber shop in Atlanta, Georgia, catering to whites only. In 1905, he founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, the largest African-American-owned business then in the nation.

William Hinton became known as an authority on venereal disease (18830. he developed the Hinton Test and the Davies-Hinton Test for the detection of syphilis.


Augustin Jackson received a patent for ice cream.

Thomas L. Jennings was the first African American to receive a patent US patent 3306x), issued on (March 3, 1821)

Johnson Products, Inc., a black Chicago-based hair products company, was sold to a white company in 1993 for $67 million dollars.

Majorie Stewart Joyner received a patent for a permanent wave machine that would allow a hairdo to stay set for days.

Frederick Jones received a patent the first automatic refrigeration system for a long-haul trucks; the internal combustion engine and the starter generator..

Percy Lavon Julian synthesized the medicines physostigmine for glaucoma and cortisone used for rheumatoid arthritis and he fire fighting foam.


Susie King became the first African American nurse in the U.S. Army in 1902


John Lee Love invented the portable pencil sharpener.


Thomas J. Martin was awarded a patent for the fire extinguisher (March 26, 1872).

Jon Ernest Matzeliger received a patent for an automatic method for lasting shoes, which made the mass production of affordable shoes possible.

Elijah McCoy received a patent for the automatic oil cup and patents for 57 different kinds of devices and machine parts, including an ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. His first patent was for a lubricator for the steam engine (US!129,843), which was issued July 12, 1872.

Alexander Miles received a patent for the Elevator.

Garrett Morgan received a patent for the gas mask and the automatic traffic signal. he and his brother personally donned the untested gas mask and rescued 30 workers trapped in Tunnel No. 5 at the Cleveland Water Works.


Lewis Temple New, a blacksmith, designed the Toggle Iron Harpoon in 1848, which became the standard harpoon in American whaling from the mid-19th through the early 20th centuries.


Renee Powell became the first African-American woman to join the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour (October, 12, 1967).

W.B. Purvis received a patent for the Fountain Pen.


Barbara Ross-Lee of Ohio University College of osteopathic medicine in Athens, Ohio, in 1993, is the first African-American woman to head a U.S. medical school.


San Antonio, Texas, became the first major southern city to integrate (March 16, 1960).

Dewey Sanderson patents the urinalysis machine.

Henry Sampson received a patent for the cellular phone.



M. Toland, a woman, received a patent for a Float-Operated circuit Closer.


Madame C.J. Walker was a St. Louis washerwoman turned entrepreneur. Walker patented a method to soften and smooth African-American hair in 1905, died a millionaire and philanthropist with the last words, “Not for me, but for my race.”

Maggie Lena Walker founded Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank (July 28, 1903), becoming the first female bank president.

Rufus J. Weaver received a patent for a wheelchair for stair climbing.

Cheryl White became the first female African American disc jockey (June 15, 1971).

J. B. Winters received a patent for a fire escape ladder.

Granville T. Woods received  patent for improvements to electric railways, air brakes, the telephone and telegraph, a chicken egg incubator, and the roller coaster.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson began Negro History Week (February 7, 1926), In 1976, it became Black History Month

Source: A Compilation by Marii Martin and Cheryl Carter

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Sheila Johnson: America’s First Black Woman Billionaire

Interviewed by Kam Williams 

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Black Inventors Video

 Inventions by African Americans You Use in Daily Life

Most people don’t know that inventions ranging from complex devices to common household goods were invented by African Americans. Watch the video below to learn more about black inventors and their contributions to the world. You’ll be as amazed as the people we encountered. Recognizing black inventors is a very special part of celebrating Black History Month 2011. To learn even more about black inventors and their incredibly diverse creations, visit

Dr. Shirley Jackson, first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT and contributor to the creation of caller I.D.; Fred Jones, inventor of the refrigerated truck among other devices; Henry T. Sampson, co-inventor and patent holder of the gamma-electric cell, which makes cell phones possible.)—Black-History.Black Inventors

Henry Thomas Sampson, Jr.—born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1934), an American inventor—is the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering in the United States. . . .

He graduated from high school in 1951 from Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi. He then attended Morehouse College for a couple of years before transferring to Purdue University. He received a Bachelor’s degree in science from Purdue University in 1956. He graduated with an MS degree in engineering from the University of California in 1961. Sampson also received his MS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1965, and his PhD in 1967.

Some of his accomplishments include being a member of the United States Navy between the years 1962 and 1964 and earning an Atomic Energy Commission honor between 1964 and 1967. Later he was awarded the Black Image Award from Aerospace Corporation in 1982. He was awarded the Blacks in Engineering, Applied Science Award, and prize for education, by the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers in 1983.—

Wikipedia Frederick McKinley Jones—born in Covington, Kentucky. Born on May 17, 1893—was a successful African American businessman who manufactured refrigeration system for trucks and railroad cars. Orphaned at the age of nine. He was then raised by a priest in Kentucky. During his life, Jones was awarded sixty-one patents. Forty were for refrigeration equipment, while others went for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines.

In 1944, Jones became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers, and during the 1950s he was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and the Bureau of Standards. In 1991, The National Medal of Technology was awarded to Joseph A. Numero and Frederick M. Jones. President George Bush presented the awards posthumously to their widows at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Mr. Jones was the first African American to receive the award. Jones died of lung cancer in Minneapolis in 1961. He was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors 2011.—


Shirley Ann Jackson (born August 5, 1946 in Washington D.C.) is an American physicist, and the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1973, becoming the first African American woman to earn a doctorate from MIT.

In 1995, President Clinton appointed Jackson to serve as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), becoming the first woman and first African American to hold that position. . . .On July 1, 1999, Jackson became the 18th president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She was the first woman and first African-American to hold this position. . . . Since arriving at RPI, Jackson has been one of the highest paid university presidents in the nation.Her combined salary and benefits has expanded from $423,150 in 1999-2000 to over $1.3 million in 2006-07.—


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Marcus Bruce Christian

Selected Diary Notes / Selected Poems  / Selected Letters

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 10 December 2007



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