Black History Month has been celebrated in the USA in February since 1970. It provides a platform to celebrate the achievements of Black people, which for many years have been overlooked in the teaching of history. It is an excellent opportunity to put a spotlight on the contributions of America’s Black community across science, politics and the arts.
Black History month has been celebrated annually to honor the achievements, culture and history of African Americans who have made a profound impact on the world. Here, we take a look at Black pioneers whose inventions have impacted our lives.
Garret Morgan — the 3-light traffic system (1923)
In the early 20th century, Garret Morgan witnessed a terrible car accident at a busy intersection in his city.
At the time, traffic signals weren’t very effective because they only switched back and forth between stop and go. With no pause in between, drivers had no time to react when the light changed. This resulted in Morgan creating a yield component — the yellow light.
As a result of his invention, drivers now have time to clear the intersection before crossing traffic enters.
Charles Drew — blood preservation (1940)
Charles Drew was an African American surgeon who discovered the life-saving method of refrigerating blood for long-term preservation. He also organized the first major blood banks in the United States that allowed for on-site and mobile blood donations.
During World War II, Drew became responsible for providing blood banks to both British and American soldiers who faced severe trauma in war — saving countless lives.
His technique is still used today as blood banks and transfusions continue to treat cancers, major injuries and various blood disorders.
Jesse Russell — cell phone communication (1992)
When you use your smartphone, thank Jesse Russell! He played a huge role in the development of cellular communications through his patent of the wireless communication base station and mobile data telephone.
Russell’s work has shaped the forefront of digital mobile communications that are used today, including 4G communication and mobile cloud computing.
Dr. Gladys West — GPS navigation (1978)
The days of using a paper map for travel are far behind us. In 1978, US Navy mathematician, Dr. Gladys West, was tasked with creating a satellite that designs digital models of the Earth’s surface.
During this process, she made a model for the exact shape of Earth, called a geoid. This model, with later updates, allows modern GPS systems to make accurate calculations of any place on Earth.
Looking back to look forward
The abolition of slavery and Jim Crow segregation have helped create representation in spaces and industries where African Americans were once excluded.
Because of these advances, innovators like the ones named here are able to patent their brilliant ideas that change the world.
Today, a number of initiatives continue to address systemic racism, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and growth of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The annual celebration of Black History Month is a reminder that history continues to pave the road toward a brighter future.
Learn more about Black History Month
These are just a few fascinating glimpses of African American history. It is clear there are a number of important contributions from African Americans that aren’t widely known. Hopefully this list has given you insight into Black trailblazers who have made everyday life a bit easier.
If you’d like to learn more about Black History Month, you can visit the official website for more insight, stories and resources.