African American Inventions

Have you studied African-American inventions or black American history facts? Considering the tragic history of the U.S. with African-American people, it is important to properly study these inventions to recognize the major contributions responsible for our daily lives today. Without several of these developments, whether mechanical inventions or systematic methods, our nation would look incredibly different and not nearly as productive. Read on to learn about African-American history facts!

10 African-American Inventions

Without many of these famous inventions, we wouldn’t have delicious potato chips, fertile soils, efficient train transportation, or the powerful computers we utilize today–and much more! All of these inventions have revolutionized society and defined the characteristics of our daily lives. Not only are these developments vital to today, but they are also important events in African-American history. If you are studying black American history or African-American history facts, these inventions will provide helpful homeschooling information!

  • Potato Chips — George Crum, a chef, invented potato chips in Saratoga Springs, N.Y, 1853. A guest at a restaurant sent French fries back to the kitchen for being too thick. Crum sliced the fries thinly and deep-fried them. The chips became a huge hit with the guests. 
  • Crop Rotation Methods — invented by George Washington Carver. He created the system of rotating fields and crops to avoid depleting the soil’s nutrients. Carver also developed numerous uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans. For example, peanuts could be used in both oil and printer ink. Pecans can help pave roads and enrich soils.
  • The Supersoaker — Lonnie G. Johnson is credited with inventing the famous water gun: the Supersoaker. His prototype was the world’s first pressurized water gun. The Supersoaker became the #1 selling toy in 1991!
  • The Personal Computer — Mark Dean, Ph.D., worked with IBM to create the personal computer. With a doctorate in electrical engineering, Dean was a major part of IBM’s progress. He also invented the 1-Gigahertz chip, which has been revolutionary for modern-day technology.
  • The Gas Mask — Garrett Morgan invented the gas mask in 1912. His product was originally used by the police force and firefighters but saved thousands of lives in World War I.
  • Shoe Lasting Machine — invented by Jan Ernst Matzeliger in 1882. Before his machine, the tops of shoes had to be connected to the soles by hand. These workers were called hand lasters, and they could work through about fifty pairs per day. With Matzeliger’s machine, production was increased to 150 – 700 pairs a day! The machine shoe laster revolutionized the shoe industry.
  • Oil-dripping cups for trains — Elijah McCoy streamlined the workings of trains with his oil-dripping cups invention in 1872. Previous to his invention, the train had to stop frequently for the machinery to be oiled. McCoy’s invention allowed for automation of the oil-dripping and consequently, created a more effective train experience.
  • The Blood Bank — invented by Charles Richard Drew, M.D. in the 1930s. As a medical doctor and surgeon, Dr. Drew was uniquely qualified to invent a system of properly storing blood and blood plasma. He established the Red Cross blood collection and storage. His process for storing blood as plasma has saved numerous lives.
  • Laserphaco Probe — Patricia E. Bath, M.D. invented this cataracts surgery tool and was also the first woman to acquire an ophthalmology residency program in the United States. Previous to her invention, a mechanical grinder was used to remove cataracts. Dr. Bath’s invention helped make the surgery far more precise and delicate. This tool even restored the eyesight of people who had been blind from cataracts for over 30 years!
  • Train-to-station communication system — developed by Granville T. Woods in 1887. Woods had worked with machinery since he was 10yo. He received 35 patents for various mechanical and transportation developments. Specifically, he invented the system of telegraphy to allow for sending and receiving messages from moving trains.

Related Homeschool Social Studies Links

These important African-American inventions are a great starting point for a unit study. To continue your social studies research, consider these pages for more information. Whether you want to develop your own unit study or use one of the following pages for teaching social studies, we have several resources for you!

To learn more, click here to return to our main African-American social studies page!