Black History Icon: Garrett Morgan, The Innovator

Garrett Morgan

We really wanted to highlight underrated African-American figures that were a key part in our history for this year’s Black History Month observance. Many people today are unaware of the various African-Americans that left a huge impact on the world. Sure, we always hear about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, but there are many more African-American icons that deserve recognition.

Does the name Garrett Morgan ring a bell?  If you didn’t know, Garrett Morgan was one of the most successful African-American inventors in American History. Although he only held an elementary education, he is the father of several inventions that are still relevant to this day.

Morgan started his career as a sewing machine mechanic. Early on, it was evident that Morgan was good with his hands and naturally possessed the mind of a mechanic. He was offered numerous job offers, but he decided to open his own tailoring shop.  It was at his shop that he discovered his first invention, G.A. Morgan’s Hair Refiner. G.A. Morgan’s Hair Refiner was a hair straightening liquid that led to a whole line of hair products and brought Garrett Morgan much success.

Garrett Morgan

Garrett Morgan

Morgan did not stop at hair products.  In 1914, Morgan patented the safety hood, one of the earliest gas masks. The safety hood was a breathing device that made national news by saving workers who were trapped in a tunnel after an underground explosion. For this invention, Morgan received many awards and purchase offers.

In 1923, after witnessing an accident between an automobile and carriage, Morgan thought of a way to better traffic lights. Morgan came up with the idea that the traffic light should have three parts, instead of just “Stop” and “Go.”  His traffic light became popular around the world and became the blueprint for future traffic lights. The traffic lights that are used today are modeled after Morgan’s early invention.

On August 27, 1963 Garrett Morgan’s life came to an end. Not only did he leave an outstanding legacy, he left inventions that both bettered the world and saved many lives.

Source: Biography.com

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