Have You Taken a Look Around?

Have you ever taken a look around your classroom, home, or office and noticed the many historical technologies that make your everyday tasks possible?

Probably too many to count, right?

In honor of National Inventors day and Black History Month, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to acknowledge and honor the impact of Black inventors whose ideas and concepts forever changed our world.

Let’s start with a device that I’m sure most of us use quite often – the telephone. Ever thought of how we can hear one another over the phone or record audio?

We have James Edward Maceo West, along with Gerhard Sessler, to thank for that. These two men developed the foil electret microphone in 1962 while in the process of conducting human hearing research. Nearly 90 percent of all microphones used in everyday items such as telephones, camcorders, hearing aids, baby monitors, and audio recording devices among others, use his technology.

Oh and let’s not forget lunch time! One of my favorite times of the day.

If you are eating any type of perishable food today that was transported on a truck, you have Frederick McKinley Jones to thank for that.  Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food and received a patent for it on July 12, 1940. Before Jones, the only way to keep food cool in a truck was to load them with ice – which typically didn’t last the entire trip and the food was ruined. Jones was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991 – the first Black inventor to ever receive such an honor.

Leaving school or the office to go home? More than likely you used a door knob to enter and exit. Osborun Dorsey invented the doorknob and doorstop in December of 1878.

Last and certainly not least, I know many of us can’t wait for the warm days of summer to finally arrive! And since we are on the topic of summer, who remembers the Super Soaker water gun?

Lonnie Johnson invented the Super Soaker water gun, which has consistently been ranked among the world’s top 20 best-selling toys each year since 1991. Johnson now owns more than 80 patents and has since developed different green technologies.

This short list by no means scratches the surface of how much Black innovators and visionaries has shaped and advanced our country.

During this month, and throughout the year, let’s make a conscious effort to not take for granted the hard work and creativity of Black inventors.


Shanessa Bryant is a Communications Specialist at the Collaborative for Student Success