While Black history should always be recognized and shared every day, for Black History Month, we’d like to give thanks and highlight the many generations of African American innovators and their groundbreaking discoveries that changed the world. Thanks to their contributions, which paved the way for scientific discovery and tech innovations, we saw our daily lives improve throughout the years with everyday inventions.
Get inspired by checking out these Black innovators that helped shape our lives. We’ll be posting about these innovators on the Indiegogo Instagram all month long, and you can click through to see the original social media post for each one.
Born in 1867 as Sarah Breedlove, Madam C.J. Walker was America’s FIRST female self-made millionaire. In 1905, she invented Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, which grew into a line of hair products and introduced a new system of hair care for African-American hair. She wasn’t just a pioneer in the cosmetics industry, she was also a successful entrepreneur.
By 1913, Walker’s business was earning $3,000 a month (over $50,000 in today’s dollars). A lifelong philanthropist, she also focused her efforts in employing Black women in her community, giving them the opportunity to be financially independent. You can learn more about Madam C.J. Walker by watching Self Made, a Netflix series based on her life.
In 1973, she became the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in nuclear physics at MIT. She is also the second Black woman in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in physics. Her illustrious career as a theoretical physicist includes leadership positions in STEM across many industries — from academia to public service and government to research.
Most notably, her groundbreaking experiments led to the invention of caller ID, call waiting, touch-tone telephone, portable fax, the fiber-optic cable, solar cells, and many other innovations in telecommunications that we use today. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Dr. Jackson the National Medal of Science, the highest honor in the country for her contributions to STEM and the world.
In 1922, after witnessing a carriage accident at an intersection in the city of Cleveland where he lived, he came up with a new and improved traffic signal. He invented a traffic signal with a warning light that will alert drivers in needing to stop. This T-shaped design was patented and became the precursor of what we now know as our modern three-way traffic light system. So the next time you’re driving and arrive at a stoplight, think of Garrett Morgan!
He also went on to patent more inventions, including a hair straightening product, a sewing machine, and a respiratory breathing device or safety hood which would later become the prototype for gas masks in WWI, protecting soldiers from toxic gas. In fact, Morgan himself would personally demo his invention to fire departments, even leading a rescue mission that saved many lives during the 1916 Lake Erie tunnel explosion.
Dubbed the “Father of Modern Gaming, ” Lawson led the development of the Fairchild Channel F console in the 1970s, which was the first programmable ROM cartridge–based video game console and the first console to use a microprocessor.
But Lawson didn’t stop there. In 1980, he founded Videosoft, a video game development company that made software for the Atari 2600. Atari adopted his cartridge approach and became the top video game console on the market, NBD. He was also one of the only Black members of the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of early computer hobbyists that included Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Lawson received numerous awards and honors for his contributions as a video game industry pioneer.
Celebrate Black inventors every day
As we look back at these legacies, it’s up to all of us to do the work and share these stories and contributions with more people.
Here at Indiegogo, we’re all about giving a platform for new ideas (especially in STEM) to take shape, grow, and thrive with the contributions of crowdfunding backers like you that help bring these innovations to reality. And if you’re an inventor or creator, we look forward to supporting your ideas this year!
Want to explore more Black creators? Show your love and support for Black entrepreneurs and creators in our crowdfunding community.