Shirley Ann Jackson led research to develop caller ID and call waiting functions while working at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the 1970s. She is the first African-American woman to have earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is also the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics, and awarded the National Medal of Science.
Samuel Scottron invented an adjustable mirror so that barbershop clients could examine their haircuts from every angle.
Sarah Breelove better known as Madam C.J. Walker invented a line of African-American hair products. She was lauded as “the first Black woman millionaire in America” for her successful line of hair care products.
Garrett Morgan came up with several significant inventions, including an improved sewing machine and the gas mask. However, one of Morgan’s most influential inventions was the improved traffic light.
Sarah Boone is one of the first Black women in U.S. history to receive a patent, she expanded upon the original ironing board, which was essentially a horizontal wooden block originally patented in 1858. With Boone’s 1892 additions, the board featured a narrower and curved design, making it easier to iron garments, particularly women’s clothing.
Frederick McKinley Jones patented a roof-mounted cooling system that’s used to refrigerate goods on trucks during extended transportation in the mid-1930s. He received a patent for his invention in 1940, and co-founded the U.S. Thermo Control Co., later known as Thermo King. The company was critical during World War II, helping to preserve blood, food and supplies during the war.
In 1987, Alexander Miles took out a patent for a mechanism that automatically opens and closes elevator shaft doors and his designs are largely reflected in elevators used today.
Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the home security system in 1966, along with her husband Albert Brown. In the same year they jointly applied for a patent, which was granted in 1969.