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  Category: Articles » Education & Reference » Teaching » Article

Celebrating Black History Month

By Freda J. Glatt, MS

What do Sarah Boone, Alexander Miles, Garrett Morgan, Robert F. Flemmings, and John Standard all have in common? They were all African-American inventors! As part of Black History Month, have your children learn about them and their inventions.

African-American Inventors and Their Inventions

1. Sarah Boone - ironing board
2. Alexander Miles - elevator
3. Garrett Morgan - traffic signal
4. Robert F. Flemmings - guitar
5. John Standard - refrigerator
6. George T. Sampson - clothes drier
7. D. Johnson - lawn mower
8. Bessie Blount - a device that allows amputees to feed themselves
9. Otis Boykin - a variable resistor used in guided missile parts
10. George Grant - world's first patent for a golf tee
11. John Lee Love - pencil sharpener rotated by hand
12. Richard Spikes - automobile directional signals
13. William Purvis - self-inking hand stamp
14. Kevin Woolfolk - hamster workout wheel
15. Patricia Bath - first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention, a method for removing cataract lenses using a laser device
16. W. A. Martin - lock
17. G. W. Murray - planter
18. F. M. Jones - air conditioning unit
19. A. C. Richardson - bottle
20. E. R. Robinson - electric railway trolley
21. J. R. Winters - fire escape ladder
22. B. H. Taylor - rotary engine
23. Donald Cotton - propellants for nuclear reactors
24. Norbert Rillieux - a method for refining sugar
25. Emmett W. Chappelle - techniques for the detection of bacteria in urine, blood, drinking water, and foods
26. J. W. Smith - lawn sprinkler
27. W. U. Moody - game board design
28. A. L. Cradle - ice cream mold


1. Research other inventions by African Americans.
2. Find the dates of these inventions and make a timeline of them.
3. Discuss how life would be very different without these inventions.
4. Discuss the process of inventing something and have your students come up with their own inventions. They should give their inventions a name and write a description.
5. Classify these inventions into such categories as Things Around the House and Things for Safety.
6. Alphabetize the inventors' names.
7. Have some children cut out pictures of the inventions and paste them on the left side of index cards. Have other children use sticky labels to write or type the invention and paste them on the right side of the index cards to match the pictures. Make puzzles by cutting down the center of these cards using different patterns. You can also use craft scissors which come in a variety of patterns.
8. Create a criss-cross puzzle or a word-find puzzle with these inventors' last names.

I hope these ideas are useful and have inspired your own creative thinking!
About the Author
Freda J. Glatt, MS, is a retired K-6 teacher. Helping others reinforce reading comprehension through FUNdamental Reading Activities, including games and worksheets, is her new educational goal. Visit her site at

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