2 African-American Inventors Who Changed the World

Learn about 2 African-American inventors who changed the world, saved millions of lives … and made the supermarket possible.

Garrett Morgan Sr. and Fred Jones

At Esurance, we love technology. Mobile apps, online repair monitoring, Twitter, Facebook — we just can’t get enough. So what better way to celebrate Black History Month than by honoring 2 African-American inventors whose technological innovations helped shape our modern world?

Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr.

Ever thanked a stoplight for saving your life? Then you owe one to Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr. for this ingenious device. While he didn’t invent the very first traffic signal — which consisted of manually operated “Stop” and “Go” signs — his version did offer a significant improvement: an intermediary stage that stopped traffic in all directions.

This lessened the potential for those mid-intersection accidents that were so common with the older signs (which left no interval between “Stop” and “Go” for cars to slow down). With the all-stop signal added, cars were less likely to get hit by cross traffic.

While Morgan’s invention was eventually surpassed by the current red-yellow-green system, his invention did a lot to save lives in its time. In fact, a Federal Highway Administration education program bears his name to this day: the Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program.

To learn more about traffic lights and the vital role they play in keeping our roads safe, check out our article on right-of-way laws.

Fred Jones

Born May 17, 1893, in Covington, Kentucky, Fred Jones’ adventurous life would take him from working in an auto repair shop to becoming a class-A racer and world-class inventor. Over the course of his career, he created revolutionary products in a number of industries, including cinema, medicine, and, most importantly perhaps, shipping.

In fact, if you’ve ever purchased a Mexican mango, a Florida orange, or a Kobe steak in your local supermarket, you’ve got Fred Jones to thank. Why?

Because Jones invented the refrigeration units now used in shipping trucks, trains, boats, and ships. In fact, without the technology to ship perishable goods cross-country (or even internationally), the very concept of the supermarket would’ve been impossible.

Quite the contribution.

These two inventors helped save lives and make daily life that much better. What other African-American innovators deserve some credit? Sound off by leaving a comment below!

Related links

Read up on the life of Fred Jones

Learn more about Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr.



3 Responses to “2 African-American Inventors Who Changed the World”

  1. Avatar for John Moore Williams
    February 19, 2013 #

    I appreciated the links leading to more information about these men.

    Mr. Morgan not only improved the traffic signal, but he also invented the "gas mask"!

    Mr. Jones had over 60 patents. His portable portable refrigeration unit was used in WWII to "transport vitally needed blood serum and medicines on the battlefields of Europe."

    Very interesting!

  2. Avatar for John Moore Williams
    John Moore Williams
    February 19, 2013 #

    Always happy to provide further resources to explore, Linda. Both men were indeed very accomplished; just wanted to focus on their transportation-related achievements here.

  3. Avatar for John Moore Williams
    January 9, 2015 #

    I thank Garrett Morgan because without him we would have been into slot of accidents not knowing when to stop or go so thank you Garrett morgan

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