It’s no secret that we’re big fans of smart, innovative technology here at Esurance. And, in honor of Black History Month, we’re celebrating 5 African-American innovators who’ve helped shape the technology we rely on every day.

5 African-American inventors who modernized the world

1. Granville T. Woods

Long before automobiles came on the scene, Granville T. Woods was making train travel safer and more efficient. With his invention of the induction telegraph system, train conductors were able to communicate with each other, reducing collisions and allowing them to provide up-to-date locations to dispatchers.

Woods registered almost 60 patents during his life, making a meaningful contribution to the transformation of telecommunications and travel.

2. Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr.

Without Garrett Augustus Morgan Sr., traffic intersections today would probably be much more treacherous. Before him, signals consisted only of “Stop” and “Go,” giving no warning or break between traffic flows. Morgan introduced a signal that included an intermediary stage, which stopped traffic in all directions and was the precursor to our current red-yellow-green light system.

3. Elijah McCoy

Despite being a certified mechanical engineer, Elijah McCoy was unable to find engineering work in 1850s Detroit, so he joined the Michigan Central Railroad.

While performing his duties as an oilman, McCoy realized that trains frequently had to stop in order for him to lubricate the engine systems. In search of a more efficient method, McCoy designed an automatic lubrication cup that allowed engines to be oiled more evenly and effectively, which kept them running for longer periods of time.

Some even say McCoy’s innovation is at the root of the saying, “The real McCoy,” since so many lesser-quality impersonators popped up after his invention.

4. Sarah Goode

Sarah Goode was one of the first female African-Americans to receive a patent in the U.S. Living in a small Chicago apartment at the time, Goode understood the need for multi-purpose furniture in small spaces. Her invention of the “cabinet bed” (known today as a “hideaway bed”) maximized space by functioning as a desk or table before folding out into a bed, making her the original tiny-home hero. Efficiency at its finest.

5. Frederick Jones

Frederick Jones was a self-educated mechanical whiz who got his start working in film and radio technology. His most notable invention came later in life, however, when he transformed the shipping industry by designing portable refrigeration units that could transport produce and perishables nationwide. So whenever you enjoy a Florida orange or some Wisconsin cheese outside your home state, you’ve got Frederick Jones to thank.

These African-American pioneers helped shape our modern world. Could you imagine where we’d be without them?

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about Jennifer

A Motor City native, Jennie spent a few years knee-deep in automotive before heading to San Francisco to join the Esurance team as a copywriter. In addition to words, she’s a big fan of running, Detroit Tiger baseball, and the Trader Joe’s cheese aisle.