African American History Black History Month

Feb 2: Forgotten Black Inventors

by Alexandria Brown

When the term forgotten is used, it simply means someone not known in common history lessons or general knowledge. These people invented important and/or common items, however they are not known as well known as someone like George Washington Carver. For reasons of race, time, or something else; these people are commonly forgotten.

Frederick Jones
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My first example is Frederick Jones. He invented the thermostat control, motor, and portable air conditioning unit among other things. His work in refrigeration helped transport food and blood throughout World War II. It is not outright stated why he is not commonly known or taught about. The man holds 61 patents and was given an award posthumously in the 90s. Yet, I had never heard of him before. I assume it is as result of him thriving during a period of history against him.

Another inventor I have come across in learning about is Richard Spikes. A number of his patents include the beer tap, turn signals, and automatic gear shifts and transmissions. He was born in the 1807 and died nearly blind during the 1960s. Although his inventions aided the auto world and he may be known there, his name is not general knowledge. Again, it is not outright stated why this is so, considering he holds his own patents. It is safe to assume that taking for granted the important inventions and being born on the wrong side of society are the main reasons for this.

.Marie Van Brittan Brown created the early home security system. She was scared of hate crimes in her area and set up cameras and two-way microphones in order to maintain her security within her own home. She also established an early panic button. Her patent was for a closed circuit security system in 1966. If not for her, modern home security may still be in early development. Considering she was battling hate crimes, it is safe to say being an African American woman is the reason for being forgotten in history. Also, she created the early system, so later developers overshadow her glory.

Detail of Marie Van Brittan Brown’s Home security system design, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Image source: