The month of February has been designated as Black History Month since 1970. This year, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is highlighting the history of African-American Innovators and Inventors.
Halle Tanner Johnson
According to Wade Hudson, author of Scientists, Healers and Inventors, Halle Tanner Johnson was the first woman to be licensed to practise medicine in the state of Alabama. Not the first African-American woman, but the first woman. She was also the first resident physician at the Tuskegee Institute, and she was born in Pittsburgh.
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was born on a plantation in Diamond Grove, Missouri. According to Wade Hudson, George Washington Carver was the first black student accepted at Simpson College in Iowa. He transferred to Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts a few years later and became the first black student to attend that school as well. He became the head of the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Institute, a post that he held for 47 years.
He discovered hundreds of products that could be made from the peanut, the sweet potato, and the pecan, and became an authority on plant diseases.
Madam C. J. Walker
Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867 in Delta, Louisiana. Her parents were former slaves. In 1905, she married Charles Joseph Walker and began calling herself Madam C. J. Walker. Madam C. J. Walker created, manufactured and sold hair care products designed for African-American women. She is known as the first black female millionaire. Some sources name her as the first female millionaire in the United States. Madam C. J. Walker’s hair care products are still sold today.
Lewis Latimer was born in Chelsea, Masschusetts in 1848. He was the son of fugitive slaves. He worked with Alexander Graham Bell, Hiram Maxim and Thomas Edison. Levenia George notes in the Smithsonian article, Lewis Latimer: Renaissance Man, that Latimer Lewis became one of the 28 charter members of the Edison Pioneers. He was the only African-American to receive this honor.
Lonnie Johnson was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1949. He was inspired by the work of George Washington Carver. He attended Tuskegee University earning a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering. This former NASA scientist is best known for inventing the Super Soaker.
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