African-American Inventors

Despite the many obstacles that African-American inventors have faced, there is a rich and long history of African-American inventors. One of the first black inventors who was able to obtain a U.S. patent was Thomas L. Jennings, who obtained a patent in 1821 for a dry-cleaning process.

Other early African-American inventors include Henry Blair, who received a patent for a seed planter in 1834 and a corn harvester in 1836, and Granville T. Woods who received 27 patents, beginning with his first patent in 1884 for a steam boiler furnace. He has been described as the "Black Edison."

Modern-day African-American Inventors include Patricia Bath, who has received 5 U.S. patents relating to the treatment of cataracts and her invention of a medical device, the Laserphaco Probe. Mark Dean, computer scientist and inventor, holds three of the 9 original IBM patents, and over 40 patents total. James E. West's more than 40 year career at Bell Labs resulted in him obtaining 47 US patents and more than 200 foreign patents.


Here are some good sites to find information on important African-American inventors and their patents.

Try the following Google searches to find more information on African-American Inventors. (Use quotes to make the search more targeted.)

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Books on African-American Inventors

The Inventive Spirit of African Americans: Patented Ingenuity

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

Black Stars: African American Women Scientists and Inventors

Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)

Your Little Black Book, Vol. 1 African American Inventions and Inventors (Your Little Black Book)

George Washington Carver

Now You Know! XL - Black Inventors Series

Inspiring African-American Inventors: 9 Extraordinary Lives (Great Scientists and Famous Inventors)

African American Inventors (Lucent Library of Black History)

Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success

African American Inventors (Black Stars)

More BOOKS on Black Inventors!

African-American Inventors Videos

Black Inventors

A Few Black Inventors from the 1800's to 2000

Black Inventors and Inventions

For more information on patents, see What is a patent?