Dorothy Hargett, Head of Access Services
In honor of Black History Month, the Library has created three displays featuring both famous and little-known African American inventors. Black History Month has been celebrated in February since 1926 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History month to spotlight the contributions of people of African descent in the United States.
Some African American inventors are well known, such as George Washington Carver, the inventor of peanut butter; and Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos Cookies. However, there are also many inventions that we use every day, like the ice cream scoop, the potato chip, and the “Super Soaker” that you may not know were invented by African Americans.
- Ice Cream Scoop – Alfred L. Cralle (1866–1920) was an African American businessman and inventor who is credited with inventing the ice cream scoop in 1897.
- Potato Chip – George Crum (1822-1914) is widely credited with the invention of potato chips in 1853. Crum’s birth name was George Speck; he was born in New York in 1822 to Abraham and Catherine Speck. Abraham was African American, and Catherine was a Native American belonging to the Huron tribe.
- Super Soaker – Lonnie Johnson (b. October 6, 1949) is an American inventor and engineer who holds more than 80 patents but is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun, which has ranked among the world’s 20 best-selling toys every year since its release in 1990.
According to Famous Black Inventors, there are many modern conveniences directly related to, or derivative of, the inventions of black inventors, including blood banks, the refrigerator, the electric trolley, clothes dryer, refrigerator, and lawn mower.
The Library displays recognize history-making trailblazers like Dr. Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou, and President Obama. Also featured are classic books and movies to read and watch as you celebrate Black History Month. Come by the Library soon.
A photo album of the displays for Black History Month can be viewed on the Library Facebook page.