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10 Everyday Things You Didn’t Know Were Made by Black Creators

Simple inventions that made a HUGE difference.

Deena Campbell · 16 days ago

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used an ironing board, laughed at a crazy GIF, or stopped at a traffic light. These items are so commonplace that it’s hard to think of a time when they weren’t around. Can you imagine a world without basic snacks like potato chips? Where would we be without central heating? Thanks to these Black creators who paved the way, we don't have to imagine. From fruit presses to traffic lights, keep scrolling for the best inventions made by Black inventors

1. GIF Animation by Lisa Gelobter

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Love them or hate them, Graphics Interchange Format images, otherwise known as GIFs, have revolutionized the way we communicate. If you’ve ever sent a funny GIF on social media or on your phone (which is basically everyone), you have Lisa Gelobter to thank. Now to be fair, GIFs were developed by a team of scientists at CompuServe, but Lisa developed the animation used to create GIF images.

2. The ironing board by Sarah Boone

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Today there’s a slew of ways to keep clothes wrinkle-free — if you care about such things, cough cough. But the original wrinkle-free hack was the ironing board, invented by Sarah Boone in 1892. In fact, Boone was one of the first Black women in American history to be awarded a patent for an invention!

3. Potato chips by George Crumb

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Imagine attending sporting events, barbecues, or birthday parties without potato chips? What kind of a sad, depressing, crunchless world would that be? Thankfully, we don’t have to imagine — because George Crumb had the foresight to slice potatoes super-thin, fry them, and then season them with salt. Delicious!

4. Central heating by Alice H. Parker

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It’s tempting to turn on the heat in your house and never think twice about how all that warm toasty comfort came to be. But in 1919, inventor Alice H. Parker patented centralized heating with natural gas, paving the way for us to have warm homes on the chilliest days.  

5. Super soaker water gun by Lonnie G. Johnson

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There’s nothing more exciting than getting your first super soaker. You load it up, head to the battlefield (also known as your backyard), and unleash the watery warfare! After serving in the U.S. Air Force and then 12 years at NASA, Lonnie G. Johnson invented the super soaker water gun in 1990 and summer outdoor fun has never been the same.

6. Home security system by Marie Van Brittan Brown

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Marie Van Brittan Brown had the right idea when she created the first home security system, but even she might not have imagined her idea would evolve into the modern systems we have now — "Alexa, lock my front door!" In 1966, Brown's security system included a two-way microphone and remote control operated door lock, which set the stage for improved at-home safety for families everywhere. 

7. Hair care products by Madam C. J. Walker

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Madam C. J. Walker, who was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867, changed the hair care game in a major way. She invented the first hair-straightening tool, also known as the hot comb, plus a whole collection of hair care items for Black women that enhanced and moisturized Black hair, while respecting its natural beauty. Gorgeous!

8. The traffic light by Garrett Morgan

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Traffic jams can be a drag, but traffic lights help keep things in order. In 1923, newspaperman Garrett Morgan designed the three-position traffic signal to help move traffic along. He later sold his rights to General Electric for $40,000. You can make your own traffic light craft in honor of Morgan’s accomplishment — it’s a lot more fun than sitting in traffic.

9. The fruit press by Madeline Turner

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Love apple juice, orange juice, every kind of juicy juice? Thank Madeline Turner. In 1916, Turner had the vision to preserve the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from fruits by creating delicious juices from them. Now, juicers have evolved and are able to double as food processors, allowing parents to make almond milk, nut butter, and dips and spreads for picky kiddos everywhere.

10. 3D glasses by Kenneth J. Dunkley

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As much as we would like to think otherwise, 3D glasses aren’t magic. It’s really your brain doing all the hard work. But after extensive research, Kenneth Dunkley discovered that blocking two points in our peripheral vision creates a three-dimensional effect, and in 1986 he filed a patent for 3D glasses. Now we can all see things a little differently!