If you can cross the road safe today or protect yourself against certain gases, you owe it to this African-American inventor. Born in the state of Kentucky, USA, in a poor 7-children family, Garrett Morgan did not go beyond primary school. As a self-taught man, he moved to Cleveland in 1895 where he worked as a sewing machine mechanic. He inspired himself from his work to invent a better sewing machine in 1907. He also invented a hair relaxer.
In 1914 he invented a hood that isolates from toxic gas without preventing respiration. It is the modern gas mask. Because of racism he meets difficulties to sell his invention to the firefighter companies and is very often compelled to make demos himself. In 1916, an explosion occurred in a hydraulic station tunnel 75 meters under the Erie lake. 32 people were caught under the tunnel and were threatened by the gas. Garrett Augustus Morgan and his brother Franck, equipped with his gas mask, entered the tunnel and extracted the victims out of it carrying them on their backs. The news spread all around the country and Garrett Morgan was hailed as a hero. His invention proved this way its efficiency. The first firemen and American soldiers used his mask during the World War I.
Later, the African-American inventor witnessed an accident in which were involved a horse, a cabriolet and an automobile. Two people were ejected out of the cabriolet; the driver of the automobile collapsed and the horse critically wounded had to be killed. Shocked by the scene, Garrett Morgan invented in 1923 the traffic signal system, which evolved and is now used all over the world. So this African man is then at the origin of that revolution in the urban traffic.
Very conscious of the stakes that concern his people, in 1920 he took part in the creation of a journal for African-Americans the Cleveland Call and became member of the Black lobby the NAACP. He exhorted Black people to buy shares in his company. He was to be honored for his work, especially by the city of Cleveland which granted him a gold medal set with diamonds. Garrett Morgan died on July 27th 1963.
By : Lisapo ya Kama ©
- Black Inventor
- Inventeurs et savants noirs, Yves Antoine, pages 109 à 112.