Black Inventions We'd Be Completely Lost Without

If your list of Black inventors begins and ends with George Washington Carver, you have so much more to learn. Black inventors and their inventions have been changing the world for the better for hundreds of years. Believe it or not, you've no doubt used tons of Black inventions over the course of your life, many of which you may not have even known were created by African American innovators. For instance did you know that the Super Soaker, refrigerated trucks, and pencil sharpeners where all Black inventions?  

We've gathered up a collection of brilliant inventions you probably use in your every day life, all of which were invented by Black people. Whether you realize it or not, every time you sit down to eat a bag of potato chips or play video games at home, you have industrious African Americans to thank. Whether it's world-changing inventions like the concept of a blood bank, or smaller but no less valuable objects like the dust pan or golf tee, check out these modern day objects that were created by Black inventors. Vote up the ones you'd be lost without.


  • 1
    117 VOTES

    The Modern Home Video Gaming Console

    The Modern Home Video Gaming Console
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    If you love to play on your Playstation, Xbox, or Wii, then give it up for a guy by the name of Gerald A. Lawson. He created the first home video gaming system with interchangeable cartridges, offering players the chance to play all of their favorite games from the comfort of their own houses.
    117 votes
  • 2
    71 VOTES

    Street Sweepers

    Street Sweepers
    Photo: CARL SPENCER / Flickr

    These days it's hard to imagine having to sweep up every single piece of litter and debris on the street by hand, but prior to 1896, that's exactly how things worked. Everything changed when Charles Brooks invented a truck with huge brushes that could cover much larger areas of the road in a much shorter time. These days, we know it as the street sweeper. 

    71 votes
  • 3
    105 VOTES

    The Modern Refrigerator

    The Modern Refrigerator
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    Prior to 1870, the closest thing they had to a refrigerator was a huge container you could put food in and surround with ice. Needless to say, food didn't last very long inside such contraptions, which is why Thomas Elkins decided to shake things up a bit. Elkins developed a system that used metal cooling coils to bring the temperature of a container down to freezing temperature, allowing it to keep perishables fresh without having to worry about huge chunks of melting ice.
    105 votes
  • 4
    72 VOTES

    The Protective Public Mailbox

    The Protective Public Mailbox
    Photo: MoneyBlogNewz / Flickr
    Before 1891, if you dropped a letter or package into a public mailbox, all you could do was cross your fingers and pray it got to its destination unscathed. Not only were thieves a common concern for the patrons of semi-open mailboxes, but weather as well. A whole bag of letters could be destroyed by one good rain or snow. It was a man by the name of Philip B. Downing who invented a public mailbox design that featured both an outer and inner safety door, ensuring that when a letter or package went in, it would be safe until it was  picked up by the mailman. Downing's design was the precursor for the public mailboxes we have today.
    72 votes
  • 5
    112 VOTES

    Potato Chips

    The story of the potato chip started back in 1853 when a man named George Crum was working as a chef in Saratoga Springs, NY. Frustrated that an order of fries was sent back to the kitchen for being too thick, Crum decided to take revenge on his customer by chopping pieces of potato as thinly as he could, cooking them until they were burned to a crisp, and promptly returning them to the complainer. Much to his dismay, the customer absolutely loved the chips and they quickly became one of the most popular items on the menu.


    112 votes
  • 6
    75 VOTES

    The Pencil Sharpener

    The Pencil Sharpener
    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY
    Can you imagine sitting in class during the second grade and having to stop halfway through writing the alphabet to pull out your knife and whittle down your pencil? In 1897, a guy named John Love definitely could. Not content with having to carve his own pencil every time he sat down to write a letter, he invented the pencil sharpener that allowed users to turn a simple crank until the end of their pencil formed a sharp point.
    75 votes