Back to Blog

Day 1 Of Black History Month Is Here!

01/31/2010 12:54

Garrett Morgan

Happy Black History Month! February is here, and this year there is so much to celebrate. From the accomplishments of our past heroes, to the continuing successes of modern Africans and African American's.

 Did You Know?

The inventor of the traffic light was an African American? That's right, in 1923 Garrett Morgan invented the traffic light. While many have heard of the great achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks, there are literally hundreds of others who have made incredible achievements in the world of civil rights, science, politics, the arts and more! Each day during Black History Month we will try to spotlight some more under-the-radar African American heroes. 

Garrett Morgan not only invented the traffic light, but also the gas mask. The son of former slaves, Garrett Morgan was born in Paris, Kentucky on March 4, 1877. His early childhood was spent attending school and working on the family farm with his brothers and sisters. 

He eventually went to work as a sewing machine repair man for a clothing manufacturer. He was extraordinarily skilled at fixing things and experimenting. In 1907, Morgan opened his own sewing equipment and repair shop. It was the first of several businesses he would establish. 

In 1909, he expanded the enterprise to include a tailoring shop that employed 32 employees. On July 25, 1916, Garrett Morgan made national news for using his gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped during an explosion in an underground tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie. After the rescue, Morgan's company received requests from fire departments around the country who wished to purchase the new masks. The Morgan gas mask was later refined for use by U.S. Army during World War I. In 1914, Garrett Morgan was awarded a patent for a Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. 

In 1923 Garrett Morgan invented the first traffic signal. The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This "third position" halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. Shortly before his death in 1963, Garrett Morgan was awarded a citation for his traffic signal by the United States Government.

This month, and for the rest of the year, every time you see a traffic light remember that an African American put it there, and that this is just the beginning. Hopefully Black History Month turns into more than just a month, but a lifetime of appreciation and pride at what African American's have done and will continue to accomplish. To find out more about Black History Month just visit the Africa Imports web site or Click Here for more articles.