Contributions of African Americans To American Society

Women of the Sisterhood

African Americans have had major contributions to our westernized society. African American women have had ingenious contributions that have improved American society. Maya Angelou is one prominent African American author/poet that is known world wide. Maya is not only known for her writing, but also for her struggle and triumph of what she has been through, as told in her dearly loved book "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." Maya, whose real name is Margarite, was born in 1928 and raised in Stamps, Arkansas. As told in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" Maya, like many other black kids during that time, was sent along with her brother to live with her grandmother in the south. Maya went to a segregated school in the south, and she also got some education in San Francisco. This education and instruction was paralleled by the people in her life her mother, who was an entertainer, her grandmother, and her mother's friends. Living. living in San Francisco Maya acquired the power and command of imagery and language. She had a voice and one significant thing that bought this voice out to the world is Angelou was raped as a little girl and she vowed not to ever say a word again. One person broke that long ending vow.

Maya's teacher urged Maya to read poetry. Maya became enchanted with the work of William Shakespeare, as well as many others. Soon Maya began to write her own poetry.

Maya wrote of her life and the many things she had seen through her years. Much had to do about discrimination and battles that African Americans have overcome through the years. Now because of Maya's thirst for more we women, we African American women, are a step further in the world. Maya also wrote about rights as blacks, and also rights as black women living in a cold world of a rainbow of colors. And this is said because the world is full people of different races and very different backgrounds. And this is where we get our cultural rainbow of colors that greatly enhance the world that we live in. Others besides writers like Angelou have influenced and changed this world. Actresses such as Dorothy Dandrige and Esther Role have proved to the entertainment industry that black women could achieve more in a movie besides being a maid, or a house-slave.

Actresses like these have paved the way for the new black faces of today to get a part and prove to every one that they can get the job done. credit should also be given to BET (Black Entertainment Television) for setting examples of industrious African American people doing something positive. Many women are now seen on the screen and this continues to happen on this channel.

The last Female influence can be seen as the most important contributors in this world, the black mother. Because no matter what she is there and instills the rights and wrongs to her child. Even though they may not turn out to be the best of kids, and are sometimes thought of as being wild and rowdy they have certain values that they have to live up to, for the love of their mothers. It is shown that the mother is the very backing for today's world as shown in a survey taken in North Hagerstown High, when asked who credit goes to for their lives the students asked said their mother. So one can clearly see the black women is a strong and influential one.

Please read an analysis of Maya Angelou's "On The Pulse of Morning" on this web site.

Source: Angelou, Maya "Written By Herself" Vintage Books, 1992

Black Inventors

image: Lewis TempleLewis Temple 1800-1854 He was the inventor of a whaling harpoon called the "Temple's Toggle" and the "Temple's Iron." He was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1800 and arrived in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1829. He worked as a blacksmith and had lots of friends that were whaler's who bought harpoons and had lots of conversations with them.

He learned that the harpoons used by the whalers were not very affective in holding a struggling whale. In 1848 he invented a new type of harpoon, with a moveable head that prevented the whale from slipping loose. He never patented his invention he was able to make a good living from his harpoon sales. Temple died in May 1854 at the age of 54 after falling at a construction site and never recovering from his injuries.

Image: Granville WoodsGranville T. Woods 1856-1910 He was known as the black Edison. Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio on April 23,1856. He never finished elementary school and he worked in a machine shop at a very young age. He moved to Missouri in 1872 at the age of sixteen. By 1881 he opened a factory in Cincinnati, Ohio and manufactured telephone, telegraph and electrical equipment. He filed for his first application for a patent in 1884 for an improved steam-boiler furnace. Woods patented the" telographony ," a combination of the telegraph and the telephone. He produced one of his most important inventions in 1887, it was called the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph. It enabled messages to be sent from moving trains and railways stations. In 1890 he set out to improve the lighting system by creating an efficient safe economical dimmer. It was safer and and resulted in 40% energy savings. Woods also created an overhead conducting system for electrical railways and the electrified third rail. By the time of his death in 1910 he had 150 patents awarded to him all together.

Frederick Mckinley JonesFrederick Mckinley Jones 1882 1961 He was the inventor of the first practical refrigeration system for long haul thrush. His system was later adapted to other carriers like ships and railway cars. Jones was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1892. He was orphaned at the age of nine and never got more than a sixth grade education. He got his first patent for a ticket dispensing machine that was used in movie houses. By the late 1930's , Jones was designing potable air-cooling units for trucks that had to carry perishable foods. Frederick Mc Kinley Jones died in Minneapolis, Minnesota ,in 1961 ,credited with more than 60 patents- forty of them were for refrigeration equipment.

Lewis H. LatimerLewis H. Latimer 1848-1928 He was a pioneer in the development of the electric light bulb. He was also the only black member of the Edison Pioneers, a group of inventors and scientists who worked with Thomas Edison.

He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848 and was raised in Boston. He enlisted in the Navy and served as a cabin boy on the U.S.S Massaoitta at the age of sixteen. Latimer was given the assignment to draw plans for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone patent . In 1879 Latimer went to work as a draftsman for Hiram Maxim, who invented the machine gun and headed the electric lighting company. Latimer worked on improving the quality of the carbon filament used in the light bulb. In 1882 he received a patent for an improved process for manufacturing carbon filaments. He died in 1928 and a school was named after him in Brooklyn, New York on May 10,1968.

Image: Gerrett A. MorganGerrett A. Morgan 1875-1963 He is best remembered for his invention of the gas mask and the three way traffic signal. Mogan was born on March 4,1875 in Paris, Kentucky. He left schoolafter fifth grade at the age of fourteen. He left Kentucky and headed for Cincinnati, Ohio and got a job as a handy man in a sewing shop. Morgan directed his attention to the frequent instances of firemen being overcome by fumes and thick smoke when they went into burning buildings. He perfected breathing device which he patented in 1914. In 1923morgan patented an automatic traffic signal which he sold to the General Electric Company for four thousand dollars. In 1963 Garrett A. Morgan died at ht age of 88 in Cleveland, Ohio after he was ill for two years.

William Edward Burghardt DuBois

America was reaching the twentieth century and African Americans were rightfully seeking equal rights. Their thoughts were organized and after generations of planning, they were ready to voice their ideas of unity in America. Who would be their voice? Who would be there leader? They would need an American with respect, intelligence, and motivation. William Edward Burghardt DuBois, the author of The Souls of Black Folk, Black Reconstruction in America and The Autobiography of W.E.B. DuBois was definitely qualified to meet their needs.

He was born in Great Barrington, Mass. in the year 1868, almost one hundred years before the "March on Washington," before the famous "I have a dream" speech given by Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a pioneer, equipped with knowledge, courage, hope, and good ideals. American minorities were frustrated with segregation laws and constant torment from the racist America. It was time for a revolution. W.E.B. DuBois was ready to fight a peaceful war, which would educate all of his predicted humanities problem, "The Color Line." He gave them options, hope, and a will to succeed.  During the early years of the 20th Century, Du Bois led what was called the Niagara Movement, an early version of the civil rights movement that had annual meetings to coordinate their efforts. (At left, a program for the 1906 meeting in Harper's ferry West Virginia, site of John Brown's 1959 raid).

W.E.B. Du Bois was a great historian and sociologist as well as a Frisk University and the first African American to receive a PhD at Harvard University in 1895. Two years after his graduation from Harvard University, he became a history and economics teacher at Atlanta University from (1897-1910). Haydun, Robert, 9 African American Inventors, 21 Century Books, 1992.

W.E.B. Du Bois  said of the 1906 Niagara Meeting:
"one of the Greatest Meetings that American Negroes ever held."

Pleace your mouse over the image to see which attendee is W.E.B. Du Bois.
Click here to see the image at full size in a new window.


Trish H.
Monea B.
Tiffanie P.

Teachers: Visit our sponsor for Social Studies Materials

Ordering teaching materials through
this website will help keep it alive.

George Cassutto's Cyberlearning World

     [Lesson Plan of the Day]     [Cassutto Memorial]    [About the Author]    [Search]    [Civics Lesson Plans]