Anne Harrigan: Achievements, Not Slavery Alone, Should Be Noted in Black History Month

Anne Harrigan is a resident of Danbury

The history of African Americans should not be defined only in the context of slavery.

Their history is also full of wonderful people who have added to the greatness of this country.

African-American inventors have created many widely used devices in the world and have contributed to international innovation. Norbert Rillieux created the technique for converting sugar cane juice into white sugar crystals. Moreover, Rillieux left Louisiana in 1854 and went to France, where he spent 10 years working with the Champollions deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics from the Rosetta Stone.

By 1913 more than 1,000 inventions were patented by black Americans. Among the most notable inventors were Jan Matzeliger, who developed the first machine to mass produce shoes, and Elijah McCoy, who invented automatic lubrication devices for steam engines. Granville Woods had 35 patents to improve electric railway systems, including the first system to allow moving trains to communicate. Garrett A. Morgan developed the first automatic traffic signal and gas mask.

Lewis Howard Latimer invented an improvement for the incandescent light bulb. More recent inventors include Frederick McKinley Jones, who invented the movable refrigeration unit for food transport in trucks and trains. Lloyd Quarterman worked with six other black scientists on the creation of the atomic bomb (code named the Manhattan Project). Quarterman also helped develop the first nuclear reactor, which was used in the atomically powered submarine called the Nautilus.

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