If you’ve been following this blog then you’ll know that I have been highlighting historical figures in Black History who have had an important impact on our lives. Garrett Morgan was the first figure I learned about when I came to the United States, and his ingenuity amazed me. He had the ability to look at a problem and work out a solution for it. STEM skills are so important today, and incorporating Garrett Morgan into your studies is another way for students to learn about the impact that they can have on everyday life.
Garrett Morgan was born in Kentucky on March 4, 1877.
When he was 14 he moved to Ohio. He had to leave school in order to work, but he was determined to keep on learning, and he hired a tutor.
When he was 18 he moved to Cleveland and he found a job repairing sewing machines. He was very successful at his job, and became known for his skill in fixing things and experimenting. His first invention was a belt-fastener for a sewing machines.
He invented many products including a ‘safety hood smoke protection device’ or gas-mask, which he personally used to save the lives of men entombed after a tunnel collapsed under Lake Erie in 1916. The fumes were noxious, but using his gas-mask, Morgan was able to help those trapped to safety. This invention led to nation-wide fame.
After witnessing a horrific road accident between a horse-drawn cart and a motor car, Morgan went on to invent a traffic control device in 1922. Although there were versions of stop signals, Morgan’s invention recognized the need to warn drivers when they needed to slow down to stop, and essentially invented the pre-curser to the yellow light.
Garrett Morgan was an active community leader and helped found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. He also helped established the Cleveland Call newspaper and (unsuccessfully) ran for a seat on the city council. Garrett Morgan died on July 27, 1963.