So, I recently joined this group of amazing women, and one of them challenged us to celebrate Black History month by offering up a blogging challenge. Today is day one, and the challenge is to find ten Black inventors and learn about their inventions.

Being that I am Jamaican, I of course love learning about the history of my ancestors, so of course I had to jump on this opportunity, not just to write, but to learn about the people I know nothing about.

So let’s begin shall we?

Marie Van Brittan Brown

Brown cited the inspiration for her invention as the long time it would take for police to arrive at a house after being called by residents. Brown did not always feel safe when she was home alone at times, because the crime rate had risen in her neighborhood. Having to answer the door to know who was on the other side was not something Brown liked to do. Brown’s system had a set of four peep-holes and a camera that could slide up and down to look at each one. Anything and everything the camera picked up would appear on a monitor. Also, a resident could unlatch the door by remote control. The system included a device that enabled a homeowner to use a television set to view the person at the door and hear the caller’s voice. The home security system that she and her husband invented allowed the monitor to be in a different room, and all of this was possible via a radio controlled wireless system. If the person viewing the images on the monitor did not feel safe they could press a button that would send an alarm to police or security. She and her husband cited other inventors in their patent, such as Edward D. Phiney and Thomas J. Reardon. Thirteen inventors who came along after Brown have cited her patent, with the latest being in 2013. Even now, over fifty years later, her invention is being used by smaller businesses and living facilities.

Although the system was originally intended for domestic uses, many businesses began to adopt her system due to its effectiveness. For her invention she received an award from the National Science Committee – Wikipedia

I thought I would start with Marie Van Britton Brown, who invented the world’s first ever security system. A Black woman, invented the first security system, it’s worth saying a second time we think, because well…it’s 2019.

Not only was she an inventor, but Marie was also a mother, whose daughter also became an inventor.

Marie Van Brittan was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens in New York City in 1922. As a nurse, she worked long, late hours before coming back home. Her husband, Albert Brown who is an electronics technician was often away many nights.

When Marie was home alone at odd hours, she felt very worried as the crime rate in the neighborhood was increasing. Meanwhile, the police were slow to respond to emergency calls. Marie decided to take matters into her own hands, thus, she invented the modern home security system. –Face2Face

Sounds to me like Marie was a bit of a bad ass.

Joseph WintersSo it turns out that a Black men invented the first fire escape ladder, which I personally think is super freakin’ cool.

Joseph Winters was born in 1816 in Virginia to an African-American brick maker and a Shawnee Indian mother. He later relocated to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 1830. During the time Winters lived in Chambersburg, he was active in the Underground Railroad. He was nicknamed “Indian Dick” by his friends due to his mixed race.” – My Black History

He was the first to notice that cities were growing “up” instead of “out”, and as such figured out a way to make it easier and safer for Firemen and women to reach higher story buildings, in a much safer way. You can read more about this amazing man here.


Lyda NewmanHow often do you brush your hair? Do you ever think about the person that came up with the design? Do you ever think about who it was that sat around one night and thought about how to make it better, and more convenient for you? You have Lyda Newman to thank for the modern day hair brush.

It was hard to find info on this beautiful lady, however I did learn that she was born in Ohio around 1885, and moved to NY sometime around the 1890’s. Not only was Lyda a Hair Dresser by trade, an Inventor by necessity, but she was also an activist by choice, which is freakin AWESOME.

“She was one of the organizers of an African-American branch of the Woman Suffrage Party, which was fighting to give women the legal right to vote. Working on behalf of her fellow African-American women in New York, Newman canvassed her neighborhood to raise awareness of the cause and organized suffrage meetings in her voting district. Prominent white suffragists of the Woman Suffrage Party worked with Newman’s group, hoping to bring voting rights to all of New York’s female residents.” ~Biography


John Parker.jpgJohn P. Parker was an Iron man who invented a lot of things I don’t understand, largely for those working with metal, but more fascinating than that (to me) is that he also helped to run the Underground Rail Road.

They call him a “Conductor” because he spent fifteen years helping to rescue “fugitive” Slaves, after escaping, being bought again, and then buying his own freedom with money he earned working odd jobs.

John was one of the very few Black men, (slave) allowed to patent his inventions, in a time when slaves were legally forbidden from being educated. John was born in Norfolk to a Slave mother and a white father, of course, and like many of his enslaved brothers and sisters fought every single day of his life for the freedoms of Black men and women across the world, simply by being a really amazing human.

If you’d like to read more about John please check out his biography here

Even though the challenge is to write about “African-American” Black Inventors and their inventions, I thought I’d include some Canadian ones as well, cause you know…that’s where I live. Kanata.

Carrie Best.png

Carrie Best owned the very first newspaper ever owned by a Black woman. Clearly this woman was speaking to me.

“Nova Scotia’s Carrie Best was a poet, writer, journalist and activist. She founded The Clarion, the province’s first black-owned and published newspaper in Nova Scotia in 1946 and in 1952 she began hosting The Quiet Corner radio program which would run for 12 years. Best was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1979. She died in 2001.” ~CBC

she refused to be a housekeeper for anyone other than herself.” (Canadian Encyclopedia)

Not only did Carrie work at creating the first Black owned newspaper in our country, but more than that, she allowed herself to be arrested at a local theater to showcase what happens when Black people try to sit on the main floor of a movie theater. The arrest of Carrie and her son allowed her to sue the movie theater for racial discrimination, although she lost the case, she created awareness for what was happening in Canada to Black citizens, and inspired what would eventually become our legal right to sit wherever the fuck we want.



anderson-ruffin-abbott4In 1861, Anderson Ruffin Abbot became the very first Black person born in Canada, to become a licensed Physician.

Abbott worked as one of eight black surgeons during the American Civil War. His skills in both the operating theatre and in social circles made him a popular figure in the Washington D.C.’s social scene. He enjoyed a close relationship with President Lincoln. When Lincoln was mortally wounded, Abbot was in attendance at his deathbed. ~Alternox

He was one of the first activists in Canada, who fought against segregated education, and demanded that every student receive the same level of education, regardless of color.

Writer, Activist, Politician, Soldier and Doctor, he wrote about medicine, the Civil War, Black history, Darwinism, biology, and poetry.

I’ve decided to stop here, because even though the challenge is to find “ten”, I actually found something a lot more interesting.

First and foremost I think we need to “re-evaluate” the word “famous”, because I personally have never heard of these people before. I did have a teacher at Saint James who once told us all that the only reason the Canadian Government allows us to study the history if Ingenious cultures of Canada, was largely because of the massive wafting cloud of shame that will forever haunt us.

In other words, “they were guilted into teaching you about the Indians, but they never want you to know about the schools,” we had another teacher who got into trouble for teaching us about the Residential School system, she was later fired. (I’m pretty sure for other reasons however.)

Growing up in Calgary in the Roman Catholic School system, I didn’t learn anything, or well next to nothing, about Black Canadians, the ones we learned about were largely American, and almost always men, with the exception of Rosa Parks.

She was the first Black woman I learned about, and largely the reason that I often sit on the back of the bus. 

I know it may sound strange, because she fought so that Black people could sit at the front of the bus, but in grade 7, I was told that I “had” to sit on the front of the Bus, because to not do so was a disservice to the memory of Rosa Parks.

I sit on the back of the bus as a reminder, that for years Black men, women and children were forced to sit back there, isolated and alone from the proper White customers.

I sit at the back of the bus so that I can see what they saw, until they were legally permitted to sit wherever the hell they want, and yet, I do this in solidarity with people who never saw my country, and have no idea that I exist.

I want very much to learn more about Black Canadians, men and women, so I am asking my readers to reach out and tell me about the Black people in your country.

Are there people who did something your community, whose identity was hidden behind the word “Famous” without actually receiving their due? I am genuinely curious about the people who do things like invent wagon ladders, or fight against slavery after buying their own.

So this entire month I will be continuing to learn about Black culture, not just through the box that is my computer either. I am going to continue this blogging challenge and I hope that you’ll join us.

List of Black History Month Weekly Tags:

  • February 1st – List 10 African American Inventors and their Inventions.
  • February 8th – List 10 African American Books and their Authors.
  • February 15th – List Your Top 10 Songs Sung By Black Artists.
  • February 22nd – Top 10 Favorite Black Television Shows.
  • February 28th – Top 10 Favorite Black Movies.

If you know about some Black Americans or Canadian’s I should be looking into, please do me a favor and leave me a list in the comments, I would love to hear what you know that I don’t.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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