The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 21, 2014

Program to honor black inventors

JOHNSTOWN — “Exploring the Creations of Black Inventors” will be the focus of an educational program today at Johnstown Children’s Museum in observance of Black History Month.

The museum will celebrate Inventors Day by paying tribute to African-American innovators and designers from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

“We will welcome guests to learn about the creations of several black inventors,” said Jayme Brooks, Johns­town Area Heritage Association’s director of visitor services/education coordinator.

She said that not many people are familiar with this part of American history and it is a topic that JAHA wanted to share with the community.

“Unfortunately, many African-Americans never received recognition because of their struggle when slavery existed in this country,” Brooks said. “They were unable to attain patents for their work and never got the credit they deserved.”

When they were able to get patents, black inventors received recognition for things such as the golf tee, automatic traffic light, cellular phone, dustpan, mailbox and pencil sharpener.

“They certainly had the dedication and drive to invent things that helped our nation achieve prosperity,” Brooks said.

Participating students will learn about several inventors and replicate their inventions through games or crafts.

Granville Woods was an African-American inventor who held more than 50 patents, including a telegraph that would allow train stations to communicate with moving trains.

“In an attempt to replicate this invention, children will be putting together paper cup telephones to communicate with each other over fishing line,” Books said.

In the late 1850s, Benjamin Montgomery applied for a patent for his design of a steam-operated propeller to provide propulsion to boats in shallow water. Montgomery could not apply for a patent for his invention because as a slave, he was not considered a U.S. citizen.

“To honor Benjamin Montgomery, the Home Depot has offered their supplies and time to help guests build wooden boats,” Brooks said.

One of Garrett Morgan’s most notable inventions was a traffic signal.

After witnessing an accident between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage, Morgan became determined to develop a more effective way to regulate traffic and to protect pedestrians.

Program participants can make a modern-day stoplight craft and play the game red light, green light.

Patricia Bath is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical device. In 1981, she conceived of the Laserphaco Probe, a medical device that improves on the use of lasers to remove cataracts.

One of the possible causes of cataracts is too much light exposure, so it’s important to wear sunglasses when outside to protect the eyes.

“Children will make paper sunglasses that will depict people and things that they like to see,” Brooks said.

The children’s museum is offering free admission to those 18 years and younger from noon to 4 p.m.

No reservations are required.

For more information about the program, contact the museum at 539-1889  or visit

Hands-on history

What: “Exploring the Creations of Black Inventors.”

Where: Heritage Discovery Center, 201 Sixth Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

When: 1:30 to 4 p.m. today.

Cost: Free admission to those 18 and younger from noon to 4 p.m.

Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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