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The Real McCoy: African-American Invention and Innovation, 1619-1930

Patent Model for Multiple-Effect Vacuum Evaporator, Norbert Rillieux, August 25, 1843. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Bert and Carol Vorchheimer.

May 21, 1989 – May 31, 1990
Anacostia Community Museum1901 Fort Place, SE
Washington, DC
Main Gallery

Think twice the next time you slow down for a yellow light: once to stop, and once to recall that the caution light was the work of an African American inventor. Garrett Morgan patented his automatic traffic signal in 1923. He also designed and patented a safety hood in 1914, the forerunner of today’s gas mask. This exhibition focuses on outstanding black inventors—from prominent figures such as nineteenth-century inventor Elijah McCoy to anonymous women and men—who made important contributions to American technology. Featuring actual inventions and patented designs, the exhibition examines topics such as African influences on New World technology and the largely unrecognized technical innovations developed by enslaved persons.

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