African American Inventors in Automotive History

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African American Inventors in Automotive History

African American Inventors in Automotive History

When you are thinking about the automotive industry, chances are that you recognize names such as Ford and other men as the biggest inventors. However, there were many African Americans who have contributed to the automotive industry throughout history. Here are several African American Inventors in Automotive History.

African American Inventors in Automotive History

These individuals paved the way for changes and were huge influencers in the automotive industry as we now know it. From inventing the yellow light to improving our current automobile systems, these men used their minds to help make the automotive industry what it is today. Here are five African American Inventors in Automotive History.

C.R Patterson

C.R. Patterson was born in 1933 on a Virginia plantation. There is very little known about his time on the plantation as a slave. Patterson eventually found himself in Greenfield, Ohio where he became a blacksmith. In 1873, he joined with J.P. Lowe, who was a carriage maker in Greenfield. The men created a high-quality carriage making the business known as C.R. Patterson and Sons. By the year 1900, Patterson was the sole owner of the business. He had about 50 employees and had about 28 models of carriages that he offered. Patterson passed away in 1910 and left the business onto his son, who continued creating models of carriages for many more years.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver had many successes throughout his life. He was the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College and went on to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute. He was one of the most respected scientists during this time. In 1942, Henry Ford invited Carver to the Ford Motor Company in Michigan. Carver worked with Ford for many years and during his time with the company, he helped develop synthetic rubber. The invention was important at the time due to shortages caused by the war. In addition, Carver is known for several other inventions including postage stamp glue, special plastics, a gasoline alternative, and over 100 other important advances.

Garrett Morgan

Garret Morgan was born in Kentucky and when he was only 14 years old moved to Ohio looking for work. His first job was as a handyman and then he started repairing sewing machines. In 1907, Morgan opened up his own repair shop. With this success under his belt, Morgan became one of the top inventors in the country. He earned enough to buy his own car, which was a luxury during this time. As Morgan began driving through town, he noticed that the traffic lights in town would go from go to stop without any warning. Morgan thought of the idea of an interim warning position. His idea is what we now know as the yellow light.

Richard B. Spikes

Richard Spikes was a person who was always on the move. He finally settled in California during the early 1900s. He was an inventor of several important patents throughout history, including a swinging barber chair, a self-locking rack for billiards, and a beer tapper, among others. The automotive industry intrigued Spikes the most. He had several automotive patents throughout his years including an improved gear shift, an automatic brake safety system, a temperature check for auto fluids, and a brake testing machine. The patent for the turn signal has not been found, but many people give credit to Mr. Spikes for this invention as well. When it comes to the automotive industry today, it would definitely not be the same without the innovative spirit and brilliant mind of Richard B. Spikes.

Wendell Scott


Wendell Scott is considered a trailblazer when it comes to the automotive industry. He is also a catalyst for African American race car drivers. Scott was born in Virginia and learned how to repair automobiles by working with his father. His father had an auto repair shop that he opened after he served in World War II. During that time, African Americans could not race on the Nascar circuit. Wendell Scott started racing in the Dixie Circuit to satisfy his desire to race. His impressive skills on the race track led to him getting a Nascar license. This made Scott the first African American driver in the history of Nascar. Scott won the Jacksonville 200 and competed in 495 Grand National races. In 2015, Wendell Scott was inducted into the Nascar Hall of Fame.


Throughout history, there have been many prominent figures found in the automotive industry. These five African Americans showed persistence and bravery during their lifetimes as they all worked to drive the automotive industry forward in their own unique ways. They faced racial barriers and more during their time.

Additional Reading: African American Automotive Innovations

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