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With only an elementary school education, Black inventor (and son of an enslaved parent), Garrett Morgan came up with several significant inventions, including an improved sewing machine and the gas mask. However, one of Morgan’s most influential inventions was the improved traffic light.
Morgan’s was one of the first three-light systems that were invented in the 1920s, resulting in widespread adoption of the traffic lights we take for granted today.
Thanks to the successes of his other inventions, Morgan bought a car and, as a motorist, he witnessed a severe car accident at an intersection in his city of Cleveland, Ohio. In response, he decided to expand on the current traffic light by adding a “yield” component, warning oncoming drivers of an impending stop. He took out the patent for the creation in 1923, and it was granted to him the following year. (History Channel)