Garrett Morgan was a brilliant African American inventor who changed the world through his inventions. His innovations were life-saving, and he was an important part of the civil rights movement.
Despite his success, he still faced racial discrimination in America during the Reconstruction era. But he persevered and was determined to make the world a safer place.
He invented a mechanical traffic signal that displayed a third signal (similar to today's yellow light). His signal was designed after he saw a car collision at an intersection, and it included a warning light so that drivers would know they needed to stop before they could proceed further.
Another of his inventions was a safety hood that allowed firefighters to breathe in smoke-filled rooms while saving their lives. He patented this device in 1912, and it was a huge hit with fire departments across the country.
His hood was so effective that in 1916, when an underground tunnel under Lake Erie was exploding, Morgan used his hood to save eight men who were trapped inside the tunnel. He also successfully demonstrated his hood by entering a tent filled with a noxious mix of tar, formaldehyde, sulfur and manure and breathing the smoke from it for twenty minutes before emerging unscathed.
He also patented a gas mask that protected firemen from inhaling poisonous gases and fumes while fighting fires. This gas mask eventually became a standard item for U.S. soldiers during World War I, and is still in use today.