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African American Inventors: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

There have been many inventors throughout history that have come up with a new product or idea that helps the world in some way, including many African American inventors. Come and learn about a few of these men and women and what they contributed to the world.

What are Inventors?

Do you have an idea about something that is completely new to this world? Maybe it's something that makes a job easier, or an activity more fun. This is what inventors do - they design or create something that comes from a brand-new idea. There have been many African American inventors that have changed the world for the better, despite the fact that most of them did not have the same educational opportunities as whites.

Benjamin Banneker

One of the most successful African American inventors was a man by the name of Benjamin Banneker. He was one of the rare African Americans who received an education during that time, as he lived in a 'color-blind' community, meaning that they did not treat people differently based on the color of their skin. He is well-known for his invention of the first clock in America. His beautiful wooden clock worked for forty years before it was burned in a fire.

Benjamin Banneker
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The clock wasn't the only accomplish of Banneker's. When he was only 15 years old, he came up with a system that would keep crops watered so that they would not lose food when it didn't rain for a long time. This ended up helping the soldiers in the Revolutionary War get the nutrition that they needed by giving them access to wheat grown on a farm with one of Banneker's systems.

Madam CJ Walker

Did you know that the first self-made female millionaire in the United States was African American? Her name was Madam CJ Walker and she had one of the largest African American businesses in the country during the 1890s and 1900s. Her business was designed specifically for African American women: she created and sold special African American shampoos and other hair products.

The Madam CJ Walker business headquarters
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Something that makes Walker even more amazing is that she overcame a pretty rough childhood. Her parents were former slaves, and they both passed away by the time that Walker was only seven years old. She was married at the age of 14 and had a child shortly afterwards, but then her husband passed away when she was 20. However, Walker did not let these challenges stop her from achieving her dreams. She also used her money for public service, such as giving $10,000 a year to help give African Americans an education.

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