#BlackHistoryMonth: The Inventor Segregation didn’t Stop

Even though he had the chance to attend school only until he is 10 years old, the man whom we honour at Born Black Hall of Fame this month, obtained more than 50 patents for his great inventions including an automatic brake, egg incubator, steam boiler furnace and improvements of other inventions like telegraphs and telephones.

Born in 1856 in Ohio, Granville T. Woods didn’t let the racially segregated system stop him from becoming a great inventor. He gained most of his knowledge by educating himself on the job and taking evening classes. He has contributed enormously by inventing devices that improve electric railway cars. The apparatus- Multiplex Railway Telegraph- that allows communication among train stations and trains on duty, is one of his inventions that helped to avoid train crash accidents at the time.

Though not allowed to visit libraries, he used friends to access books he needed as much as he could. Among his inventions, the most famous one is the ‘telegraphony’- a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. This device enabled to send voice and telegraph messages through a wire. This device was bought by the Alexander Graham Bell’s Company. His other inventions were also purchased by General Electric and Westinghouse Air Brake Company.

Woods also improved the telephone system by creating a telephone transmitter, which provided better quality sound and lengthened the transmission time. His invention of a third rail, which permits trains to have less friction, is in use till date.

Some call him the ‘Black Edison’. Woods had a history with Thomas Edison, who claimed that the patent for inventing one of Wood’s important works- the Multiplex Railway Telegraph as his own. However, Woods won in the fight and have acquired the patent. Later on Thomas Edison offered him a partnership in his company, which Woods turned down choosing his independence.

Woods had his own company –Woods Electric Company.  When he died in 1910, he wasn’t a rich man in spite of all his work. Some say he spent most of his wealth on defending his patent rights.

Yohana Otite

Yohana Otite is the co-founder of BornBlack and writers on issues that revolve around the intersection of race, gender and class. Yohana also manages the Hamilton DiverseCity onBoard program at Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion.

One thought on “#BlackHistoryMonth: The Inventor Segregation didn’t Stop

  • darlkofi2012@gmail.com'
    March 5, 2016 at 1:07 am

    Great reminder that we are more than a people who “suffer.” We also invent and create! Thank you!


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