Earlier this month, in honor of Black History Month, we presented our favorite Lesser Known Black History Facts Everyone Should Know! We hope you enjoyed it, and more than that, we hope you’re ready for more!
Every time February rolls around we get to hear about all of the great and fantastic inventions and ideas that Black people have contributed throughout this country’s history. While undoubtedly extremely important, over time, that typical list has grown mundane. So, we’ve decided to spike things up a bit!
In our first iteration of this list, we shared that Lisa Gelobter, a Black woman, laid the groundwork for the first GIFs, and that dry cleaning was invented by Thomas L. Jennings, a Black man. There are so many essential things that we know and use today that perhaps wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for people of color.
Now, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge and champion those more talked about creations. Not at all. It just means that we as a people have a whole lot to talk about, and that’s exactly what we’re about to do today.
So, without further ado, here are Lesser Known Black History Facts Everyone Should Know, Part Two!
Lesser Known Black History Facts Everyone Should Know was originally published on blackamericaweb.com
1. Steven Henson – Ranch DressingSource:Getty
Did you know that Ranch dressing, one of America’s favorite condiments, was invented by a black man? That’s right! Steven Henson, a Black American cowboy who had moved from Nebraska to Alaska in the 1940s, was working as a plumbing contractor. While feeding his workers over the years he began tweaking this ‘dressing’ recipe until he eventually, and thankfully, landed on what we now know as Ranch! He also started the company Hidden Valley Ranch and eventually sold it to Clorox!
2. Lonnie Johnson – Super SoakerSource:Getty
If you grew up in the 90s and lived in an area where you could spend your summers outdoors, you’ve probably had at least one encounter with the most infamous water gun of all time – the Super Soaker. Born in Mobile, Alabama, this former NASA engineer invented the number 1 selling water toy in 1989. While kids all over appreciate the Super Soaker’s ability to cool us off on the hottest of days, I think we can all also admit that we appreciate the fact the the original name of this toy, the Power Drencher, didn’t stick!
3. Grandmaster FlashSource:Getty
Grandmaster Flash is one of hip-hop’s forefathers and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. While perhaps underappreciated in our modern, quick-moving, social media world, that’s not why he made today’s list. He’s also credited as the innovator of several now-standard DJ techniques. The quick mix theory, also known as the backspin technique or beat juggling, involves the DJ flipping back and forth between two different records in a smooth, melodic way that doesn’t break up the rhythm of the beat. He also mastered a technique called punch phrasing, where he would isolate a short portion of one instrumental, often the horns, then rhythmically play that over another one. Scratching is another vital element of hip-hop DJs that is still used today.
4. Madam C. J. Walker – First Black Woman MillionaireSource:Getty
You may know that Madam C.J. Walker is known as America’s first Black female millionaire, but do you know how she made her fortune? Walker was born in Delta, Louisiana in 1867. By the turn of the century, she was manufacturing and disturbing her own line of hair care products. After making her fortune she continued to give back. She taught women her methods of marketing and continued to educate women of color all across America. She also donated large portions of her income to the NAACP and various other organizations designed for the advancement of Black people in America.
5. George Crum – Potato ChipsSource:Getty
While we opened this list by talking about Ranch dressing, our next food product that we all know and love – perhaps a little too much – is potato chips! Did you know that they were invented by a Black man? George Crum, a famous and well-liked chef in the early 1800s, was working at Moon’s Lake House in Saratoga Springs, New York. One night a customer complained that their french fries, a staple at the restaurant, were too wide and bland. After four failed attempts Crum finally, half in jest, sliced the potatoes super thin, fried them super crunch, and overloaded them with heaping amounts of salt. To Crum’s surprise, the customer loved them. And thus, potato chips were born!
6. Paul E. Williams – Patent for “First Useful” HelicopterSource:WENN
While there’s a debate on who invented the very first helicopter ever, Paul E. Williams, a Black architect that worked for the Navy, filed and received a patent for the “first useful” helicopter, the Lockheed Model 186 (XH-51), in 1962. Williams was able to, according to africagiant.org, produce components for the helicopter that “affected the entire operation of the helicopter in a brilliant way.”
7. Thomas Elkins – Modern ToiletSource:Getty
Did we say that the folding chair was important? Well, this one may just be a couple of notches Thomas Elkins. Elins received his patent for the ‘chamber commode’, or modernized version of the toilet, in January 1872.
8. Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson – Caller ID & Call WaitingSource:Getty
Born in Washington D.C. in 1946, Shirley Ann Jackson was an excellent student. She wound up being the first Black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. from MIT and was a subatomic particle researcher in the United States and Europe in the 1970s. Jackson’s research has led to several key communications inventions, including fax machines and the touch-tone telephone. But she’s perhaps mostly appreciated for her work on Caller ID, which, if you remember, was a huge deal before smartphones were a thing!
9. Jerry Lawson – Godfather of the Video Game CartridgeSource:Getty
Where my gamers at!? Jerry Lawson, in the video game world, is basically royalty. He’s credited as being the “godfather of the video game cartridge” for his work in the 1970s on the Fairchild Channel F, one of the first at-home video game consoles, which came out even before Atari