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14 Quotes From Unsung Black Inventors

Think “famous inventor” and a few big names likely come to mind: Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Johannes Gutenberg, to name a few. These great innovators created many incredible, life-changing things — but so have many others, including Black inventors who in many cases never received the level of recognition they deserved.

In honor of those unsung heroes, these quotes highlight innovative minds past and present, whose inventions range from medical devices to cutting-edge web technology.

We create our future, by well improving present opportunities: however few and small they are.
Lewis Latimer, whose inventions included a toilet system for railroad cars and a longer-lasting filament for electric light bulbs

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A Black woman can invent something for the benefit of humankind.
Bessie Blount, inventor of devices that helped the physically disabled, particularly WWII veterans

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Happiness is standing alone by the sea and watching a beautiful setting sun cast the lengthening shadow of a man and having the awareness of self-identity.
Leonidas H. Berry, inventor of the Eder-Berry biopsy attachment for the Eder-Palmer gastroscope

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If you fight hard, know who you are, and are proud of who you are, you’ve got a good chance of winning.
Walter Lincoln Hawkins, inventor of long-lived plastic coatings for communications cables

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Persevere. That’s what I always say to people. There’s no easy route.
Lonnie Johnson, aerospace engineer who also invented the Super Soaker toy

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There are three things to do to become successful. First, don't be afraid to get your hands dirty… Second, you have to read… And third, you have to believe in yourself. Don't listen to others tell you you're wrong.
Frederick McKinley Jones, inventor most famous for developing the first practical transport refrigeration unit for trucks

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I have had one goal in my life, that of playing some role in making life a little easier for the persons who come after me.
Percy Lavon Julian, a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, especially from natural soya products

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Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.
Madam C.J. Walker, creator of cosmetics and hair care products for Black women (and America’s first female self-made millionaire)

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If you can be the best, then why not try to be the best?
Garrett Morgan, inventor of the three-position traffic signal and the smoke hood, a predecessor of the gas mask

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Every person is born with a creative mind. Everyone has that ability.
Mary Kenner, inventor of many everyday health and lifestyle objects, who holds the record for the most U.S. patents awarded to a Black woman

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Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of imagination.
Patricia Bath, inventor of the Laserphaco Probe, an improved device for laser cataract surgery

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A lot of kids growing up today aren’t told that you can be whatever you want to be. There may be obstacles, but there are no limits.
Mark E. Dean, co-creator of the IBM personal computer

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I think I’ve had more failures than successes, but I don’t see the failures as mistakes because I always learned something from those experiences. I see them as having not achieved the initial goal, nothing more than that.
James West, inventor who holds more than 250 patents for the production and design of microphones

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[The younger generation] are about making change and questioning the status quo. I really appreciate it and I want to encourage them to continue to do two things: be true to themselves and make a social impact.
Lisa Gelobter, computer scientist who invented the Shockwave technology for animation on the web

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Featured image credit: Thomas S England/ TheChronicle Collection via Getty Images

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About the Author
Tony Dunnell
Tony is an English writer of non-fiction and fiction living on the edge of the Amazon jungle.
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