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Black History Month: Black Transportation Leaders

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This Black History Month, we will reflect on iconic figures like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, known for their pivotal roles in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Underground Railroad. Still, we would also like to spotlight lesser-known heroes in the transportation industry. In this blog post, we'll explore the stories of three influential leaders who may not be well known but have made a significant impact. Join us as we celebrate their remarkable journeys and acknowledge their influence.

Garrett A. Morgan

Garrett A MorganGarrett Morgan is known as the "Father of Transportation Technology." Witnessing a tragic accident in 1923 inspired Morgan to invent the three-position traffic signal, a groundbreaking device dramatically improving road safety across America.

This innovative traffic signal, invented in 1923 and eventually used throughout North America, served as the foundation for today's modern traffic lights with automatic red, yellow, and green signals. Even after his passing in 1963, we still benefit from his invention today.


Andrew J. Beard

Andrew J beardAndrew Beard, a transformative inventor in railroad transportation, patented a groundbreaking improvement to the rotary steam engine in 1892. His most impactful contribution came in 1897 with the invention of the first automatic train car coupler, known as the "Jenny" coupler. Before Beard's innovation, manual coupling posed significant risks to workers, often resulting in serious injuries.

Beard's personal experience, having lost a leg in a car coupling accident, fueled his commitment to creating a safer alternative. His invention, driven by firsthand knowledge of the dangers involved, likely saved countless lives and limbs in the railroad industry.

The "Jenny Coupler" automated this process, improving safety by eliminating the need for manual intervention. Recognizing its importance, Congress passed the Federal Safety Appliance Act in 1887, making it illegal to operate railroad cars without automatic couplers. Beard's legacy as a pioneer in transportation safety remains significant.


Elijah J. Mcoy

elijah j mcoyElijah J. McCoy, a certified mechanical engineer born to former slaves in Colchester, Ontario, left a mark on the transportation industry. Known for his automatic lubricator for locomotive steam engines, McCoy's innovations drastically enhanced efficiency in railway transportation. He had numerous inventions, including a lubricating cup that allowed trains to run continuously without pausing for maintenance.

Starting his career as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad, McCoy identified and addressed inefficiencies in the existing oiling system. His patented automatic lubricating device in 1872 streamlined engine maintenance, saving both time and money for the transportation sector.


In wrapping up this exploration of Black pioneers in transportation, it's clear that figures like Garrett A. Morgan, Andrew J. Beard, and Elijah J. McCoy played pivotal roles in shaping the industry. Beyond their well-deserved recognition this Black History Month, their innovations – from traffic signals to automatic couplers and lubricators – have had a lasting impact on efficiency and safety.

Moving forward, it's not just about acknowledging their contributions but embracing inclusivity in our ongoing narrative. These trailblazers shaped the past and laid the foundation for future generations in the transportation sector. Let's honor their achievements by encouraging a diverse and innovative landscape that celebrates the invaluable contributions of Black men and women throughout history.