Five influential African American inventors and creators

George Crum invented the potato chip thanks to an unhappy customer


February is Black History Month, but it is not the only month to pay homage, learn and celebrate all African Americans. These are five Black accomplishments and inventions. (Photo Illustration by Maya Barber)

February may have been Black History month, but we can celebrate accomplishments from African Americans all year long. Here are five accomplishments by African Americans to learn how they impacted this country. 


  1. Ebony Magazine

Ebony magazine was founded by John H. Johnson in 1945. He first started with the Negro Digest in 1942 and worked his way up. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Ebony magazine was the first Black-oriented magazine in the United States to attain national circulation. This magazine features African Americans in entertainment, sports, and more. It also talks about the achievements of African Americans. Ebony magazine is still published in digital form.


  1. Jack L. Cooper

Cooper was the first African American radio disc jockey. He was born in 1888 in Memphis, Tennessee and died in 1970. During the 1940s he was making over $200,000 per year. In 2012 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of National Radio. He started as a comedian in Washinton, D.C., and then became a host and producer of “The All-Negro Hour” variety show. He also wrote for Black newspapers and was a theater editor. Cooper was able to achieve all this and more although he dropped out of school at age 10. He paved the way for Black people to step into predominantly white fields. 


  1. Telfar Clemens

Clemons is 37 years old and already making history as an African American designer. He is from Queens, New York and is the inventor of the brand Telfar, most known for its iconic bag. The Telfar emblem is the letter “E.” This company not only designs bags, but it also sells clothing, beanies, jewelry, and accessories. He has many supporters like Oprah, Issa Rae, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 


  1. Lonnie Johnson

Johnson was born in Alabama in 1949. Over his lifetime he created many inventions and also worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. He attended Tuskegee University, a Historically Black College, and left with his master’s in nuclear engineering. He is known for inventing the Supersoaker in 1990, which is a water gun. According to Forbes, it has made more than $1 billion. 


  1. George Crum 

Crum was born in 1824 in New York City and died in 1914. Crum was an American chef, and he was known for creating the potato chip. However, there is a legend that goes with his invention. It is believed that he created it at work, when a customer sent back their french fries because they were too thick. Crum sliced the potatoes extra thin, which resulted in what we now know as potato chips. Crum did not patent his invention.