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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Legacy of 20th century inventor Garrett Morgan is honored in “The Inventor”

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GRAPHIC: GABRIELLA GUZZARDO ’23/THE HAWK

Born in Paris, Kentucky in 1877, Garrett Morgan invented two life-saving devices still used today: the mask that would protect the wearer from smoke and ammonia, and the three-position traffic light. As a Black person growing up during the Jim Crow era, Morgan endured discrimination under the laws that legalized racial segregation following the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. In 1920 Morgan founded the Cleveland Call, a weekly newspaper, and helped found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. Morgan became a successful entrepreneur and filed patents for his inventions including the traffic light, the gas mask and hair care products. He also invented a belt fastener and zigzag attachments for sewing machines.

Morgan was able to demonstrate the importance of one of his inventions in 1916, when he used his precursor to the gas mask, called the safety hood, to walk into a collapsed tunnel and save the lives of eight miners. Morgan did not get the credit he deserved for his invention.

Morgan’s legacy is honored in “The Inventor,” a short film that tells the story of Morgan’s struggle with the fact that his achievements have gone uncredited.

Session 3 of the 2023 Day of Dialogue offers the opportunity to view the award-winning film, followed by guided discussions about the film’s themes.

“The Inventor” was written, produced and directed by Philip Musey and won Best Historical Short at the 2022 Manhattan Film Festival. 

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