Technology and the African American Inventor


The purpose of this lesson is to create an awareness and understanding that important technological advances within our culture, in a variety of areas, are the result of the work done by a diverse group of people, many of whom are African Americans. To this end, students will be actively involved in discussions, research, and sharing sessions. Between six and ten class periods will be necessary for this lesson.


  1. Students will understand that technological advances are the result of the work done by a diverse group of people, many of whom are African Americans.
  2. Students will apply Internet browsing skills to locate information.
  3. Students will identify the impact of researched inventions on the world today.

Standard VIII of the NCSS standards: Science, Technology, and Society


  • overhead projector
  • transparency list of American inventions from a cross-section of society
  • a student guide for each group with 2-3 African American inventors listed
  • computer lab arrangements

Lesson Plan:

A web page of the sites would also be beneficial so that students could work more efficiently.

Some African American Inventors:

Benjamin Banneker, Otis Boykin, Charles W. Buggs, George R. Carruthers, John B. Christian, Vance H. Marchbanks Jr., Rufus Stokes, J. Ernest Wilkins Jr., Meredith Gourdine, Theodore K. Lawless, Percy Julian, William A. Hinton, Louis T. Wright, Ernest W. Just, Madame C.J. Walker, Frederick M. Jones, H.C. Webb, Daniel H. Williams, George Washington Carver, Lewis H. Latimer, Garrett A. Morgan, Elijah McCoy, Granville T. Woods, Norbert Rillieux, Jan Ernst Matzeliger, James Forten, Charles H. Turner, Charles R. Drew

Activity One:

Begin with the following question: If you had to pick one invention as your personal favorite, which would you select and why?

Students will be given several minutes to contemplate and then write their response. A period of sharing and discussion will follow; hopefully creating heightened interest.

Activity Two:

This activity sets the stage for research. Begin by using the overhead to present students with a list of inventions representing a very diverse group of Americans.

After discussing this diversity, introduce the research project on African American Inventors, establish student groups, and distribute the student guide (each group will be responsible for researching 2-3 specific African American inventors but may extend to others if time permits).

Allow remaining time for groups to meet in order to formulate some questions that they would like to find answers to. Provide guidance as needed.

Two class periods in the computer lab for the research phase of this assignment are needed. During this time, students will gather data appropriate to their questions as well as other interesting information.

Students meet back in the classroom to share their findings with their group and discuss how they will present their information to the class. (board display, paper, web page, power point presentation) Time is then spent working up the presentation. This can be done in class or as an out of class assignment.

Students share their final product with the class.

The lesson culminates in a writing assignment. Students will select one invention and develop a quality essay about how life would be different without that particular invention.


A unit to provide understanding of economic practices and stages of economic development would be of value as a prerequisite to this lesson. Students could use this knowledge base as they ponder inventions and their impact on society.

Grade Level(s): 6-8
By: Sandra Chute, 7th grade teacher

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