As we celebrate Black History Month in February, we wanted to share some history about African Americans in the auto industry. Black men and women across the country were involved in one way or another in helping to shape the auto industry as we know it today.
African American inventors contributed early versions of many common items we use and see every day, including spark plugs (Edmond Berger, 1839), the turn Signal (Richard Spikes, 1913), the traffic signal (Garrett A. Morgan, 1923), and a piston pin machine (Dr. Claude Harvard, 1934) are just a few.
The first and only African American owned automobile manufacturer was C. R. Patterson and Sons. It was founded in 1915 in Greenfield, Ohio. It saw a few successful years of production, including automobiles, buses, and trucks. However, the Great Depression caused the company to close in 1939.
On December 4, 1939, Edward Davis became one of the first African American car dealers in Michigan. Davis Motor Sales sold new and used Studebakers. He struggled for many years; however, he was able to open a Chrysler dealership in 1963.
George Washington Carver, who is most known for his peanut research, was also a good friend of Henry Ford and had a lab in Detroit, which he used to create car parts out of soybeans, notably, horn buttons, window trim pieces, and gearshift knobs.
These are just a few of the many African American who played a role in shaping our automotive world.