Skip to main content
  • With Confidence and Curiousity: African-American Inventors

    Georgia inventor and engineer Malcolm Johnson works at Kimberly-Clark and holds nine patents for inventions. He knows inventors have a lot of confidence and curiosity. Wanting to know what, where, and why things happen keeps them focused and committed as they create new things. Chris Mitchell teaches Georgia students about African-American inventors using original patents, documents, and photographs.

    Support Materials

    Discuss

    1. Think about some of the inventions created by African Americans. Explain how your life would be different without some of these inventions.

    2. Why is it important for an inventor/scientist to have qualities such as curiosity and the ability to work hard to make something "work"?

    3. Why do you think it's important for inventors to obtain patents?

    Expansion

    1. Are you an inventor? Rate or have a classmate rate your (a) curiosity, (b) self confidence, and (c) ability to focus on a problem on a scale of 1 through 5 with 5 being the highest.

    Add up your responses and check your score:
    12-15: move over, Frederick McKinley Jones!
    6-11: stay focused, you may have talent
    3-5: investigate another line of work

    Vocabulary

    patent: official document that gives an inventor exclusive rights to produce and profit from an invention or discovery for a certain period of time
    filament: a slender threadlike object or fiber, especially one found in animal or plant structures.
    carbon filament: similar to asbestos and used in the first light bulbs tungsten filament: a longer lasting metal that produced light in light bulbs

    For Teachers

    Discussion Guide

    1. Think about some of the inventions created by African Americans. Explain how your life would be different without some of these inventions. 
    Students answers will vary. Some of the inventions they may mention are the traffic signal, gas mask, carbon filament for electric light bulbs, truck refrigeration system, a system for cutting and fitting dresses, and an adapter that allowed silent film projectors to show "talking" motion pictures. 

    2. Why is it important for an inventor/scientist to have qualities such as curiosity and the ability to work hard to make something "work"?
    Without a sense of curiosity, a person would likely not explore new ideas and ways to create something new. Persistence is also key for inventors/scientists to find a solution to make something work. Very rarely does something work with the first attempt. Failures often help drive people to find a new solution and make something better. 

    3. Why do you think it's important for inventors to obtain patents?
    Patents are issued by the Department of Commerce and protect the inventor's ideas. Without patents, other people or companies could steal one's ideas or inventions and make money off of them.  

    Explore More