Top 10 Black American Contributions to US Growth & Development

History, as taught in schools, is mostly written by white men. In the last 75 years the historical dialogue has grown to include the voices of folks like W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary Francis Berry, Richard Wright, August Wilson, Spike Lee, Alice Walker and Trevor Noah, to name a few.

The US is ranked as the most powerful country in the world. That ranking did not happen by accident. It is the rebellious spirit of our forefathers, the ingenuity of great thinkers, inventors, businesspeople, innovators and hard workers that helped make it great.

Here is a list of ten developments that would not be possible without black American thinkers, innovators and physical laborers.


Born a free man in 1807, Henry Blair was the second African American to be issued a United States patent. Despite being illiterate and uneducated, he was a successful farmer who patented two inventions: a corn planter and a cotton planter. Both of his inventions greatly increased efficiency on the farm by limiting labor and time.

Henry Blair Seed Planter Inventor


Black slaves literally built, with their hands, the White House; Monticello; early Wall Street; Chapel Hill buildings; and pretty much any other notable structure in the South or the Eastern Seaboard before 1861.

The White House


Onesimus, an African slave, was a gift to the Puritan church minister Cotton Mather from his congregation in 1706. Onesimus told Mather about the centuries old tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa. By extracting the material from an infected person and scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person, you could deliberately introduce smallpox to the healthy individual making them immune.

Onesimus’ traditional African practice was used to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War and introduced the concept of inoculation to the United States. 

Onesimus, an African slave

Black Cowboys

Cowboys played an important role in the settling of the west. Ranching was a big industry and cowboys helped to run the ranches. They herded cattle, repaired fences and buildings, and took care of the horses.

Probably no one realizes this, but one in four cowboys was black, despite the stories told in popular books and movies. In fact, it's believed that the real “Lone Ranger” was inspired by an African American man named Bass Reeves. Reeves was a master of disguise, an expert marksman, had a Native American companion, and rode a silver horse.

Bass Reeves

Fighting in the Civil War

The movie “Glory, ” starring Denzel Washington shed light on all the underappreciated heroes of the first black company fighting in the American Civil War. These soldiers were forced to deal with the prejudices of both the enemy (who had orders to kill commanding officers of blacks), and of their own fellow officers. 

Black veterans remain disenfranchised and underappreciated today. For more on how to reach out to make a difference see our Veteran’s Day blog post.

first black company fighting in the American Civil War

Scientific research

If you have not read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, get yourself over to Barnes and Noble (if you can find one!) or add this right now to your Audible cue. This black American woman, an unknowing donor, had cells removed from her during a hospital stay that would revolutionize medicine. 

The story of Henrietta and her family is totally amazing—they have impacted science and anyone who works or benefits from the use of cellular research. That means just about every single person is connected to Henrietta in one way or another.

Henrietta Lacks

Marching On Selma

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., led hundreds of Americans on a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. In the fight to secure voting rights for African Americans and other minorities across the country, the peaceful march was met with brutal violence.

Eventually, the march went on unimpeded -- and the echoes of its significance reverberated so loudly in Washington, D.C., that Congress passed the historic Voting Rights Act.

Marching On Selma

Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (AAC). Their impressive performance in WWII earned them more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.

The Tuskegee Airmen

Oprah Winfrey’s Empire

Oprah came from impoverished roots in Mississippi to eventually become an entrepreneur, entertainer and philanthropist worth 2.7 billion dollars.

With her iconic TV show and films such as The Color Purple, Oprah has changed perceptions of African Americans, and inspired millions as a force to be reckoned with, and a role model for people of color who come from poverty and dream of making something of their life. 

Oprah Winfrey

The legacy of Barack and Michelle Obama

When Barak and Michelle Obama walked into the White House in January, 2009 it was a miraculous moment in time for black Americans. The legacy that Barack and Michelle left includes a reformed healthcare system, and passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that jolted life back into an economy on the brink of failure.

Barack and Michelle Obama

It is inspiring that more films like Hidden Figures and Seven Years a Slave are being made. These films are not always easy to watch, but as Cornel West has said, “You must let suffering speak, if you want to hear the truth.”

Hopefully the generations coming up will have a more inclusive understanding of all those that came before them to see that people of every race, shape and color came together to make this country the force that it is today.


Why get upset and cuss people out when all I did was correcting and comment..This is not school or a book report mothafuckas,I don’t need too correct or punctuation on a topic like this why even bother looking at this you got your own German Anglo Saxon too monitor. You ignorant stupid red neck Devil pale face mothafuckas

IVORY September 10, 2020

If that were the case you’d know how to use some form of punctuation instead of making 3 paragraphs into one long sentence like a retard

@ I've1 June 25, 2020

Learn English then you dumb $^*%. Its add, not ad, moron

F U June 25, 2020

Or maybe use the word add instead of ad and make it seem like your not an ignorant piece of shit

A$$hole June 25, 2020

Joe Wingo Well it said top 10 most importance which common sense the writers or whoever probably didnt have space or the time to write everything,We know Bengimin Banneker,Grandville T woods George Washington Carver,and Madame C Walker to name a few its many many more but they give the platform agriculture of the South slavery which the most important hands and feet then the construction through out the country mainly the Eastern Region seaport the 13 colonies Dc,N.Y. Carolina and Philly alot of Black History and Culture even Miami which were founded by Bahamians and even toward the West, Chicago founded by brother from Haiti John Baptististe point du sable,Tulsa Oklahoma black wall street and the black cowboys who had help settle the West black town of Anderson in California,26 of the people of color help build parts of La,Oakland Downtown was build by Indians Blacks Whites and Mexicans..

I've 1 April 06, 2020

There are far too many greater accomplishments not mentioned here.
This particular piece undermines the contributions of negros in American history.
Ad some of the more significant contributions.

Joe Wingo August 05, 2019

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