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Garrett Morgan. Inventor. Father. Social Activist.

Photo by David Guenther on Unsplash

We celebrate and honor the legacy of Garrett Morgan as part of our four-part series for Black History Month.

Do you appreciate having a yellow light to warn you that the traffic signal will soon be red? Yep, think about all the collisions that would happen if the light went straight from Green to Red.

You have Garrett Morgan to thank for that – the inventor of the three-way traffic signal (and a revamped sewing machine, hair cream, and gas mask).

Garrett Morgan Portrait
Garrett Morgan. Source: Pinterest.

Morgan was born in Kentucky in 1877. With only a elementary school education, he went on to create many inventions that he got patented, including one for a face mask that served as the precursor for gas masks used in WWII.


Morgan had to hire a white man to pretend to be the inventor of his breathing mask so that people would buy the product.

When he was revealed as the inventor, sales of his product went down.

Garrett Morgan’s patent for a traffic signal
Garrett Morgan’s patent for a traffic signal. Source: Wikipedia.

Morgan’s invention of a three-way traffic signal met great success. He had witnessed collisions at intersections where there was no warning between two-way signals that went from “stop” to “go”– inspiration was born. His patent for the three-way signal was sold to General Electric and was inspiration for the modern day Red, Yellow, and Green traffic lights we rely on today.

Thank you, Garrett Morgan, for your legacy.