Question: Name the African-American inventor of the three-light traffic light. The patent for the traffic light, which included the yellow yield light, was granted in 1924.
Answer: Garrett Morgan
Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr., is an African American inventor best known for the three-position stoplight. The son of two formerly enslaved people, Morgan was prosperous enough to have a car at a time when the streets were crowded with all manner of vehicles: Bicycles, horse-drawn delivery wagons, streetcars and pedestrians all shared downtown Cleveland’s narrow streets and clogged its intersections. There were manually operated traffic signals where major streets crossed one another, but they were not all that effective: Because they switched back and forth between Stop and Go with no interval in between, drivers had no time to react when the command changed. This led to many collisions between vehicles that both had the right of way when they entered the intersection. As the story goes, when Morgan witnessed an especially spectacular accident at an ostensibly regulated corner, he had an idea: If he designed an automated signal with an interim “warning” position—the ancestor of today’s yellow light—drivers would have time to clear the intersection before crossing traffic entered it.
Winners: Halona B., Savannah Knox, Makenna R.