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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Shaping History: Honoring African Americans Across Skilled Trades

February 1, 2024

As Black History Month unfolds, it’s a time not just to commemorate, but to celebrate the remarkable achievements and contributions of African Americans across skilled trades.  From construction to aviation, their legacies resonate profoundly, inspiring generations to come.  Let’s delve into 7 of these extraordinary individuals.


  1. Alexander Miles (1838-1918):

Alexander Miles was an African American inventor best known for his patent for automatically opening and closing elevator doors.


  1. Granville T. Woods (1856–1910):

Known as the “Black Edison,” Granville T. Woods was a prolific inventor with over 50 patents to his name. His inventions revolutionized the railway and telecommunications industries, laying the groundwork for modern transportation and communication systems.


  1. Frederick McKinley Jones (1893–1961):

Frederick Jones, an ingenious Inventor, devised the first reliable refrigeration system for transporting perishable goods, revolutionizing the food industry and logistics.


  1. Alice H. Parker (1895–?):

Alice Parker was an inventor who patented a revolutionary gas heating furnace, fundamentally changing residential heating systems.


  1. David Crosthwait Jr. (1898–1976):

An accomplished engineer and inventor, David Crosthwait made significant contributions to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. His innovations in climate control systems has shaped modern infrastructure.


  1. Cornelius Coffey (1903-1994):

Charles Robinson Coffey was the first Black American to establish an aeronautical school in the United States.  He was also the first African American to have an aerial navigation intersection named after him by the FAA.


  1. Charles Stewart, III (1910-2006):

Charles Stewart, III was the first African American admitted into Greer College, a trade school for electricians and helped to form the first black electrical union in the United States.


These seven individuals exemplify the resilience, ingenuity, and determination of African Americans, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and uplift communities worldwide.  As we commemorate Black History Month, let us honor their contributions and strive to build upon their achievements in creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all.



  1. Black Past
  2. Biography
  3. Black Past
  4. BlackPast
  5. BlackPast
  6. [National Air and Space Museum]
  7. The History Makers

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