African American men and women made notable advances in technology

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Black History Month stories often focus on famous professional athletes or entertainers. Today we even the score a little by shining our spotlight on six Black Americans who aren’t household names but deserve to be. They used their knowledge of science to solve problems or achieve a goal. Whether high tech or low tech, their work has improved life on Earth — and beyond.

Until the 1880s, only rich people could afford nice shoes. Made mainly by hand, the hardest part was attaching the sole to the upper shoe. Only a highly skilled worker could do it, making about 50 pairs a day. Jan Matzeliger, a young immigrant from South America with a talent for mechanics, designed a machine that did the job much faster. His invention could make up to 700 pairs of shoes a day. As a result, shoes cost a lot less. In 1991, Matzeliger was featured on a United States postage stamp.

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