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Garrett A. Morgan was born on March 4, 1877, in Paris, Kentucky, to former slaves Sydney Morgan and Elizabeth (Reed) Morgan. The seventh of eleven children, he spent his childhood attending school and working with his brothers and sisters on the family farm.

Garrett was an African American inventor who originated a respiratory protective hood (similar to the modern gas masks), invented a hair-straightening preparation, and patented a type of traffic signal, which then he sold the rights to his traffic signal to the General Electric Corporation for $40,000. He is renowned for a heroic rescue in which he used his hood to save workers trapped in a tunnel system filled with fumes. He is credited as the first African-American to own an automobile.

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