Ready to meet another patent holder and pioneer? William Hunter Dammond was the first African-American graduate of the Western University of Pennsylvania (which later became the University of Pittsburgh). Dammond graduated with honors from the university in 1893, with a degree in civil engineering [source: Barksdale-Hall].
After assorted professional adventures, Dammond moved to Michigan to work as a bridge engineer. Once there, he hit his stride, inventing an electrical signaling system for railway engineers to recognize the approach of another train and receiving a patent for it [source: U.S. Patent 747,949]. In 1906, he was issued another patent for a "safety system" for railway operation [source: U.S. Patent 823,513].