November 20, 1923 — Garrett Morgan patents a traffic signal

Garrett Morgan was not the first to invent or patent a traffic signal, but he was the first to invent one that could be changed at a distance, via a mechanical linkage. (He also patented a gas mask.) Morgan was a black man living in Cleveland, Ohio, who was a successfully businessman and well-liked citizen of his town in a time long before the Civil Rights movement.

No doubt he still suffered from quite a deal of racism, and there’s a certain irony in that his inventions probably saved far more white lives than they did black lives. Morgan is remembered in Cleveland as the first black man there to own a car, and also for his heroic rescue of trapped minors (using his own gas mask invention) in 1916, for which he received awards and acclaim.

Garrett Morgan.gif
By This image comes from an official publication of the US Department of Transportation, located at http://www.tfhrc.gov/pubrds/janpr/gam.htm., Public Domain, Link

As mentioned in:

Black Man — Stevie Wonder

November 20, 2265 – The starship Enterprise begins its five year mission

Space… the final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five year mission:
to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilisations,
to boldly go where no man has gone before…

Today is the day that it all will have started (time travel weirds English ever worse than verbing), in the year 2265. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu and Scotty started their five year mission, of which, alas, only the first three years were shown on television. (Chekov joined the crew later.)

The first episode of Star Trek was “The Man Trap”, and the date used here is derived from the stardate given in that episode.