Bessie Blount Griffin

Harmar celebrates Black History.

Throughout February, we’ll be shining a spotlight on pioneers, innovators, difference makers, and history shakers that have shaped our world.

For our first post, we thought it fitting to celebrate a Black American that helped lift the lives of people with disabilities. Bessie Blount Griffin was a pioneering physical therapist, inventor, and forensic scientist. During her career as a physical therapist, Blount worked with many soldiers who had become amputees and found innovative ways to rehabilitate them. In particular, she helped arm amputees compensate by teaching them to use their feet.

While working at the Bronx Hospital in New York, Blount invented an electric self-feeding system for amputees. The device had a tube that transported individual bites of food to the patient’s mouth. Unfortunately, the VA declined the invention, so Blount Griffin licensed it to the French. She remarked in an interview that her accomplishment showed that “a colored woman can invent something for the benefit of humankind.” Blount created other inventions and received patents for them. She was one of the earliest inventors in the field of physical therapy.

Harmar celebrates Bessie Blount Griffin.