Did Edison Really Invent The Lightbulb?

In grade school, every student is told that Thomas Alva Edison invented the lightbulb. With increased wisdom I’ve acquired, I’m not so sure.

In 1878, we all learned that Edison, of Menlo, New Jersey, created the very 1st lightbulb. No one has ever disputed this information.Both during and after slavery, considered ‘property’ of whites who also demanded and ensured illiteracy of the populations, black people were the chief laborers in America. They performed most, if not all of the work here.

We are taught to think of black people as ‘helpers’ only, but if we allow ourselves a moment of clarity and honesty, we would logically know different. Do we dare to believe that history has been 100% accurate or was totally accountable to black people in this country?badu

Blacks in America have created, erected, invented and discovered so many glorious life-altering advanced developments. Yet, through the socio-political climate created in society, which deliberately denies logic, we aren’t taught and do not teach about them. If these things were taught, it would foster respect and greater appreciation of the role of black people in our society. Teaching the real tuths ould thus question our motives and our own humanity.

Black people, enslaved and formerly enslaved blacks, were deemed ‘property’ and thus not thought of as citizens. Property can not own property or the rights to intellectual property. Slaveowners, bosses and any random white person  could take credit and assume ownership of inventions, patents and discoveries that had profound impact on culture.

Why, then, do we actually believe that whites invented far more than blacks in this country, during this era? White people have assumed credit for discoveries of vaccination and immunizations. In truth, it was the Africans in Africa who taught white people how to vaccinate and immunize against disease. Africans treated the relative of an aristocrat, a woman suffering from smallpox. She subsequently took the technique back to Europe and ‘Voila!’ We don’t question that, though.

A black man, Dr. Charles Drew, discovered modern blood transfusion in the 1940s. He showed that you only needed use the serum of blood because it had a longer shelf life than whole blood. In fact, he was to be awarded a Nobel Prize, but the committee changed its mind because of his color.

As it relates to Edison’s lightbulb discovery, there is another name that should be known. That name is Lewis Latimer. He invented a lightbulb with a carbon filament, which improved upon Edison’s paper filament. Paper burned out quickly. Latimer sold his patent to the U.S. Electric Company in 1881. You decide whether the dates were correct, factor in waiting time, from application to receiving a patent. Then ask yourself whether Latimer’s bulb actually predated Edison’s inferior version. Just saying!

When crediting an invention or discovery to someone white, examine the era of that discovery and the socio-political climate. Explore the character of the inventor him or her self. Ask whether the chosen inventor was a slaveowner, had any slave labor working with that person, etc….

The way we have permitted history to be written in this country, politically determined, we teach millions of youngsters year after year, generation after generation to be critical thinkers in all areas except this. I wonder how many brave, honest educators promote independant thinking skills. How many have challenged themselves and  young developing minds in their charge to engage the whole brain, seek the truths, question ideas and facts presented before them?

At the base of genius is the natural curiosity, slight skepticism, and the ever-present questioning of ‘facts’ as they are presented in the quest for solutions and change. If children ask ‘why’ and other probing questions to random ‘facts’ placed before them, challenge them to gather evidence, do research and think through to their logical conclusions. So many things delivered as factual have been shown to be myths or fabrications. Challenge learners and yourselves to debunk or verify. That’s true education!

We must be made aware of the thousands of inventions and everyday socially-impactful contributions credited to black people in this country. Unfortunately, these facts aren’t taught to the masses.

Being made aware of those published contributions lead us to wonder and question those unpublished/unpublicized and unknown gifts to society. We would also wonder how many contributions and inventions, famous 1sts and similarly noteworthy, unattributed to blacks and cloaked in the popular white story.

Blacks were kept illiterate for a very long time. Often swindled out of their inventions, there remain countless discoveries and inventions never attributed to blacks, as slaves and free peoples in America.


The children, starting from the years of mandated participation, are taugh tvery little to nothing about black people here or abroad. Educators, within the general curriculum, are to promote critical thinking skills with the content presented, all in preparation for college and career.

With the limited information about blacks, in particular, schools aren’t arming young learners to engage in a diverse and democratic society. They are either unprepared or underprepared. We are not providing sufficient information across the curriculum that would broaden mindsets, foster respect,  cultivate self-worth, value and that sense of belonging often spoken of.

The absence of enlightenening content, robs all children the opportunity to respect themselves and others. Quite honestly, the racial climate and all by-products will continue to characterize this country, as long as we omit, dismiss and neglect to present impartial and unskewed information.

I hear folks saying that curriculum alone will not produce that ‘magic bullet’ of equity and achievement. Possibly, but we’ve tried reforming almost every other aspect of education. Interestingly enough is that centuries and generations ago, in our nation’s past, we forbade and prevented blacks from achievement. Today, it’s still the same. Does it not make sense that perhaps alongside or instead of ‘picking cotton’, they were extremely instrumental in influencing the society in which we live.

So, did Edison really invent the lightbulb? Do you really know your history?


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