During a Thursday meeting withKenosha, Wis., community leaders, DemocraticpresidentialnomineeJoe Bidensaid that a Black man, rather than Thomas Edison, invented the light bulb.
“People fear that which is different. We’ve got to, for example, why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes? A Black man invented the light bulb, not a White guy named Edison,” Biden said. “There’s so much — did anybody know before what recently happened that Black Wall Street in Oklahoma was burned to the ground. Anybody know these things? Because we don’t teach them. We’ve got to give people facts.”
It was Edison who first invented the light bulb and a filament that could last 1,200 hours. According to theDepartment of Energy, Edison secured patents for the incandescent light bulb in 1879 and 1880. Biden was likely referring to Lewis Howard Latimer, who, according to abiography by MIT, patented an improved version of an incandescent light bulb in 1881 that could last even longer than Edison’s. For perspective, 1,200 hours is 50 days — far less time than modern incandescent bulbs last.
Latimer at the time worked for one of the companies competing with Edison’s. Latimer was a child of former slaves, a Union Navy veteran, a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and eventually the only Black member of the research team known as “Edison’s Pioneers,” according to MIT, after he began working with Edison in 1884.
But he was not the original inventor of the light bulb.
Latimer was also claimed by some to have been the original inventor of the telephone. But he said in court that it was, in fact, Alexander Graham Bell, according to MIT.
Biden’s visit to Kenosha came after a police officer shot a Black man in the back, leaving him paralyzed, last month. The shooting triggered protests against police brutality and racial inequality, and eventually riots, which caused significant damage to the city and resulted inat least 175 arrests. President Trump had visited the city days before Biden’s trip.
Biden also made another awkward comment during his visit to Kenosha. At one point his speech veered into talking about inequities in taxes and he stopped himself from laying out his tax policy in detail saying, “they’ll shoot me.”
The Democratic nominee, who has been prone to gaffes, billed his first trip to Wisconsin during the 2020 campaign as a moment for healing in the wake of racial unrest and violence.
He blamed Trump for further inflaming divisions in the country and said things would be better under his leadership.
“I can’t say if tomorrow God made me president, I can’t guarantee you everything gets solved in four years,” Biden said. But “it would be a whole better, we’d get a whole lot further down the road” if Trump isn’t reelected.