Biden faces criticism after saying black man invented light bulb

Biden's eyebrow-raising claim came as he accused schools of teaching inaccurate history

Updated: September 5, 2020 - 6:31pm

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is doing damage control after stating incorrectly that a black man, rather than Thomas Edison, invented the light bulb. 

The presidential hopeful make the claim while speaking Thursday with local community leaders after meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black American who was late last month.

Biden's eyebrow-raising claim came as he accused schools of teaching inaccurate history.

"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."

A spokesman said Biden was referencing Lewis Latimer, an inventor who worked with both Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, who was credited with inventing the telephone.

Thomas Edison created the first commercially successful incandescent light bulb in 1879 that was safe and inexpensive.

Latimer built further on that work by inventing a superior filament, which he patented a year after Edison’s bulb. He was also a member of the elite "Edison’s Pioneers" research team and wrote the first book in the United States on electric lighting in 1890, according to a biography on the MIT website.

However it is Edison is widely credited with inventing the light bulb.