Thursday, February 20, 2020
Overheard at Booth 2: Lewis Latimer
Inventions are never made by one person. Edison, Bell, we remember their names for reasons I've never been able to fathom. Maybe we just like imagining a singular person coming up with one thing that changed the world. Maybe that stems from some sort of desire to worship a hero. But the fact remains that every advance comes from many people working together.
Lewis Latimer is the person who made the light bulb practical. Lewis Latimer is the person who drew up the first schematics for Bell's telephone. Without this person, we would never know about those others, and none of them would be in the history books.
If Lewis Latimer's parents had not escaped slavery, he may not have ever been born, or if he had, he would not have been born free, and perhaps would not have had the opportunity to contribute to these wonderful technological advances.
When we discuss slavery now, what we will never know is the amount of talent, both scientific and artistic, that was never realized, because those geniuses were born, raised, and died in slavery.
Now, this is not to say that slaves did not contribute to intellectual advancements. They did, and there are many examples of that. However, we cannot escape the fact that slavery, like the subjugation of women, hampered progress, because it suppressed the ability of great minds to reach their full potential.
And that loss is something that we can never calculate, never fathom.
And this is why we must celebrate people like Lewis Latimer, who helped push us forward, who helped (metaphor intended) bring light to a dark world.