Black History Month

Black History Month: Lewis Howard Latimer

When you think of the light bulb, many think of Thomas Edison. But few people know that a black inventor named Lewis Howard Latimer created a method of carbon filament production, that far surpassed the paper filament used by Edison which burned out very quickly. Latimer’s invention caused the light bulb to be feasible for household usage, completely transforming the industry.

Lewis Howard Latimer was an African American inventor and draftsman. He was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on September 4, 1848 to George and Rebecca Latimer. Both of his parents had escaped from slavery. When the slave master of George Latimer came to Boston to take them back to Virginia, it became a noted case in the movement for the abolition of slavery, gaining the support of such abolitionists as William Lloyd Garrison. The amount of $400 was raised to buy the freedom of Lewis Latimer’s parents.

At the young age of 15, Lewis Latimer joined the U.S. Navy and served as a Landsman on the USS Massasoit. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy on July 3, 1865, he gained employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, making only $3 a week. This is where he learned how to use a set square, ruler, and other tools. When his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week – an excellent salary at the time.

Lewis Latimer is known for several important inventions. In 1874, he co-patented an improved toilet system for railroad cars called the Water Closet for Railroad Cars. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell employed Latimer, then a draftsman at Bell’s patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell’s telephone. In 1879, he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and was hired as assistant manager and draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a company owned by Hiram Maxim, a rival of Thomas A. Edison.

Latimer received a patent for the “Process of Manufacturing Carbons”, an improved method for the production of carbon filaments used in lightbulbs. The Edison Electric Light Company in New York City hired Latimer, as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights. Latimer is credited with an improved process for creating a carbon filament at this time, which was an improvement on Thomas Edison’s original paper filament, which would burn out quickly.

Black History Month: Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey

Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey, affectionately known as a young girl as "Little Lillian", was a dreamer and a woman with a great vision. When she was just a small child, her grandfather invited Bishop Mason into their home. When Bishop Mason started his church in Memphis, she and other neighborhood children would attend Sunday School and services held in a tent across the street from where she lived.

One Sunday morning Bishop Mason taught the children about Jesus and the Lord touched and saved "Little Lillian" beginning her life in church under Bishop Mason. As she grew older, Bishop Mason continued to influence her life. She read the bible through once every year, a practice she continued even after reading it eleven times.

Mother Coffey traveled with Bishop Mason reading and singing while he preached. When her parents died, he became her father. She worked as secretary in his office for twenty-one years and as assistant financial secretary until her appointment to General Supervisor in 1945. She said this of Bishop Mason:

Mother Coffey was one of the greatest leaders and organizers that ever lived. She continued to build the existing auxiliary programs and began to organize the units and helps for the Department of Women. She was the founder of the Lillian Brooks Coffey Rest Home in Detroit, Michigan. Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey is best remembered for her work in 1951, when she organized the Women’s International Convention held in Los Angeles, California hosted by Mother L.O. Hale and Bishop S.M. Crouch. The Women's International Convention was born through a dream she had of a better way to support missions. Her heart was burdened over the condition of suffering foreign Missionaries and their various fields. One hundred women who paid $100.00 each, the cost of the Red Card registration, rode the Coffey train to the convention in 1951, carrying their money, $10,000, in a brown paper bag. She presided over 14 conventions, 1951-1964.

Mother Coffey still lives with us. “Methods change, but principles remain the same.” Please Click Here to read the entire article on the COGIC Women's Department Site.

Black History Month: Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was a remarkable individual, Abolitionist, and Suffragist. Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, he achieved a level of education and oratory skill that surpassed many more schooled and opportune individuals of his time. He possessed God-given wisdom and an uncanny ability to see society for what it was and a unique ability to move people with his words. Knowing the importance of education, Frederick Douglass said:

Take some time to watch this video about Frederick Douglass and Read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” [Click Here for a FREE Copy]:


Black History Month: Mary Church Terrell

Mary Church Terrell (September 23, 1863 – July 24, 1954) was a prominent advocate for Civil Rights and suffrage. She was born in Memphis, TN to Robert Reed Church and Louisa Ayers, both were former slaves.

When Terrell majored in classics at Oberlin College, she was an African-American woman among mostly white male students. The freshman class nominated her as class poet, she was elected to two of the college's literary societies and she also served as an editor of The Oberlin Review. She was one of the first African-American women to earn a bachelor's degree. She went on to earn her master's degree from Oberlin in 1888.

She described the civil rights struggle by saying:

Mary Church Terrell was encouraged in her work by Frederick Douglas. She was part of the National Association of Colored Women and she was one of two women invited to sign the “Call” and to attend the first organizational meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where she became a founding member.

She accomplished much in her life. After the age of 80, Terrell continued to participate in picket lines, protesting the segregation of restaurants and theaters. She lived to see the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding unconstitutional the segregation of schools by race. Terrell died two months later at the age of 90.

Black History Month: Carter G. Woodson

Carter Godwin Woodson (December 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950) was an African-American historian, author, journalist. He was also the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as well as, a founder of the Journal of Negro History. He started what was known as Negro History Week and he has been called "the father of black history". Negro History Week was originally scheduled on the second week of February because the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas fell during this week. Woodson understood the importance of education and knowledge saying:

The goal of Negro History Week was to provide a week of study regarding Black History and as the idea became more accepted it changed into Black History Month which expanded to the entire month of February.

Take a moment to watch this interesting video about the life of Carter G. Woodson:

Black History Month: Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was an American Abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor (c.1820-1913) would aided numerous slaves in obtaining freedom. She herself was born a slave in Maryland, before she fled to Philadelphia in 1849. In Dec. 1850, she returned to Maryland to help her sister and two children escape to freedom. She dedicated many years to the Underground Railroad, a secret network that helped fugitive slaves in the South reach safety in Northern free states or in Canada. Harriet Tubman once said:

The abolitionist went on to serve as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War and in the last part of her career, she campaigned for women’s suffrage.  Today, on the first day of Black History Month, the Church of God in Christ, Inc. honors the memory and work of Harriet Tubman.

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