Where would we be without the light bulb?  Without lights, that's where.  What would the light bulb be without the "carbon filament" in side it?  Just a piece of glass.  Thanks to black inventor, Lewis Latimer it's much more than that.  

Today we salute Lewis Howard Latimer was born a free man in Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1848.  He was the youngest of the five children.  His mother, Rebecca Smith and father, George Latimer were slaves, but ran away to freedom in Trenton, New Jersey in 1842.  At the tender age of 15, Lewis joined the U.S. Navy in 1863 and served as a Landsman on the USS Massasoit until he received a honorable discharge in 1865.

He would later gain employment as an office boy with a patent law firm, Crosby Halstead and Gould, with a $3.00 per week salary.  There learned how to use an L square, ruler, and other tools.  After his boss recognized his talent for sketching patent drawings, Latimer was promoted to the position of head draftsman earning $20.00 a week by 1878.

It wasn't long after that, that he really started to make a name for himself.   In 1874, he co-patented (with Charles W. Brown) an improved toilet system for railroad cars called "the Water Closet"  (U.S. Patent 147,363).   Then in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell hired Lewis where he worked as a draftsman at Bell's patent law firm, to draft the necessary drawings required to receive a patent for Bell's telephone.

Later in his life,  he moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut and took a job as a assistant manager and draftsman for the U.S. Electric Lighting Company, a company owned by Hiram Maxim, a rival of Thomas Edison.  While working there, Lewis received a patent in January 1881 for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons", an improved method for the production of carbon filaments for the light bulb.

As know surprise in 1884, the Edison Electric Light Company in New York City hired Lewis as a draftsman and an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights.

Here is a list of his other inventions:  "Water closets for railway cars," February 10, 1874, "Electric lamp," (with Nichols, Joseph V.), September 13, 1881,  "Process of Manufacturing Carbons," January 17, 1882,  "Globe supporter for electric lamps," (with Tregoning, John), March 21, 1882,  "Apparatus for cooling and disinfecting," January 12, 1886,  "Locking rack for hats, coats, and umbrellas," March 24, 1896, "Lamp fixture,"(with Brown, Charles W), August 30, 1910.

Also, it was on the day in black history that Fat's Domino sang "Blueberry Hill" and "Blue Monday" on the "Perry Como Show" on television in 1957.  In 1999 on this day, Prince released "1999 New Master".  It was a re-release and re-done version o the original 1982 version of the song "1999".

Finally, in honor of black history a new wax figure of Aretha Franklin's was unveiled today at Madame Tussauds museum in New York.  The big reveal also launched a three-month exhibit at the museum, aimed at promoting awareness about African -American culture.