US Rep. James Clyburn Delivers Black History Lesson at New Jersey Church

Civil Rights leader U.S. Rep James Clyburn, of South Carolina, gives the keynote address at the event in Burlington City on Sunday. [DAVID LEVINSKY / STAFF PHOTOJOURNALIST]

Speaking at the Tabernacle Baptist Church for a Black History celebration organized by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Clyburn, the House Majority Whip and renown Civil Rights activist, recounted the tale of Lewis Latimer, the black engineer from Massachusetts who invented the carbon filament that allowed Thomas Edison’s light bulb to remain lit for longer than just a few days.

BURLINGTON CITY — U.S. Rep. James Clyburn may be one of the most influential voices in Washington, but his first career was as a school teacher and he delivered a little-known lesson in history Sunday during his latest visit to Burlington County.

Speaking at the Tabernacle Baptist Church for a Black History celebration organized by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Clyburn, the House Majority Whip and renown Civil Rights activist, recounted the tale of Lewis Latimer, the black engineer from Massachusetts who invented the carbon filament that allowed Thomas Edison’s light bulb to remain lit for longer than just a few days.

“Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but he couldn’t get it to stay on,” Clyburn said, noting that the New Jersey inventor needed to partner with Latimer and use the latter’s filament to make the bulb efficient and usable.

“Lewis Latimer’s filament and Thomas Edison’s light bulb were brought together because the two of them got beyond their comfort zones,” Clyburn said. “Thomas Edison was white, Lewis Latimer was black, the son of former slaves, but he had genius … But his genius, his willingness to get beyond his comfort zone. Thomas Edison’s genius and willingness to get beyond his comfort zone. The two of them got together and they have lit the world.”

The South Carolina Democrat, who ranks third in the House leadership behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, said the story of Edison and Latimer’s partnership demonstrates the “genius that lies within people irrespective of their skin color.” He also said it illustrates core American values and its enduring challenges.

“America’s greatness is not because it is more enlightened than any other nation. America is great because we have always been able to repair our faults,” Clyburn said, before making light of Republican President Donald Trump’s signature slogan.

“We don’t have to make America great again. America is great. Our challenge is making that greatness apply fairly and equitably to all of its citizens. That’s our challenge,” he said.

Clyburn, who has previously visited Burlington County to campaign for Democrats like Rep. Andy Kim and former Freeholder Aimee Belgard, was the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the event organized by Menendez to both celebrate Black History and honor New Jersey’s community leaders.

Dubbed “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” the event drew several hundred people to the church and featured remarks from Clyburn, Menendez and the church pastor Cory L. Jones, as well as a poetry reading and musical performances by the Tabernacle Church choir and the duo, Nu Beginning Gospel. Numerous local leaders were also present, including state Sen. Troy Singleton, Burlington City Mayor Barry Conaway and Burlington County Freeholders Dan O’Connell and Felicia Hopson, who helped lead the service.

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Source: Burlington County Times