Many Minds Produced The Light That Illuminated America

Ernest Freeberg shows the light bulb reflected the work of many inventors.

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Why do you say electricity contributed to racism in America?

Electricity was often used as a way to reinforce the idea that this was somehow, uniquely, a white, Anglo-Saxon accomplishment. In the late 19th century, Americans began to claim a cultural superiority because of their inventiveness and that they were bringing the benefits of technological civilization to cultures that couldn’t possibly have created it themselves.

What will surprise readers about your book?

I think one of the most interesting things is how long it actually took for electric light to arrive into people’s lives. It took a lot of people, not just Edison, to invent all the ways to adapt electric light and to make it more efficient, and to find ways to use it for every possible walk of life in the country.

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