Historian of African Americans Offered Ground-Breaking Perspectives

“Who knew,” historian William Loren Katz asked in 1990, “that Lewis Howard Latimer, a black inventor, had drawn up the plans for Bell’s telephone”? Or that another black innovator, Elijah McCoy, the son of runaway slaves, had designed an industrial lubricating device so highly valued by machinists that the demand for it inspired the idiom “the real McCoy”?”

Katz, who championed African American history for more than six decades, died in late 2019 at the age of 92. The New York Times obituary noted that he “documented the often overlooked contributions of black people in books for young adults, helping to refashion social studies curriculums across the country.”

“When whites were sending out posses, Native Americans were extending the hand of friendship,” Mr. Katz told The Times in 1994. “Almost every Afro-American family in the United States has a Native American branch to its family tree, from Michael Jackson to Jesse Jackson, from Frederick Douglass to Langston Hughes.”

Read the full obituary.

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