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Milton Bertrand 324 articles

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The Real McCoy

By Milton Bertrand

Black history month promotes and highlights the contributions of African Americans in U.S. history.  Since 1976, the month of February has been officially designated by every U.S. president as Black History Month. Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom also devote a month to celebrate black history1.

As many of you have heard countless times, the popular expression “Real McCoy” which typically means the real thing; such expression has been associated with Elijah McCoy's oil-drip cup invention. One theory is that railroad engineers wanted to avoid inferior copies would request it by name and inquire if a locomotive was fitted with "the real McCoy system2”.

Elijah McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada on May 2, 1844 to parents who had fled slavery. As a teenager, McCoy was trained as an engineer in Scotland. Upon his return to the United States, he was unable to find an engineering position despite his qualifications due to racial barriers; at the time professional positions were not readily available to people of color.  He accepted a position working as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central railroad. While he was working there, he invented a lubrication device to make railroad operation more efficient.

Elijah McCoy was a 19th century African-American inventor; he was best known for inventing lubrication devices used to make train travel more efficient. McCoy died in Detroit, Michigan, on October 10, 19293.


1. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month

2. Wikipedia

3. http://www.biography.com/