This Day in Black History: Elijah McCoy is Born

From the African American Registry

By James Michael Brodie

Elijah McCoy

Elijah McCoy

Elijah J. McCoy was born on this date in 1843. He was an African-American inventor and his work may have been the beginning of the phrase the “real McCoy.”

Born in Colchester, Canada, Elijah McCoy was one of 12 children of a family of runaway slaves who had used the Underground Railroad to escape from Kentucky. When he was 15, McCoy’s parents sent him to study mechanical engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland, because that training was impossible for Blacks to get in the United States. After finishing his schooling, McCoy returned to the United States with the hope of obtaining an engineering job. He was forced to accept a job as a locomotive fireman with the Michigan Central Railroad, a position that required that he shovel coal into the engine and apply oil in the moving parts of the machine.

Read more about the McCoy and his inventions here.