Friday, February 24

We Celebrate Black History Month, Contributions of African Americans to Agriculture

George Washington Carver
Baton Rouge, La. – The Southern University Land-Grant Campus celebrates Black History Month with the nation, and recognize some significant contributions made by African Americans to the field of agriculture. Paramount among them is George Washington Carver, the renowned botanist and inventor, whose research forever changed our lives for the better. Professor Carver, “the plant doctor” used his knowledge to teach farmers and students about new uses for crops like peas, sweet potatoes, and peanuts. He championed crop rotation and used soy plantings to replace nitrogen in depleted soil. Professor Carver’s knowledge of agricultural science resulted in a legacy that led to a healthier American population, and his innovative work to increase the uses of peanut crops—by using them to create products like ink, paper, soap, paints, and antiseptics—is credited with saving the agricultural economy of the southern United States. We all continue to benefit from his work today.

George Washington Carver is just one of a great number of African Americans who improved the country and the world.

Madeline M. Turner invented the first fruit press, allowing users to push fruit into an opening where it was sliced, then shifted between plates until it was juiced in a manner described like that of an assembly line. A U.S. patent review committee member called her invention “ingenious.” This complex engineering feat, essentially a self-contained assembly line, foreshadowed machines used in the food industry today.

Lloyd August Hall developed innovative food preservation techniques.
Norbert Rillieux invented a means of evaporating water that led to tremendous growth in the sugar industry.

Booker T. Whatley pioneered Clientele Membership Clubs in the early 1980s, the forerunner of modern day Community Supported Agriculture.
Percy Julian discovered important uses for soybeans, including the creation of the substance used in fire extinguishers, saving countless lives.

“Enough cannot be said about the contributions that these African Americans and others have made to enhance and improve the lives of all people, and I am happy for this opportunity to express our gratitude. Please join me in honoring the generous improvements they made to agriculture, the United States, and the world. While February is Black History Month, the work they and so many others like them have performed on our behalf deserves our recognition and thanks every month of the year,” said Michael L. Young, Acting Deputy Secretary USDA.

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