A Selection of African-American
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver is
regarded as one of America's greatest agricultural researchers.
His innovations in field of crop rotation are considered to be
breakthroughs in preserving soil and making farms more productive.
His research developed 325 new products from peanuts and over
100 products derived from sweet potatoes. Carver told his students
that nature is the greatest teacher, and that understanding nature
is the key to successful agriculture.1
Vernon Jones helped change
modern perceptions that African-Americans are not interested
in environmental causes when he led the fight to preserve public
lands in a majority black county in Georgia. The chief executive
of DeKalb County near Atlanta, Jones championed the campaign
to pass a $125 million bond referendum in March 2000 to buy more
land for public parks. The referendum passed by a three-to-two
John W. Mitchell
John W. Mitchell, a member
of the North Carolina A & T University Agriculture Hall of
Fame, started out by serving farmers in three North Carolina
counties through the state agricultural extension service just
after World War I. He traveled three counties exclusively by
bicycle or horseback. He organized the Eastern Columbus Credit
Union to help African-American farmers save money by buying their
supplies together in bulk. His expertise in progressive farming
techniques led to his appointment as director of African-American
extension services for the State of North Carolina, and later
for the entire South for the U.S. Department of Agriculture during
the late 1940s.3
Booker T. Washington
Born a slave, Booker T. Washington
founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in 1881.
The Institute was one of the pre-eminent institutions of its
time for teaching African-Americans in agriculture and conservation.
He was an advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William
Howard Taft, and was the first African-American to ever dine
socially at the White House.4
Walter Williams is a professor
of economics at the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia
and a noted lecturer and columnist.5
He is one of the pre-eminent black thinkers of modern times.
Unlike establishment environmentalists, Williams points out that
there is often a middle ground between economic and environmental
goals. Williams said in an interview: "I think one has to
recognize that there is a trade-off between clean water and economic
welfare... Pollution is a necessary by-product of production.
However, we want to take advantage of the technology that exists
to keep pollution to a minimum."6
According to James Holmberg,
curator of the Filson Club Historical Society, York was "the
first African-American to cross the nation coast-to-coast."
He had been the slave of explorer William Clark since the two
were boys, and accompanied Clark, Merriweather Lewis and Sacagewea
on their 1803-1806 cross-continent trek. York's experience as
a woodsman and hunter were valued, as was his ability to impress
Native Americans. York was treated as an equal during the expedition,
and was released from bondage in 1816.7
1 "The Legacy of George
Washington Carver," George Washington Carver All-University
Celebration, Iowa State University, downloaded from http://www.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/gwc/bio.html
on January 3, 2002.
2 Mitch Stacy, "Vernon Jones," Associated Press, 2000,
downloaded from http://www.myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=v_jones_ap
on January 3, 2002.
3 "Early Black Agricultural Educators Overcame Adversity,"
North Carolina A & T University, February 18, 1998, downloaded
on January 3, 2002.
4 Louis R. Harlan, "Documenting the American South,"
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, downloaded
from http://docsouth.unc.edu/washington/about.html on January
5 George Mason University Department
of Economics, 2004.
6 Interview with Tom Randall, Environment and Climate News,
The Heartland InstituteFebruary 2000.
7 "Slave with Lewis and Clark Recognized," Associated
Press, February 27, 2000.