It’s February and I am celebrating diversity in horticulture. Why now? Why this month? Why not always?? This is a question that I often wonder about as well. Diversity in horticulture seems to be the best-kept secret around. Although, if you are willing to do the research, there is quite a bit of diversity in horticulture that we never hear about. Growing up the most common name dropped when discussing horticulture and the African-American was our very own George Washington Carver.Seriously – who does not know about George Washington Carver??? There is so much more to this man than the peanut!!! Born into slavery around 1864, George Washington Carver was encouraged to pursue an education once the slaves were freed, by Moses Carver (former slave master). Taking advantage of this encouragement, George had to leave his little town in Missouri to further his educational pursuits, since African-Americans were not well received in Diamond, Missouri.
George studied piano and art at Simpson College around 1890 but went on to study at Iowa State as one of the first African-American students on campus. How proud he must have felt to be welcomed as he continued his educational pursuits earning honorable degrees including a Masters in the field of Pathology and Mycology. Never forgetting to take a little downtime, George’s artwork was shown at the World’s Fair in 1893. In 1896, George Washington Carver was named Director of the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Mr. Carver was also an advisor to Mahatma Gandhi – what an honor that had to have been. Their discussions on nutrition and agriculture were very important from a standpoint of how the African-American was regarded in those days. Even President Roosevelt was in conversation with and respected the research of George Washington Carver, as he was highly regarded as an Expert in Agriculture around the world. Although many others profited off of George’s inventions (He thought his discoveries should be free to help all people), his efforts through dedicated research and discoveries are well-known today….and is it so much more than the peanut!
Why do we seldom hear about how African-Americans have contributed to horticulture? It is not a secret that there are many minorities who have contributed to this awesome field. Had more African-Americans been included into history as we know it, as we were taught in school and more than in the month of February, I feel certain that this would be a field that would be attractive to young people of all colors today.
We are not sharing the knowledge of the minorities who have contributed to the diversity that can be found in horticulture. I will be sharing more about the African-Americans that contributed to horticulture in the days gone by, as well as those currently involved in reconnecting us to the earth.
Do you know of a Minority in Horticulture that needs to have their story told?? I am on a mission to bring back a level of pride as well as diversity to the horticultural arena. Not that it does not exist, but the level of just how involved we are on this earth in a positive way needs to be highlighted outside of just our community. Greater understanding comes with exposure, outside of our individual silos. I have curated a Facebook page called Diversity In Green and I am inviting productive conversation and shared stories of how different cultures garden. Whether it be a story about how you garden culturally in your community, if you grow specific things that culturally you eat, how your ancestors gardened, sharing a story of why you garden, sharing recipes that have been handed down from Big Momma or simple folklore about gardening culturally – join the page and let’s get this conversation started! We need to lift our voices and be proud of how we have contributed to everyday life.
As an African-American woman, I am proud to know that we certainly have made contributions to the horticultural arena and we continue to do so today.
Next – Did you know we had our hand in cotton – more than just picking it too!!
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This is a global story as we are a global community…and I know there are stories to share. What’s your story??
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Meanwhile, I am going to plant a border of peanuts to fix the nitrogen in my soil and have endless yellow blooms all summer! Thanks, George!!
Til next time,