These African slaves who revolutionized world agriculture | Africanews

The accomplishments of George Washington Carver, the 19th century scientist credited with hundreds of inventions, including 300 uses of peanuts, earned him a place in American history textbooks. But many other agricultural practices, innovations and foods that traveled with West African slaves – or were developed by their descendants – remain unrecognized, despite revolutionizing the way we eat, farm and to garden.

From medicinal products and food introduced by african diaspora are the sorghumthe milletthe african riceI’yamthe black eyed beanthe watermelonI’auberginethe okrathe sesame and the Cola nutsthe extract of which was a main ingredient in the original recipe of the Coca Cola.

Whether captives smuggle seeds and plants aboard slave ships or captains buy them by Africa to plant them in America, key components of the West African diet also traveled along the Middle Passage across the Atlantic. After long days spent working in the fields of the plantation, many slaves cultivated their own gardens to complement their meager rations.

Agricultural practices

“The owners of the plantations could then force them to show them how to grow these foods”declares Judith Carneyprofessor of geography at UCLA and co-author of “In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World” (University of California Press, 2011).“These crops then became commodities”adds the one who has spent a decade tracing the origin of these foods by bringing oral history closer to written documents.

So it’s no coincidence that “many of the agricultural practices seen in Africa also occurred in the South”advance Michael W.Twittyfood historian and award winner James Beard of “The Cooking Gene” (Amistad, 2017).

Inventions of Africans

The polyculture (cultivation of different types of plants on the same plot), the permaculture (imitation of natural ecosystems) and planting on mounds (arguably the precursor to berms) date back to the african farming practicesadds Michael Twitty, who partnered with Colonial Williamsburg last year to create the Sankofa Heritage Gardena living replica of the type of garden cultivated by slaves at that time.

The story did not retain manyAfrican inventions enslaved, not least because slave owners often claimed credit for it. Some of them, however, were recognized, as were the achievements of the many slaves who succeeded them. Here are five early black innovators whose contributions reshaped the agricultural landscape:

Henry Blair (1807-1860)

Second black to receive a U.S. patent (Thomas L. Jenningswho invented a method of dry-cleaning clothes in 1821, is considered the first), Henry Blair designed a wheelbarrow type corn seeder to help farmers plant more efficiently.

Two years later, he received a second patent for a horse-drawn mechanical cotton planter, which increased yield and productivity. Details about the personal life of this Maryland farmer and inventor, including his birth into slavery, are scarce.

George Washington Carver (circa 1864-1943)

The peanutswhich are believed to originate fromSouth Americawere made in Spain by European explorers before traveling to Africa. They then returned to the Western Hemisphere aboard slave ships in the 1700s. By the late 1800s, the legume had evolved from a regional crop in the South to a national interest crop throughout the United States. It was at this time that george washington carverborn into slavery in the Missouri and freed as a child after the Civil Warobtains a master’s degree inIowa State Agricultural College.

As director of the agriculture program of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, George Washington Carver became famous for his peanut research and invented hundreds of versions of peanut products, including flour, coffee, Worcestershire saucedrinks, chicken feed, soap, laxatives, shampoo, leather dye, paper, insecticide, linoleum and insulation.

He also devised other uses for other cultures, and is credited with discovering the benefits of compost for soil regeneration and the promotion of crop rotation as a means of preventing soil nutrient depletion.

Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961)

With a background in electrical engineering, Frederick McKinley Jones is credited with many inventions – from a portable X-ray machine to a radio transmitter – but one in particular had a huge impact on the american diet modern: the technology of mobile refrigeration.

Frederick McKinley Jones, who was born in Cincinnati and settled in Minnesota, developed a refrigeration system that was installed in trucks, railroad cars, airplanes and ships, enabling transportation safe perishable food all over the world.

Booker T. Whatley (1915-2005)

Alabama horticulturist and professor of agriculture at Tuskegee University, Booker T. Whatley introduced the concept of “customer member clubs” in the 1960s to help black farmers struggling, who were often denied loans and grants to their white counterparts.

Farmers sold prepaid boxes of their crops at the start of the season to ensure a guaranteed income. In many cases, customers collected their own shares, which reduced labor costs. Today’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and U-Pick businesses sprang directly from the ideas of Booker T. Whatley, as did the movements “farm to table” and “eat local”.

Booker T. Whatley is also the originator of thesustainable agriculture and regenerative agricultural practices aimed at maximizing the biodiversity and maintaining soil health and productivity. His manual “How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres” (Regenerative Agricultural Assn. of Rodale Institute, 1987) is still considered an important resource for small farmers.

Edmund Albius (1829-1880)

Although he is not American, Edmond Albiuswho was enslaved in his youth and lived on the island of the French colony of The meetingin L’Indian Ocean, is responsible for the global distribution of vanilla. The plant had been brought from Mexico to Europe by the explorer Hernan Cortesbut it did not produce pods there due to the lack of a specific pollinating bee native to Mexico.

A man named Ferreol Bellier-Beaumont, who lived in Reunion, became Edmond’s owner and taught him from an early age to take care of his many plants. One of these lessons included learning the hand pollinationthat is, the manual transfer of pollen from male flowers to female flowers to produce fruit.

In the 1840s, 12-year-old Edmond Albius examined the vanilla flowers de Bellier-Beaumont, which had been growing without yield for two decades, and observed that their male and female reproductive organs were not on separate flowers but contained within a single flower, separated by a flap-like membrane. He moved the flap and, under it, spread the pollen from the stamen to the pistil. Very quickly, the plants produce beans.

The news spread and Reunion began to cultivate vanilla and export it abroad. In 50 years, the island has overtaken Mexico for vanilla production. Edmond Albius’ pollination technique redefined the vanilla industry and is still used around the world.

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These African slaves who revolutionized world agriculture | Africanews