Standing on the black earth of my garden, with dreams of what I’ll plant this spring, my thoughts race to my ancestors who tilled this same land so many years ago. How engaged they were with the earth, farming, and inventing machinery to make work and life easier. As I reflect on their heritage, my mind drifts to the inventors who created the tools necessary to achieve greater heights in agriculture.
Henry Blair, who in 1834 invented the mechanical corn planting machine and the cotton planting machine, was the second African American to receive a United States patent. His machines made it easier to plant, allowing for higher yields in crop production.
Frederick Jones invented a truck refrigeration unit that allowed food to be transported considerable distances without spoiling. Co-founding the Thermo King Corporation, Jones transformed the shipping business and catapulted the grocery industry into its frozen food expansion. Blair and Jones are two African Americans who led the way as inventors in agriculture, but what about the planters and cultivators?
George Washington Carver, one of the most celebrated African American agricultural scientists and inventors, was responsible for introducing the idea of crop rotation, aiding the industry in bettering soil conservation and increasing crop production. Carver was also a farmer who created hundreds of ways to use alternative crops such as cowpeas, sweet potatoes, and peanuts.
The less-celebrated cultivators include enslaved African women who were instrumental in bringing to South Carolina and Georgia plantations the rice farming techniques they learned in their homelands that are still in use today. Their cultivation techniques were responsible for the trade of what came to be known as ‘South Carolina Gold.’ Their rice crops made the plantation owners rich, even arguably more than their indigo and cotton crops.
People worldwide embrace and appreciate black heritage and the impacts African Americans have made on world culture. From music and dance to writings and poetry, scientific advancements, medical and technological breakthroughs, black people have shaped the western world, the Americas, and the American food scene since the moment of their arrival in the hemisphere.
Today I’ll linger longer in the garden, take the time to honor all that my ancestors did to survive their times, and appreciate all they gave to enhance our world.
Take a little time to recollect this month. Happy Black History Month to You!
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