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PHOTO ESSAY

African Americans in Science and Technology

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George Washington Carver (center) with staff at Tuskegee University, c. 1902.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

George Washington Carver is perhaps the most renowned African American scientist. Carver, shown here with his staff, was named the head of the Agriculture department at Tuskegee University in Alabama in 1896. During his career, Carver was concerned primarily with utilizing agricultural science to fight both poverty and malnutrition, doing so most famously by greatly expanding uses for the peanut. To increase crop yield Carver recommended that local farmers rotate cotton and peanut crops. He also encouraged communities to take advantage of the nutritional value of peanuts and other less-used crops such as pecans, cowpeas, and sweet potatoes, thus combating the malnourishment prevalent at the time. As the increase in peanut cultivation produced a large surplus, Carver went on to invent and improve upon multiple uses for it—flour, cheese, peanut butter, wood stains—that are commonplace today. Carver catalogued over 500 agricultural inventions but he patented only three, reasoning that the inventions were gifts from God and should not be sold.

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