George Washington Carver (ca. 1864-1943) is at once one of the
most familiar and misunderstood figures in American history. In
My Work Is That of Conservation, Mark D. Hersey reveals
the life and work of this fascinating man who is widely-and
reductively-known as the African American scientist who developed a
wide variety of uses for the peanut.
Carver had a truly prolific career dedicated to studying the
ways in which people ought to interact with the natural world, yet
much of his work has been largely forgotten. Hersey rectifies this
by tracing the evolution of Carver's agricultural and environmental
thought starting with his childhood in Missouri and Kansas and his
education at the Iowa Agricultural College. Carver's environmental
vision came into focus when he moved to the Tuskegee Institute in
Macon County, Alabama, where his sensibilities and training
collided with the denuded agrosystems, deep poverty, and
institutional racism of the Black Belt. It was there that Carver
realized his most profound agricultural thinking, as his efforts to
improve the lot of the area's poorest farmers forced him to adjust
his conception of scientific agriculture.
Hersey shows that in the hands of pioneers like Carver,
Progressive Era agronomy was actually considerably "greener" than
is often thought today. My Work Is That of Conservation
uses Carver's life story to explore aspects of southern
environmental history and to place this important scientist within
the early conservation movement.
Subjects: History, Environmental Science
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