When you think about African American people of color and agriculture in the same train of thought, the first thing that probably comes to mind is slavery. Juneteenth is the official holiday celebrating the final abolition of slavery and black culture as a whole. Part of that culture is celebrating those who helped innovate the developing United States, despite the rampant racism that plagues our nation to this day.
Today, I want to focus on the impact African Americans had on agriculture. Other than all the food brought overseas
, Africans introduced or invented different growing methods, land conservation techniques, and even tools and machinery.
We’ve all heard of George Washington Carver, he’s the man who popularized peanut products, sweet potatoes, and soybeans. But did you know he introduced crop rotation
to North America? Crop rotation is an essential step in a farmer’s growing cycle, and without it their crops would grow poorly or not at all since there is nothing replenishing nutrients into the soil between growing seasons.
Another important figure is Henry Blair. Blair had patented many of his inventions during the 1800s but his first revolutionized farming as we know it. Post slavery every farmer in America was searching for a way to quickly and efficiently maintain their crops. They needed something to replace the hundreds of working hands that fled their entrapment after becoming people in the eyes of their government. Embracing the power of the horse, Blair had invented the first corn planter
. This machine would create a trench, drop a seed into said trench, and cover it up with soil, all the farmers had to do was drive. - Many renditions of the corn planter would soon follow, but the original created a breakthrough into the industrial era of agriculture.
Many other African Americans had helped shape modern agriculture as the century went on and we entered into the 1900s. Without these fundamental innovations, it’s likely that the future of agriculture wouldn’t be so futuristic. Just remember, in every farm, vertical or horizontal, there’s African American DNA.
Enjoy your Juneteenth weekend.