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. Continue reading →
In Here, George Washington Was Born, Seth C. Bruggeman examines the broader history of commemoration in the United States by focusing on the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Virginia's Northern Neck, where contests of public memory have unfolded with particular vigor for nearly eighty years.
Washington left the birthplace with his family at a young age and rarely returned. The house burned in 1779 and would likely have passed from memory but for George Washington Parke Custis, who erected a stone marker on the site in 1815, creating the first birthplace monument in America. Both Virginia and the U.S. War Department later commemorated the site, but neither matched the work of a Virginia ladies association that in 1923 resolved to build a replica of the home. The National Park Service permitted construction of the "replica house" until a shocking archeological discovery sparked protracted battles between the two organizations over the building's appearance, purpose, and claims to historical authenticity. Continue reading →
In George Washington and the American Military Tradition, Don Higginbotham investigates the interplay of militiaman and professional soldier, of soldier and legislator, that shaped George Washington’s military career and ultimately fostered the victory that brought independence to our nation. Higginbotham then explores the legacy of Washington’s success, revealing that the crucial blending of civil and military concerns characteristic of the Revolution has been variously regarded and only seldom repeated by later generations of American soldiers.
Washington’s training, between 1753 and 1755, included frontier command in the Virginia militia, adjunct service to the British regulars during the French and Indian War, and increasing civil service in the Virginia House of Burgesses and Continental Congress. The result of this combination of pursuits was Washington’s concern for the citizen behind the soldier, his appreciation of both frontier tactics and professional discipline, and his sensitivity to political conflict and consensus in thirteen colonies in forming a new, united nation. When, in 1775, Washington accepted command of the Continental Army from the Continental Congress, he possessed political and military experience that enabled him, by 1783, to translate the Declaration of Independence into victory over the British. Continue reading →