Celebrating Black History Month
17 February 2021

Celebrating Black History Month in Agriculture

Posted by Laurene Lonnemann | 17-FEB-2021

If I asked you to give me an example of a Black American that has significantly impacted agriculture, I bet most people would respond with George Washington Carver or Henry Blair. Why? Because American history tends to highlight the successes and contributions of  Black innovators, leaders and change agents as exceptions, rather than the rule. 

Not only is the land we inhabit today stolen from Native peoples, but the foundation of American agriculture was built by Black people. Yet, their hardships are often overlooked, their contributions discounted and their successes smudged over by their white counterparts. All the while, some of the greatest innovations in American agriculture come from Black Americans. As I think about laboring on an American farm in the 1700’s –working all day, every day,  no vacation days, no medical leave, no pay, or even the freedom to do anything else, I’m thinking I’d desperately be trying to  find ways to innovate, make work lighter and life better. Wouldn’t you?

While we should not discount the contributions of George Washington Carver or Henry Blair, in the spirit of Black History Month, I want to challenge you to learn more about the contributions of Black Americans this month - below are five Black Americans with major contributions to U.S. Agriculture, an industry I am very passionate about, as I’m in the business of making wholesome, affordable protein more accessible for all.  Take 10 minutes and learn about them. Yes, I want you to do the Googling because your effort is part of the process.

Percy Lavon Julian

Frederick McKinley Jones

John W. Boyd Jr.

Booker T Whatley

John W. Mitchell

Once you’ve done that, consider taking 10 minutes at dinner (or lunch or chill time) and share what you learned with someone else.  It can be your children, parents, partner, or boss. Let’s educate each other, elevate the celebrate the contributions of Black Americans as we work on breaking down systemic racism one step at a time. 

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