Tag Archives: homeschooling single mom

George Washington Carver Did Not Invent Peanut Butter?

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Every February in grade school, I learned and re-learned the limited histories of a handful of key figures.  Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Garrett Morgan, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. George Washington Carver.  It was rare that we heard about anyone else and if we did, we received trivia rather than histories.

“Who was the first Black major league baseball player?” (Jackie Robinson)

“Who was the first Black millionaire?” (Madame CJ Walker)

(For a more extensive famous firsts lists, click here)

The answers to these trivia questions have become embedded into my adult memory.  Rosa Parks sat on the front of bus.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched for rights.  Harriet Tubman freed slaves.  Garret Morgan invented the traffic light and so on.  However, these men and women did much more than that.  Their extended biographies are not discussed until collegiate level African American studies, if at all.

Rosa Parks was an organizer against interracial violence and a Civil Rights activist long before the planned bus boycott.  She did not just happen to be tired that day.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized and spoke for both Labor and Civil Rights.  The Poor People’s Campaign, planned near the end of Dr. King’s life, was intended to advocate for good jobs, healthcare, and housing for all Americans.

Each of the leaders mentioned have a deeper history than what is touched upon in common education.

For instance, Dr. George Washington Carver was a great scientist and inventor, but many people only associate him with the invention of peanut butter.  Though Dr. Carver has done many great things, inventing peanut butter was not one of them.

Peanut butter is recorded as having existed as far back as 3000 years ago.

However, Dr. George Washington Carver did change (read: save) American agriculture by introducing crop rotation.

He did invent over 300 products using the peanut and over 115 products using the sweet potato.

These inventions included printer ink, synthetic rubber, material for paving highways, insulation board, and:

From the Peanut:

  • 19 types of leather dyes
  • 18 types of insulating boards
  • 11 types of wall boards
  • 17 types of wood stains
  • 11 types of peanut flours
  • 30 types of cloth dyes
  • 50 types of food products

From the Sweet Potato:

  • 73 types of dye
  • 17 types of wood fillers
  • 14 types of candy
  • 5 types of library paste
  • 5 types of breakfast foods
  • 4 types of starches
  • 4 types of flour
  • 3 types of molasses

(Read extended list of inventions here or here.)

Dr. Carver also created over 500 different shades of paint, using extracts from the earth as well as research in manufacturing “paints and stains from soybeans”.

Dr. Carver is a perfect example of why we as parents and teachers should conduct further research on celebrated African American figures before we select our curriculum.  I, too, am guilty of long associating Dr. Carver with peanut butter and could have easily passed down this unfairly abbreviated history to my son.  It is our job as educators to dig deeper because we want our students to know full histories.

Also, we want our students to do the same, right?  If we are going to continue teaching about the same central figures that were introduced to us in grade school, let us expand the lesson by adding a research dynamic.  Let us challenge our students to teach us something that we did not know.

Our goal in this is to raise well-rounded scholars, not trivia champions on traffic lights and peanut butter.

All Best,

Nikala Asante

What Kind of Adults Will Our Children Be? Part 1

Greetings,

The goal of the many sacrifices that we make to educate our children are for one reason and one reason only: to shape them into successful, critically thinking, and independent adults with good characters.

Which traits are representative of these ideal adults that we are molding?

Dr. Amos Wilson, author of many books on African American child psychology, such as The Developmental Psychology of the Black Child and Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children, offers a list of attributes to cultivate in Black children based on traditional African values.

  • respect for adults
  • independence
  • persistence
  • curiosity
  • experimentation
  • discovery
  • universal sense of justice
  • respect for order
  • social interest
  • good manners
  • sensitivity to persons and environment
  • self-esteem/family and community pride
  • commitment to promises made or contracts
  • love of learning
  • ethnic/cultural identity
  • general care for humans of all races
  • reverence for life

How do we nurture these traits within our children?  

The first and best way to teach our children any good habit is to model it.  Outside of that, whichever spiritual system that we practice will serve as much of the moral foundation for our children.  Even if you do not consider yourself religious, be sure to discuss morals on a regular basis.

We can also look to the moral guidelines from traditional Africa and teach our children not just to memorize them, but to practice them in daily life.

The Nguzo Saba

The Nguzo Saba is a character-guiding system based on East African tenets.  It was adapted in the 20th century by Maulana Karenga, an African American scholar into seven simple principles.

NGUZO SABA
(The Seven Principles)

Kwanzaa Symbol - Umoja (unity)   Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
Kwanzaa symbol- Kujichagulia (self-determination   Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for                   ourselves.
Kwanzaa Symbol - Ujima (collective work and responsibility)    Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and   sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to   profit from them together.
Kwanzaa symbols - Nia (purpose)   Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community   in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
Kwanzaa symbol - Kuumba (Creativity)   Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our   community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
Kwanzaa symbol - Imani (faith) Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

How can we practice the Nguzo Saba?

We can think of creative ways to incorporate the Seven Principles into our daily lives.

For instance, unity can be demonstrated by working as a team to cook a healthy dinner or clean the house.  Unity can also be practiced by working together to accomplish a larger goal, such as cleaning up a block in our neighborhood.

My son and I sometimes go downtown to help feed the homeless.  We meet up with a wonderful group here in Houston that serves dinner to over 100 people 4 times a week.  When we go there and interact with homeless of all races and genders that we might normally pass by on the street, it has a profound impact on both me and my son.

This week, let us all practice the first principle, Unity, in creative ways.  Please leave feedback in the comments about how Unity was applied in your home this week.

Over the coming blogs on this topic, I will suggest methods for implementing the other 6 principles as well as introduce other traditional African moral systems.

Stay tuned!

(Artwork by BrothaJ2 from deviantart.com)