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My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver

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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 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.


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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 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.

44 review for My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    What a wonderful book! Parts of letters are included which are very interesting. George Washington Carver loved the natural world.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Dan Bernier

    A good introduction to Carver and his work, focusing on the racial, social, environmental, economic, agricultural, and historical contexts he lived in. Carver is often reduced to a caricature, but Hersey avoids that - Carver's influence, importance, and effectiveness are all considered and examined. Hersey frequently quotes Carver's letters and bulletins, and leaves pages of citations. Occasionally, the writing felt unfocused. Perhaps 40 pages could have been removed by a judicious editor, which A good introduction to Carver and his work, focusing on the racial, social, environmental, economic, agricultural, and historical contexts he lived in. Carver is often reduced to a caricature, but Hersey avoids that - Carver's influence, importance, and effectiveness are all considered and examined. Hersey frequently quotes Carver's letters and bulletins, and leaves pages of citations. Occasionally, the writing felt unfocused. Perhaps 40 pages could have been removed by a judicious editor, which might help the remaining parts would stand more firmly on their own. This will be a hard book to categorize. I'd like to keep it on the natural science and environment shelf, the history shelf, the social justice shelf, and the politics shelf. I expect I'll re-read this, or at least parts of it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Rainey

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

  5. 5 out of 5

    Liza

  6. 4 out of 5

    Richelle Brown

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick Timmerman

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve Horn

  9. 4 out of 5

    William Kerrigan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Will

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Childress

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura Wilson

  13. 5 out of 5

    Anna Muhammad

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karlyn

  15. 4 out of 5

    K. B.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chet Herbert

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christine Schmid

  18. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  19. 4 out of 5

    David K

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  21. 4 out of 5

    Zach Brown

  22. 5 out of 5

    April Raine

  23. 4 out of 5

    Green Reads Book Club

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kylie O'Connor

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mona

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jenna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick Ng

  29. 5 out of 5

    Slick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  31. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  32. 5 out of 5

    Aisha Oaktree

  33. 4 out of 5

    Michael Strode

  34. 5 out of 5

    Yasmin

  35. 4 out of 5

    Justin

  36. 4 out of 5

    Kehs

  37. 4 out of 5

    William Bevill

  38. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

  39. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

  40. 5 out of 5

    Sara Gaffney

  41. 5 out of 5

    Michael Lipton

  42. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

  43. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Grace

  44. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

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