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Advocate editorial board opinion: African-American contributions have brought many good things to US

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Feb. 2, 2012 at 5:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 1, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.


Every February, we are reminded of the huge contributions black Americans have made - and are making - to our culture and country. We cannot imagine where we would be if we did not have these individuals making such offerings to our society.

We also think setting aside a month to focus on these individuals and their history is a good idea. One cannot always be aware of what is around us and who to thank for it.

For example, one black inventor who always comes to mind is George Washington Carver, whose contributions in agriculture helped the entire world, not just the United States.

His studies found that peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes served wonderfully as an alternative crop to cotton, which the boll weevil had all but destroyed - and cotton depleted the soil of nitrogen. Carver suggested rotating crops of cotton with peanuts, soybeans and sweet potato to replenish nitrogen in the soil.

Carver, who died in January 1943, discovered more than 300 uses for peanuts, including cooking oil, axle grease and printer's ink, to name a few. He also discovered other uses for sweet potatoes and soybeans.

Numerous more U.S. black inventors have made their mark in history, such as George Alcorn, Marie Van Brittan Brown, George Crum and Valerie Thomas, and the list goes on and on.

To recap, Alcorn made significant innovations in the imaging X-ray spectrometer; Brown in 1966 applied for the patent for a closed-circuit TV security system; Crum invented the potato chip; and Thomas did extensive research on her own, and while working for NASA, in 3-D imaging for home television - she's considered one of the most prominent black inventors of the 20th century.

We've mentioned inventors. But black individuals also have contributed to many other aspects of our society from education to athletics to entertainment and everything in between.

We also must remember the struggles of blacks through slavery, civil rights and other hurdles that have brought them to recognition for their part in American history.

We urge you to participate in celebrating black culture and black contributions through history this month.

Together, we have a richer, diverse society we can be proud of.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.

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