Wednesday, February 14, 2007

African American Scientists and Inventors

While writing my dissertation I agreed to research and write two chapters for a book on African American Scientists and Inventors. I adored the professor who asked me, and gladly embarked on a journey to research two men I knew little about, though could at least admit I had heard of them. They were Elijah McCoy and Charles Turner. The book was published by an academic press in 1996. Since then, it has done nothing more than collect dust on my shelf. This saddens me, because there are so many great stories of (mostly) men who overcame great diversity to give the world the benefit of their knowledge and creativity. It is unfortunate that there still remains a dearth of good children's books about these men. Of course, it is relatively easy to find material on George Washington Carver, but look beyond him and few others stand out.

Here, at least, are a few of the gems in my collection.

A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki - The bold illustrations bring the text alive in a story that follows the life of the man who found more than 300 uses for the peanut. Did you know he also experimented with the sweet potato?

George Washington Carver: The Peanut Wizard by Laura Driscoll - This lovely addition to the Smart About Scientists series introduces Annie Marcus, who is just nuts about peanut butter! When Annie finds out that George Washington Carver was responsible for the popularity of peanuts, she picks him for her scientist report. This is a fine introduction to Carver's career and discoveries.

Dear Benjamin Banneker written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated Brian Pinkney - This beautifully illustrated volume provides a brief overview of the life and work of Banneker from his years as a tobacco farmer through to his decision to write an almanac.

Bug Watching with Charles Henry Turner by Michael Elsohn Ross - This entry in the Naturalist's Apprentice series introduces the life and work of entomologist Charles Henry Turner while including ideas for the reader to conduct his/her own bug investigations.

Onward: A Photobiography of African-American Polar Explorer Matthew Henson by Delores Johnson - This stunning book uses archival photographs from the early 20th century to tell the story of Matthew Henson, an African-American hired for the expedition to the North Pole as Robert Peary's manservant.

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