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Just when I’m having trouble coming up with good topics for our email time together, nutcases start coming out of the woodwork.
This week I posted on my blog about the debate — moderated by the great Gene Epstein — that I’ll be having with Bob Murphy aboard the Contra Cruise, the libertarian event of the year, this July. Bob and I have been doing some funny trash talking about it.
Not funny to this critic, apparently.
You can get a feel for this debonair fellow’s sense of humor from what he posted in reply:
“Right…from the p***y and coward who attacked George WashingtonCarver because well…see he was a black man, If he was here to defend himself he would have kicked six shades of sh** out of you.”
First thing you might note: his remark has nothing to do with anything.
He’s speaking about a chapter in my book 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask.
I’m evidently a “p***y and coward” (I supplied the asterisks) because I wondered aloud whether Carver’s reputation was deserved, andCarver, who died in 1943, cannot defend himself against my arguments.
By this line of reasoning, I trust this fellow won’t criticize Donald Trump after he goes to his reward, and has nothing bad to say about Attila the Hun.
I mean, what a coward: ol’ Attila’s not around to defend himself!
(And no: for heaven’s sake, I am not comparing Carver to Attila the Hun.)
What I actually wrote was:
“George Washington Carver did much valuable work in his day and benefited a great many rural blacks who, thanks to him, learned for the first time about modern agricultural practices. But there is no need to make him into the greatest scientific genius who ever lived. His was an honorable and productive life. That should be enough.”
I think that’s about as respectful a statement about Carver as the historical evidence will bear.
At its height, praise for Carver’s work reached a point of almost ridiculous excess. Henry Ford said Carver had “replaced Thomas Edison as the world’s greatest living scientist.” Major awards, honorary degrees, and prestigious scientific honors followed him everywhere.
In 1943 Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation making Carver’s Missouri birthplace a national monument; in all of American history only George Washington and Abraham Lincoln had received such an honor. Carver would later be elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans and the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
As I show in the book, neither Carver’s vaunted 300 products developed out of the peanut, nor the claim that he helped diversify southern agriculture, holds water.
When asked by various professors to give an accounting of his discoveries and work, Carver gave evasive answers.
Even Linda McMurry, a sympathetic biographer, admits that Carver’s reputation was overblown, and that the man himself bears some responsibility for this overestimation. “Carver,” she said, “contributed to the erroneous interpretation of his work because of his deep need for recognition.”
Few wanted to tell the truth about Carver. “Because the Carver myth was of such broad utility and because of the racial sensitivities involved,” wrote historian Barry Mackintosh, “those who doubtedCarver’s advertised achievements generally kept quiet.”
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, responding to an inquiry arising out of a Reader’s Digest article on Carver, said:
“Dr. Carver has without doubt done some very interesting things — things that were new to some of the people with whom he was associated, but a great many of them, if I am correctly informed, were not new to other people….
“I am unable to determine just what profitable application has been made of any of his so-called discoveries. I am writing this to you confidentially and without an opportunity to make further investigation and would not wish to be quoted on the subject.”
More to be found in 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask. (Imagine how hot the other 32 questions must be!)
You can get a signed, personalized copy of that book via my Supporting Listeners program, at the silver level and above.
Not to mention the zillion other goodies I have waiting for my most engaged listeners and readers.
Folks, I’m talking about my elite group.
Try all you like to tell yourself you don’t belong there.
But that inner voice that knows better will pursue you until you join us: