Former Tuskegee University professor and Edith Powell discusses her book "More Than Peanuts: The Unlikely Partnership of Tom Huston and George Washington Carver." Co-co-presented with the Prince George's County Office of Human Rights and NewSouth Books.
The further we go the bigger it gets and the more interesting. I don't know what we would have done without you. So wrote Bob Barry, a White executive with the Tom Huston Peanut Company, to George Washington Carver, the shy, unassuming scientific genius of Tuskegee Institute. The two, along with Grady Porter and Tom Huston himself, embarked on a quest to grow the peanut industry in the South by understanding and solving the problems faced by farmers.
From 1924 until the end of Carver's life, these four men, three White and one Black, sustained a professional partnership and a personal friendship built on mutual admiration, respect, trust, and purpose. Their work attracted the attention and support of university and government scientists around the country as well as agricultural industry professionals and their most important audience, farmers in the Southeast. Their effort laid the foundation for research to support the fledgling peanut industry, which became one of the region's most important cash crops, with a farm value totaling over $1 billion in 2020.
More Than Peanuts follows the journey of these four men, through the letters they wrote to each other and to others who joined them on the way. The letters document a fascinating early example of cooperation between farmers, private business, university researchers, and government policymakers to grow a prosperous industry. Even more importantly, they are eloquent testimony to a lasting interracial friendship in the segregated South--so much more than peanuts.
Edith Powell is a retired professor of immunology and hematology at Tuskegee University. As a native of Tuskegee, Powell has had a lifelong interest in the history of the town and university. Her passion resulted in her role as an independent research consultant on George Washington Carver for the Tuskegee University archives. Powell is also the author of A Black Oasis: Tuskegee Institute's Fight Against Infantile Paralysis, 1941-1975 (with Dr. John F. Hume) and To Raise Up the Man Farthest Down: Tuskegee University's Advancements in Human Health, 1881-1987 (with Dana R. Chandler). Now residing in Auburn, Powell is a mother of three with five grandchildren.