overlooked contributions

Introduction: Overlooked Contributions

overlooked contributions

Overlooked contributions of Black Americans to the shaping of America’s diverse identity are nothing to be trifled with. Ignoring, or worse, erasing uncomfortable history from K-12 curriculums is nothing less than an attempt to control thought; to mold children to fit into a world of bigotry and hate. Welcome to Florida!

The release of Florida’s 2023 academic standards has sparked a contentious debate surrounding the portrayal of enslaved Black individuals’ contributions to American society. Rodney Coates, a distinguished scholar in the history of race and racism in the U.S., has added his voice to the growing chorus of critics who contest the accuracy of these educational standards. Coates provides a comprehensive analysis that reveals the distortion of historical reality and aims to rectify the narrative by shedding light on the invaluable skills and contributions that enslaved Africans brought with them to the Americas.

Agricultural Expertise: Overlooked Contributions of Black Americans

The entry of enslaved Africans into the Americas marked the introduction of a wealth of agricultural knowledge rooted in their native regions. A significant portion of these individuals originated from the Rice Coast of Africa, bringing with them expertise in rice cultivation and other vital crops. This transfer of agricultural know-how fundamentally transformed the agricultural landscape of regions such as the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia. Staples like rice, okra, black-eyed peas, yams, peanuts, and watermelon not only enriched American cuisine but also provided sustenance during the grueling Middle Passage. The communal gardens cultivated by the enslaved served as both a source of nourishment and a means of generating income, ultimately shaping Southern cuisine and contributing to local markets.

Culinary Mastery: Overlooked Contributions of Black Americans

Enslaved Africans, despite being forced to cook for their oppressors, ingeniously wove their culinary expertise into the fabric of Southern cuisine. Drawing from their diverse African, Native American, and European culinary traditions, they concocted dishes that spoke to their resilience and creativity. From stews to gumbos, layered meat and greens combinations to distinctive desserts, the culinary artisans crafted a cuisine that not only satisfied hunger but also served as a testament to cultural resilience and ingenuity. This melding of flavors and techniques laid the foundation for what would become an iconic aspect of American cuisine.

Artisans and Builders

The skills enslaved Africans brought to the Americas extended beyond the kitchen and fields. Their expertise in various artisanal crafts, including woodworking, metalworking, pottery making, weaving, and basketry, became instrumental in filling the void of skilled labor on plantations. The influence of West African architectural design is evident in the buildings unearthed from colonial plantations, highlighting their role in shaping the architectural landscape of America. Notably, iconic landmarks such as the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Smithsonian Castle stand as enduring monuments to the craftsmanship of enslaved individuals. Their labor became an integral part of the nation’s infrastructure and identity.

Medical Practitioners: Overlooked Contributions of Black Americans

Enslaved Africans carried with them a wealth of medical knowledge that played a crucial role in the health and well-being of their communities. Enslaved women assumed the role of midwives, blending their native practices with insights gained from Native American cultures. Their expertise extended to identifying medicinal plants, which proved essential in treating a wide array of illnesses among both the enslaved and enslavers. In a groundbreaking development, the introduction of variolation by Onesimus, an enslaved individual, paved the way for vaccination and the eventual eradication of smallpox. This legacy of medical innovation remains a testament to the resilience and resourcefulness of enslaved Africans.


Rodney Coates’s meticulous analysis refutes Florida’s education standards and underscores the profound contributions of enslaved Africans to American society. These individuals did not passively “benefit” from their captivity; rather, they brought a tapestry of skills and knowledge that laid the groundwork for the nation’s development. Their expertise spanned agriculture, culinary arts, craftsmanship, and medical practices, imprinting their mark on every facet of American life. As society reevaluates its historical narrative, it is crucial to honor and acknowledge the enduring impact of those who, despite immense adversity, played an instrumental role in shaping the America we know today.

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

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