Located in the Southeast corner of Alabama sits a town called Dothan. The city may be similar to other Alabama towns in many ways, but its resounding characteristic is its rich history with peanuts. Founded in 1885, Dothan began to flourish as a city due largely to Dr. George Washington Carver’s experiments with the now common peanut.
Dr. Carver was an agricultural researcher, primarily focused on unlocking new farming methods. Born one year before the abolition of slavery, Dr. Carver grew up in post-slavery Missouri. He became the first African American student at his college in Iowa, and the first African American faculty member of Iowa College. In 1896, Dr. Carver was asked by the renowned Booker T. Washington to lead the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, now known as Tuskegee University.
Dr. Carver had a passion for the poor, resource-constrained farmers he encountered in the South. These farmers’ crops were restricted to cotton and tobacco, which depleted their soil. Dr. Carver taught farmers to harvest protein-rich crops that would improve their soil and create a more sustainable quality of life. One of those saving crops was peanuts, which Carver wrote about extensively in his free research bulletin, “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption.”
Dr. Carver’s studies and contributions led to Dothan becoming the Peanut Capital of the World and are celebrated each year at the National Peanut Festival.
The National Peanut Festival is not just a small gathering or farmer’s market, it is a nationally celebrated event spanning the course of 10 days. Attracting 200,000 attendees throughout its duration, the National Peanut Festival has become an annually beloved family-friendly event.
This year, the National Peanut Festival takes place from November 3-12 and hosts a variety of entertainment for the whole family. Some attractions include a car show, Veteran’s Day parade, calf scramble, as well as fair ride attractions. The festival also boasts live music featuring Willie Ziavino and the C.O.T. Band, Megan Moroney, Ernest in concert, and Darrell Qualls & The Outlaws. You can find the full schedule of events here.
Dr. George Washington Carver’s story is another example of the rich history of Alabama, showcasing the dedication of individuals who worked tirelessly to change the circumstances of the less fortunate. His legacy reminds us that empathy, compassion, and support for others, as he often emphasized, are the driving forces behind positive change in society. As Dothan celebrates Dr. Carver’s research and the impact peanuts have had on their economy, consider what Dr. Carver once said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”