Forum Covers Cultivation

By Miesha Payne-Reid

Geography Professor Judith Carney led a discussion during the
Campus Forum on African origins of rice cultivation in America,
sharing her experience for the event on Wednesday at noon.

Members of the campus community were given the opportunity to
learn about the African rice culture. The hour-long presentation
focused on the evolution of rice cultivation in the Americas.

Separated into four components, the presentation consisted of
speaker introductions, historical overviews, a question and answer
segment, and visual aid demonstrations.

According to Carney, enslaved Africans not only harvested rice
during colonial North and South Carolinas, but developed the
techniques required to successfully produce the crop.

“Making rice then, not wheat, the first cereal to be globally
traded,” said Carney. “I looked at rice not just as a cereal, but
as a knowledge system.”

When Carney studied the colonial rice production in the
Carolinas, she found they were identical rice systems practiced in
West Africa. Her conclusions showed the audience members the
agricultural relation between the regions.

Five students and 10 Cal Poly faculty and staff members attended
the discussion. Individuals listened as Carney explained the
historical oversight regarding the issue.

Scholars routinely associated the crop as an Asian origin and
credited the culture for rice diffusion into Africa.

“This is un-surprising given that slavery, as a system, was not
predisposed to acknowledge the contributions of its victims,” said
Carney. “The approach that I investigated involved emphasizing the
environments and techniques underlying the rice growing

Carney determined water regimes developed the method of rice
cultivation. Her research emphasized indigenous people’s reliance
on rainfall, planting in inland swamps, and along river

Evidence presented to audience members showcased the lack of
attribution Africans received for their tutorial roles in rice
systems. Carney’s exploration of crops helped demonstrate the
influential role of Africans.

The discussion concluded with a picture slide-show. Audience
members were provided visual depictions of the rice cultivation
process. Some of the images included African regions, crop
plantations and rice production systems.

As a professor of geography at the University of Los Angeles,
Carney uses her research to preserve the historical traditions and
culture of Africans. Although the presentation was open to the
public, the complexity of the issue made it directed toward mature

In an effort to increase awareness, Carney addressed participant
questions during the later portion of the discussion.

Prior to the discussion Josh Jacks, a fourth-year political
science student, attended nine of the Campus Forums held at Cal
Poly. In order to enhance his historical knowledge, Jacks attended
the presentation.

“I find them very thought provoking,” said Jacks.

According to philosophy professor Peter Ross, the discussion was
part of a series of four Campus Forums related to the academic
program science, technology and society.

Miesha Payne Reid can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

Forum Covers Cultivation

Forum Covers Cultivation

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