For Daniel Alexander Jones, inspiration for Duat has come from many different aspects of culture and history. We asked Daniel to give us a list of some of the things that inspired his work and are presenting them here in a series we call Details of Duat.
“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”
– George Washington Carver
Contrary to popular belief, George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. This common, elementary school fun fact pales in comparison to what Carver actually did with his life. Having figured out that the peanut was easy and cheap to grow, Carver made it his mission to find as many uses for the nutritious legume as possible. In a bulletin from 1925, Carver lists 105 recipes to be made using peanuts. This became gospel for many black farmers for whom slavery was a fresh memory. The soil in the South had been ravaged by decades of non-stop cotton farming, and in addition to being versatile, peanuts helped enrich the soil.
Carver was so prolific as a scientist that even in a pre-Civil Rights America he was revered by many. Despite his famousness for peanut experiemntation, he has a huge impact on our general undersanding of crop rotation in farming, as well as lots of research he undertook on yams and other tubers. Time called him a “Black Leonardo” and he got to meet three sitting presidents during his lifetime. Despite extreme success, Carver stayed humble and was a man of faith for his entire life. His favorite poem, “Equipment” by Edgar A. Guest, is indicative of the do-it-yourself attitude that Carver cultivated in himself and expected from others. We’ve published it below.
George Washington Carver runs throughout Duat as a literal character as well as a figurative idea. His thirst for knowledge – particularly in the sciences – is echoed throughout the play.
Edgar A. Guest
Figure it out for yourself, my lad,
You’ve all that the greatest of men have had,
Two arms, two hands, two legs, two eyes
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began,
So start for the top and say, “I can.”
Look them over, the wise and great
They take their food from a common plate,
And similar knives and forks they use,
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world considers them brave and smart,
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill,
You can be great if you only will.
You’re well equipped for what fight you choose,
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within,
The man must furnish the will to win.
So figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You were born with all that the great have had,
With your equipment they all began,
Get hold of yourself and say: “I can.”