medicinal plants introduction

medicinal plants introduction

ms. gates: nal's special collections is conductinga series of oral history interviews with outstanding scientists whose research has made a significantcontribution to american agriculture. scientists from various usda organizations, such as theusda agricultural research service, are participating. nal will catalog each videotaped oral historyand will input the citations into the agricola and oclc databases, thereby providing nationaland worldwide access. as a matter of standing practice and understanding,all oral history videotapes and their contents conducted by the national agricultural librarywill become part of the public domain for future use by national and international audiences. today is thursday, august 18th, 1988. my nameis jane gates. i will be interviewing dr.

james a. duke, and he is here beside me, andwe are going to ask him to sign this release form. this interview is co sponsored by thenational agricultural library's alternative farming system's information center. dr. duke, as interviewee? dr. duke: i will sign it james a., but i dohope you will call me "jim." ms. gates: well, thank you. i will call you"jim." thank you. and i am jane gates, as i said, and it isan honor to be interviewing you today. before we get started on the nitty grittyof the interview, i wanted to ask you about the music, the music from the album called"herbal album."

dr. duke: well, we certainly can't call thatan outstanding contribution to u.s. agriculture, but music has been a hobby of mine for many,many years. as a matter of fact, when i started college, i started as a music major. i didn'tlike what they are trying to teach me about music, so i switched over to botany in myfirst semester. that was a good choice. that kept music where it should be, as an avocation,and made botany my vocation. ms. gates: you haven't regretted that? dr. duke: i have never regretted that. ms. gates: and you have kept up your interestin music? dr. duke: i have kept up my interest in music.

ms. gates: i know there is a wonderful picturein here. dr. duke: oh, that's my musical group at thedurham station, which is still extant, and you can see they play sort of earthy music. ms. gates: earthy music? dr. duke: earthy music, what we call "bluegrass." ms. gates: not country. there is a differencebetween dr. duke: there is a difference between countryand bluegrass. as a matter of fact, across the street, we had a concert about three weeksago which beautifully illustrated the difference between bluegrass and country, but i don'tthink we want to get into that here.

ms. gates: well, i don't know. maybe i willmake another interview. dr. duke: okay. ms. gates: if people are interested in yourmusic, can they contact you through ars, or do you have a dr. duke: i would much rather they contactedme at home if they were going to contact me about my hobbies. ms. gates: all right. i think that is moreappropriate. could we get, then, to the nitty gritty ofhaving and come back to the music later on? dr. duke: let's do and see what happens.

ms. gates: all right. i would like, firstof all, to ask you about your family background. duke is the family surname? dr. duke: well, i have a poem in the littleblue book that you were looking at about that i come from cotton picking dukes instead ofthe tobacco dukes. ms. gates: ah hah. dr. duke: i come from the red clay hills ofalabama, and you can find a duke on almost every hill out near birmingham, where i wasraised. and my family is conventional scotch/irishin origin, and we lived in the hills of alabama or in birmingham until i was eight, and theni moved to north carolina.

ms. gates: so you were in alabama until youwere eight. dr. duke: that's correct. ms. gates: did your parents tell you storiesabout your ancestors, your grandparents from scotland and ireland? dr. duke: no, i don't remember any of thatat all. i had such a big extended family that we were so occupied with the current membersthat we never got back into the roots of it at all. ms. gates: how many siblings? dr. duke: well, my immediate family, i havetwo brothers, but my family came from a family

of 11 and my mother came from a family of9, one of whom died of typhus. ms. gates: and they all lived in that area? dr. duke: they all lived in that area. ms. gates: the living ones. dr. duke: and we would get together as oftenas we could. ms. gates: no wonder you said it was a largeextended family with no time to look back. your name is james a., and should i ask youwhat the "a" stands for? dr. duke: the "a" stands for alan, a l a n,and i don't really know the significance of my own name. that's embarrassing. out there,i had an uncle jim and a grandfather, james,

so i presume it's for my maternal grandfather. ms. gates: well, you certainly made it a significantname on your own. there is no reason to feel apologetic about not knowing who you werenamed for. what did your father do for a living? dr. duke: my father was a farmer. he was acotton farmer, and he went into horticulture and nursery. and in the years of the depression,we moved to north carolina and he became an insurance salesman, and that was the firsttime that we weren't in dire straits. after he had been in insurance for about a yearor two, he ended up playing golf and eating meat and potatoes instead of the high fiberrural diet to which we had become accustomed.

ms. gates: i was going to ask you about direstraits, when you say it means high fiber rule diet? dr. duke: rural. ms. gates: rural. uh huh. dr. duke: right. we were poor, plain old pooruntil we got to north carolina, and we had to eat what we could find lots of times, andmost of that was home grown and home canned. ms. gates: so your parents had a garden? dr. duke: they had a garden, and they haduncles, cousins, brothers, who had big farms, and so there was plenty of produce around.

ms. gates: what do you remember eating particularlythat was dr. duke: my favorite recollections of alabamaare scuppernongs and scuppernong juice, a grape that i think i put the northern doton the map up here. it's vitis rotundifolia, and it is a redneck grape, like i'm a redneckperson, but i have gotten it to grow on the south side of my place, behind the barn, facingsouth, and i have gotten about 10 grapes there. and i think it's a northern dot on the vitisrotundifolia map, but it's a favorite. but i miss my scuppernongs. ms. gates: and you had them just plain? dr. duke: they grew behind my grandmother'shouse, and from late august until frost, you

ate them off the vine, but she would alwaysprepare us marmalades, jellies, and a treasure called "scuppernong juice," which i only hadthere. ms. gates: did you remember any particularvegetables like okra, which i always associate with the south. dr. duke: okra, i never learned to enjoy untili was about 40. now i eat it raw and cooked, but too many of the things that i enjoy nowwere repugnant to me as a young redneck. ms. gates: it's wonderful that we can changeas we grow older, isn't it? so the place in alabama, i don't what to leavethat quite yet. you were born in a hospital, or were you born at home?

dr. duke: i was born at home, and we had ablack midwife who was almost part of the family there. ms. gates: mm hmm. dr. duke: and at the time, my grandmotherlived in birmingham, alabama, but we had a farm about 40 miles out of birmingham. andmy first six years were spent wavering between those two. the farm was on the koosa river. ms. gates: koosa? dr. duke: k o o s gates: uh huh. dr. duke: remember there were a lot of thingsdown there, appaloosa, tallapoosa.

ms. gates: i never heard of koosa. dr. duke: they's native indian names. and for a while, i thought that i had indianancestry. i do have an aunt exra, but her part of the family tree went another direction.she was cherokee, but i don't have any cherokee blood in me, to the best of my knowledge,which sort of negates one of the poems i wrote thinking that i had some cherokee blood inme. i got to digging, and it's not quite true. ms. gates: well, aunt exra? dr. duke: e x r a. ms. gates: e x r a. what other aunts and unclesdo you remember particularly?

dr. duke: well, uncle roland was the mostobese of us all, and i remember him sitting on the front porch. and i was trying to makeconversation and said, "what are you raising this year?" and he said, "can't grow nothingbut weeds." when you are six, that was rather gates: yes. dr. duke: but he was usually on that porch,sitting on the porch, and i reckon that's why the weeds were doing so well. ms. gates: did he just sit there? did he chewtobacco? dr. duke: he did chew tobacco. he was theonly one that i remember that chewed tobacco. one of my other uncles smoked, but my fatherwas a teetotaler and a non smoker.

ms. gates: and as a child, did you try suchthings, or did you want to skip that part? dr. duke: i think i first tried a cigarettewhen i was within a stone's throw of liggett & myers in durham, north carolina, at aboutnine years old. ms. gates: so you waited until you moved north. dr. duke: i don't remember it happening inalabama, though.