Like most students in post-WWII America, throughout my schooling I was taught repeated lessons about George Washington Carver, a famed African-American agricultural scientist. My teachers always remained a little vague about what exactly his scientific achievements were, but we learned in no uncertain terms that Carver was a Great Scientist who must be respected and admired now and forever.
Years later, while taking a History of Science course in graduate school, I learned about a 19th-century Scottish physicist named James Clerk Maxwell. Prior to taking that class, I had never heard of the guy.
Did George Washington Carver raise himself up by his own bootstraps and intellect during an era of harsh segregation to become a respected professor and researcher? Yes. Did he strive to help his fellow man? Yes. Was he among the first black men to achieve national fame? Yes. So: Should George Washington Carver be included in textbooks? Certainly. But…not to the exclusion of more important scientists.
And his importance should not be vastly over-emphasized (as it currently is).