George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver (January 1864 – January 5, 1943), was an African American scientist, botanist, teacher, and inventor whose work revolutionized agriculture in the Southern United States.
When Slave holders Moses and Susan Carver moved to Southwest Missouri they built a small 12' x 12' cabin. Eventually that same cabin was inhabited by an enslaved girl named Mary. She gave birth to George towards the end of the Civil War. George’s exact birth day and year are unknown, but it is known that his birth was before Missouri slavery was abolished in January, 1864.
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As a young child, George’s interest in plants was evident earning the nickname of "Plant Doctor” due to his careful tending to a secret garden of cotton depleted. Here he experimented with different types of plants that ultimately formed a burning desire in George for a scientific education tailored to understand and aid him in unlocking botanical secrets.
In the late 18th Century, the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop that was not faring well in the depleted soil. His experiments and successes resulted in poor farmers planting his alternative crops which thrived becoming a food source, not only for their family’s food, but for area consumers.
|George Washington Carver (front row, center) pictured with fellow teachers and colleagues at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama Circa 1902|
Booker T. Washington, the president of the Tuskegee Institute, invited Carver to head its Agriculture Department in 1896. For 47 years, Carver taught at Tuskegee developing the department into a strong research center. Carver developed and published unique uses for his thriving crops which improved their marketability. His most popular bulletin contained 105 existing food recipes that required the use of peanuts. He also created and/or disseminated over 100 peanut products that were useful for the house and family farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin.
He taught methods of crop rotation, perfected the selection of alternative cash crops for farmers that would improve the cotton depleted soil. He took his classroom on the road, thanks to Morris Ketchum Jesup, who provided the funding. The "Jesup wagon "taught generations of black students as well as family farmer agricultural techniques for self-sufficiency.
In addition to his work on agricultural experimentation his other accomplishments included improvement of racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, and religion. His example of hard work, maintaining a positive mental attitude, and thirst for good education was infectious for all who knew him. His humility, genuine interest in others, good nature, thrift, and generosity was evident and admired widely.
|George Washington Carver "One of America's great scientists." U.S. World War II poster circa 1943|
He, early in the civil rights movement, shattered the widespread stereotype that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed him a "Black Leonardo", a reference to the white polymath Leonardo da Vinci. To commemorate his life and inventions, George Washington Carver Recognition Day is celebrated on January 5, the anniversary of the day Carver died.
By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
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