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Black History Month: George Washington Carver

By: Lydia Reagan ~Feature Editor~

1.pngGeorge Washington Carver was a man of botanical science and invention. His exact date of birth is unknown, but he lived from around the 1860’s to January 5, 1943.

He is best known for his efforts in moving the American farmscape from cotton to alternative crops like the peanut and the sweet potato. He wanted poorer farmers to be able to become self-dependent by growing their own food and selling their crops for a profit.

George was born into slavery under Moses Carver in Missouri. After the abolishment of slavery, Moses and his wife raised George as their own child and encouraged his intellectual pursuits — they even taught him the basics of reading and writing.

He was turned away from college because of his race. Instead, he tended to a 17- acre plot of land in Kansas, where he grew rice, corn, fruit and other produce.

Thanks to a grant in 1888, he was able to leave Kansas and head to Simpson College in Iowa, where he pursued art and piano. His art teacher encouraged him to study botany, and he became the first Black student at Iowa State, where he also earned his Master’s degree.

George was invited by Booker T. Washington to head the Tuskegee University Agriculture Department, where he worked for 47 years. During that time, he also worked on ways to replenish soil nutrients from repeated cotton planting and distributed recipes for alternative crops. He promoted crop rotation and changed agriculture forever.

In 1916, he became one of the only Americans to be a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England. He was also publicly endorsed by President Theodore Roosevelt and had many connections in the national government.

He passed away in 1943 after complications from a nasty fall down the stairs. He left behind a huge legacy, including books, recipes and a few commercially-unsuccessful inventions. George Washington Carver changed the face of agriculture and paved the way for new botanical and agricultural developments.

“Fear of something is at
the root of hate for others,
and hate within will
eventually destroy the
hater.”

 

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