GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER
George Washington Carver was a sci¬ entist whose agricultural experiments at the Tuskegee Institute produced over 400 new products from soil-enhancing crops.
He’s best known for inventing byproducts of the peanut during his nearly 50 years at Wash¬ ington’s university, where he was also responsible for training young African- Americans to sustain themselves in the newly-reformed United States.Bom a slave in Diamond Grove, Mis¬ souri during the Civil War, Carver and his mother were reportedly kidnapped by raiders in his youth. His mother disap¬ peared, but a ransom was paid for Carver’s return.
After the Emancipation he stayed on at the Moses and Susan Carver Plan¬ tation and learned to read and write before attending school in Neosho, Missouri, and later, Minneapolis, Kansas.
Carver’s intense interest in botany led him to Highland University. He was accepted on the merits of his application, but rejected when he showed up for studies and the University realized he was not white. At that time, the university did not accept African-American students.
Undaunted, Carver applied to Simpson College in Iowa in 1890 and was admitted. He transferred to Iowa State University in 1891 and graduated with honors in 1894.He joined the faculty after the completion of his master’s degree and remained at Iowa State until he received an intriguing letter from Booker T. Washington (see no. 24).
In it, Washington said, “I can’t offer you money, position or fame….I offer you in their place work — hard, hard work — the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full manhood.” Carver responded, “I am coming.”
Carver went on to serve as director of the Agricultural Research & Experimental Station at Tuskegee Normal & Industrial Institute in Alabama.He was also an active pursuer of agricultural inventions that would replenish starved Southern lands suf¬ fering from single crop nutrient depletion after generations of tobacco and cotton pro¬ duction.
It was Carver’s discovery that legumes like peanuts could be planted for their replenishing nutrients, and harvested for their superior oils, their richness in pro¬ tein and their 300 byproducts, including peanut butter, shampoo, coffee and face powder.
One year of peanuts, followed by a year of cotton, not only increased the vari¬ ety of production, but increased the quality of the cotton crop.Individually inventing over 400 products made from the peanut and the sweet potato alone, Carver’s discoveries taught all Southerners how to maximize their land.
The South rose again as a pioneering, agri¬ cultural sweet spot for the nation. In his own words, “…It has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of my people.”