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Friday, February 12

George Washington Carver - Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, an essay on George Washington Carver.


George Washington Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri, sometime around 1861. He never knew his actual birth date, as records weren't always kept in those days. His mother was Susan Carver, a slave, which made George a slave as well. They lived on the farm of Moses Carver, who was George's father.

When George was still an infant, he and his mother were kidnapped by "night riders." Of course, that was during the Civil War.

Moses Carver finally tracked George down and got him back by trading him for a race horse that was worth $300. At the time, George was very ill, suffering from whooping cough. Though he recovered, the illness made him very frail. He was unable to do heavy chores like other slaves, and so he was taught to cook and sew. George worked in the "big house" for his keep.

George enjoyed spending long hours alone in the woods around the farm. He loved nature and flowers and decided to take up gardening. People thought he was strange because he talked to his flowers. His interest increased and he began collecting specimens of plants and flowers from the woods.

When the Civil War ended, George could have left the Moses farm. Both he and his brother, James, chose to remain there. George taught himself to read. He had a desire to become educated. Not many black people could read in those days. Slave owners didn't want their slaves to have any education.

When George was ten, his father sent him to Kansas to school. While he lived there, he earned his living by working as a cook, a farm hand and a laundry helper. The work was hard, but George was determined to continue his schooling. He succeeded. He finished high school and set his sights on university.

George applied to Highland University, but was refused entry because he was black. George didn't give up. He continued to apply to universities and colleges. It wasn't until he was 30 that he finally was accepted to Simpson College in Iowa. There, he earned a living by ironing clothes for other students.

After George had been at Simpson for a year, he applied to what is now Iowa State University. He was accepted and graduated in 1896. He was the first black person to graduate from the school. He'd made history. He wrote his thesis on the amaryllis plant. Since George had excelled in his studies, the university hired him as a teacher. Though he instructed others, he never gave up studying. He continued to focus on plants and soil. He conducted experiments on several types of fungus that were killing wheat, oats, blueberries and maple trees. After two years, he received his Master's Degree.

It was after he had his degree that Booker T. Washington invited him to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, which was a college for blacks. He accepted and worked there for the rest of his life.

At Tuskegee, George developed a method to rotate crops. He planted cotton one year and peanuts the next because he'd found that planting peanuts replenished the soil. Because the ground was more fertile, the next year's cotton crop produced more. But as time went on, George found he had far too many peanuts on his hands. What could he do with them?

After a lot of thought and experimenting, George came up with over two dozen uses for peanuts. The farmers of the area were ecstatic. They were making more money from peanuts than they were from cotton.

George continued to study. Plant chemistry was one of his many interests. He studied over three hundred uses for peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes, and clay. He received numerous awards for his work on these projects. Yes, George was a Black inventor and a scientist.

George never married. He was more interested in the world, plants and nature than in settling down and raising a family. He believed in God and was very religious. He died on January 5, 1943, at Tuskegee from anemia. In his will, he left $30,000 to science.

9 comments:

  1. Hey girl!!!!!!!! Great history lesson! Just coming by to tell you that I miss youuuuuuuuuuuuuu !!!!!!!! I am getting things accomplisehd that I wanted to do and hope to be back in the blog land by March.... but miss my friends and wanted to stop by....

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  2. Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

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  3. I remember reading a biography on him when I was younger. What a man!

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  4. My dad had a pamphlet (novella length) about GWC that he was quite taken with and would even mention it later in his dementia.

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  5. A good essay! Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver were two great men.

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  6. Happy Valentine's Day to you too!!!

    I just KNOW your day will be filled with love and laughter.

    Thanks for visiting with me yesterday. I got really busy and didn't get a chance to visit with you!!

    {{{Valentine's Hugs}}}

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  7. He was such a fascinating man and achieved so much. Thanks for the history lesson. I so enjoyed it!

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