George Washington Carver was born a slave in Diamond Missouri and his masters were Moses and Susan Carver (of which he eventually took their last name). George, his sister, and his mother became slaves to a slave master in Kentucky. Then shortly after they were all kidnapped.
Moses, his slave master at the time, hired someone to find George, his mother, and sister, but unfortunately, only George was found. When Moses rode out on his horse to get George and buy him back, he walked back with no horse and only a half-frozen and barely breathing baby.
Moses and Susan adopted George and his brother James as their own children teaching them how to read and write. This new-found knowledge drove George to want to learn more. He would first attend a school for black children and eventually graduate with a diploma from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.
After receiving many rejection letters (from white colleges), George was finally accepted at Highland College whereupon arrival rejection came again (because of his race). Undeterred George homestead a claim near Beeler, Kansas, and hand plowed 17 acres of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
George’s desire to learn continued as he studied art and piano at Simpson College in Iowa. A professor at the college discovered his artistic talents with painting plants and flowers and with the professor’s encouragement, he went on to study botany.
George would eventually land at Iowa State Agricultural College in 1891, he was their first black student. The roots of his impact on the world began here as his Bachelor’s thesis was, “Plants as Modified by Man.” George would go on to earn his master’s degree at the college and he began to gain national recognition as a botanist.
The Impact Of His Research
This recognition opened the door to a research and teaching opportunity at the Tuskegee Institute. George would teach there for 47 years. During these years he taught many young black students self-sufficiency farming techniques.
He created a mobile classroom to educate farmers in the field. Began research on peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, pecans, and other crops and gave testimony before congress in 1921 to support the passage of a tariff on imported peanuts.
George developed techniques of crop rotation that resulted in improved soil and yields for the crops, and he created an industrial research laboratory discovering 100s of applications for these crops.
The Power of Education
George is most known for his research and discoveries of the peanut. Through his research he was able to develop 145 peanut products and over 300 uses including adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, paper, shaving cream, synthetic rubber, just to name a few.
George’s drive to learn and research has changed our world. He directly affected thousands of people with his farmer education, generations of students at the Tuskegee Institute, and millions of people today with his products and the uses of peanuts he developed.
George Washington Carver is a shining example of what education can do. Without a doubt, his circumstances should have made his journey as one of America’s greatest botanists impossible to come true, but as with any great success story, there were many people to support him along the way, beginning with Moses and Susan and a few others believing in his talents and abilities.
What About You?
As you reflect on your own circumstances, recognize what George Washington Carver had to go through, his resolve, his drive to learn and his ability to overcome adversity. His life is a motivating example of how one man can make a great impact on the world around them.
What do you need to struggle through and overcome to make your own unique impact on the world? Who can support you to make it happen? How are you going to start?