George Washington Carver was born a slave in what is now Diamond, Missouri. At a week old, George, a sister, and his mother were kidnapped by raiders. His masters, Moses and Susan Carver, hired John Bentley to locate them. Only George was found and the Carvers negotiated for his return.
After the abolition of slavery, Moses and Susan adopted George and his brother James as their own children (with George taking their last name). They taught them how to read and write. This new-found knowledge drove George to want to learn more. He attended a school for black children and eventually graduated with a diploma from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas. (Adapted from Wikipedia)
George’s Continuing Education
After receiving many rejection letters from white colleges, George was accepted to Highland College, whereupon his arrival, rejection came again. While accepted, he wasn’t allowed to attend classes due to his race. Undeterred, George homesteaded 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 their discovered his artistic talents painting plants and flowers. With the professor’s encouragement, George went on to study botany.
He would eventually land at Iowa State Agricultural College in 1891. He would be their first black student. The roots of his impact on the world began here with his Bachelor’s thesis “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
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 and began research on peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, pecans, and other crops. Before congress in 1921, he testified 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 hundreds 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, and synthetic rubber.
George’s drive to learn and research has changed our world. He directly affected thousands of people with his farmer education including 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. However, as with any great success story, there were many people to support him along the way.
What About You?
George’s life is a motivating example of how one man can make a great impact on the world around them even faced with immense challenges.
As you reflect on your own circumstances and recognize what George Washington Carver had to endure (with his resolve, drive to learn and ability to overcome adversity):
- What do you need to overcome to make your own unique impact on the world?
- Who can support you to make it happen?
- How are you going to start?
If you’re not sure, let’s talk and help you find the right direction.