George Washington Carver

 

by Burt Dubin on August 29, 2011

George Washington Carver

He was born into slavery in 1864, with no sign of promise.  By his spirit, his iron resolve, his courage, energy and his brilliance, he rose to ultimately be called, “the Black Leonardo.”  He advocated crop rotation, developed 300 uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes.

And you probably didn’t know he was a speaker.  You soon will.

Rejection and more rejection:

Growing up, he faced rejection everywhere.   Blacks were not allowed at the public school in Diamond Grove.  He found a school for blacks 10 miles away.  He first slept in a barn.   Later he rented a room from a kind woman who told him, “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people.” Ultimately he earned a high school diploma.

He was rejected by several colleges because he was black.  So he homesteaded a claim, hand plowed 17 acres, planting rice, corn and garden produce.

Initial triumph:

In 1888 he borrowed $300 for his education, studied botany at Iowa Stare College.  He was the first black student.  He later became their first black faculty member.

He stayed on, earning his Master’s Degree.  His studies and findings on plant pathology gained him national recognition and respect.

In  1896, Booker T, Washington, president of Tuskegee Institute invited him to head its Agriculture Department.  He held that post for 47 years.  He was as concerned for his students’ character development as he was for their intellectual development.  He taught crop rotation, designed a mobile classroom to take education to farmers.

Highlights of his speaking career:

In 1920 he addressed the United Peanut Association of America.  There, he exhibited 145 peanut products.   In 1921 he testified as an expert witness before the United States Congress.  As he spoke about the peanut and its uses, Southern Members who at first mocked him, repeatedly extended the time for his testimony.  USA President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work.  In 1916 he was made a Member of the Royal Society of Arts in England.   He became widely known as a public figure.

In 1937 he was invited by Henry Ford to speak at Chemurgy Conferences in Dearborn, Michigan.  They developed a friendship.  In 1942, Henry Ford built a replica of Carver’s birth cabin at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

His legacy:

He died in 1943 and was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University.  On his grave is written, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”

USA President Franklin Roosevelt created the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri.  This is the first USA National Monument dedicated to someone black, as well as someone other than a USA President.

In 1977 George Washington Carver was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.

 

 

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