(1) George Washington Carver never knew his parents or sister. Even his birthdate is unknown. But from the time he was a young child during the Civil War, he was called “the plant doctor.”
(2) George and his brother James were born slaves. They grew up on a Missouri farm owned by his parents’ former masters, Susan and Moses Carver. When slavery was abolished, the boys were still young. The Carvers raised them. African-Americans were not welcome at the local public school. “Aunt Sue” taught them how to read and write.
(3) James was healthy, but George was sickly and thin and had a stutter. Still, he helped on the farm and paid attention to what “Uncle Mose” showed him. He might not have been strong enough to chop wood like his brother, but George learned to care for animals. He even learned how to heal sick plants and to use certain plants to heal animals and people.
(4) George wanted to get an education. He left home and moved around on his own. He went to several schools and graduated from high school in Kansas. After that, he wanted to go to college. One college accepted him, but when they saw his race they turned him away.
(5) At the time, much of the United States was empty. Through the Homestead Act, the government was giving away land. Since Carver was unable to attend school, he set up a 17-acre farm on a homestead. He grew crops, including corn and fruit trees. He built collections of flowers and rock specimens. He planted forest and fruit trees. He worked on local ranches and farms to earn money.
(6) Finally, Carver went to college. He studied botany at Iowa State Agricultural College. He was the first black student at the school. He graduated with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. He became the first black faculty member at the school.
(7) Carver was well-known as a botanist, teacher, and expert on fungi and plant diseases. In 1896, Booker T. Washington, head of Tuskegee Institute, invited Carver to run the Agriculture Department. Tuskegee was a black university that had been created just 15 years earlier. As its leader, Washington was a major leader in the black community.
(8) Carver accepted the offer and stayed for 47 years. He was a teacher and a scientist. He conducted extensive research on uses for peanuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, and other crops. He developed ways of increasing yields from farming. He developed recipes to encourage people to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
(9) Carver became one of the most famous African-Americans of his time. He received awards for his contributions to agriculture. In 1921, he testified before Congress about the importance of peanuts as a U.S. crop. He met three presidents. He donated money to Tuskegee to support agricultural research there. He died in 1943, knowing he had made a huge impact on the country and the world.
Source: George Washington Carver
By Exploros, CC BY-SA 4.0; photo by unknown photographer, Tuskegee University Archives/Museum, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons