George Washington Carver was born near Diamond Grove, Missouri in 1864 on a plantation owned by a slave owner. His father, Moses Carver, and his mother, Susan Carver, were slaves on that plantation. As a young infant, George along with his mother was kidnapped by Confederate night raiders and was taken to Arkansas to be sold into slavery. Moses Carver‘s owner searched for George and finally found him and reclaimed him, but his mother was already sold. The man who owned George at the time didn’t want to give George back, so Moses’ owner traded a horse for the boy. George was given back to his father suffering from a terrible case of whooping cough, and ended up with a noticeable stutter.
Back on his father’s owner’s plantation, George was now too sick to work out in the fields, so he mainly worked indoors. He helped around the kitchen and in a small garden. It was the garden that George came to love the most. He was often called “The Plant Doctor” because of his love of plants.
After the Civil War, George was set free at the age of 10. Once he was free, George set out to get an education. While trying to overcome many frustrating and bitter obstacles, George finally made his way through high school. George went to school until the age of 30, but his age didn’t stop him from finding more education. George tried applying to many colleges and all of those attempts failed. George almost gave up until Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa finally accepted him as a freshman.
To support himself through college, George had odd jobs such as ironing and washing the clothes of his fellow and more fortunate classmates. In 1891, George was transferred to Iowa State College of Agriculture, which is now Iowa State University. It was there that George became the first African American to get a Bachelor’s Degree and a Masters Degree in bacterial botany and agriculture. After his graduation, George started teaching classes about agriculture and chemurgy. In 1897, Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negro’s, convinced George to come there and serve as the director of agriculture. It was at this Institute that George made many discoveries that led to many of his inventions. He would grow plants such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, and soybeans and then do experiments with them. These experiments led to inventions such as: certain beverages, pickles, sauces, meal, bleach, wood filler, washing powder, metal polish, paper, ink, plastics, shaving cream, rubbing oil, linoleum, shampoo, axle grease, synthetic rubber, adhesives, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, instant coffee, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, pavement, shoe polish, talcum powder, wood stain, and of course, peanut butter.
George also discovered the miracle of crop rotation at the Tuskegee Institute. George worked there until he died in 1943. It kind of makes you wonder, what would our world be like with out all his inventions? How would life be different for us all if he had been kept as a slave, not given his freedom and the opportunity to share his talents with the world? And, how many George Washington Carvers has the world lost because they weren’t able to have his opportunities?
–“It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” – George Washington Carver