We've Got History
|George Washington Carver (1864-1943) He revolutionized agriculture and invented peanut butter, too!|
Our school is named for one of the greatest agricultural scientists in American history. He was born into slavery in Missouri and it was on the plantation that he observed what it took to make successful planting work. At a time when most Americans raised their own food, his contributions literally changed the world.
He is the father of crop rotation. In the past, farmers would plant their crops until the soil was ruined and would yield poor crops, because they had not learned to let the crops take turns and let the soil replenish itself with nutrients. Carver changed all that.
He also aimed his discoveries as a way to help the poor Southern farmers, the people he knew and loved, to feed themselves. He found 300 uses for the common peanut -- including peanut butter!
He also developed ways to use common plants like soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes for alternatives for everything from food to grease and shoe polish.
His owner, Moses Carver, worried that his slaves would run away so as an infant George and his mother were kidnapped by Confederate night-raiders and sent further south. He returned to the plantation after the South lost the Civil War, but never found his mother again. He was sickly and artistic but already showing promise for his gift with agriculture. They called him "the Plant Doctor."
He left the plantation at age 12 to seek an education, a challenge for even though slavery had finally been banished, the country still segregated black people in schools and most of daily life.
He moved to southwest Missouri, where he worked as a farm hand and studied in a one-room schoolhouse. He went to Kansas for high school. Finally at age 30 he gained acceptance to Simpson College in Iowa, where he was the first black student.
Carver had to study piano and art and the college did not offer science classes. Intent on a science career, he later transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in 1891, where he gained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1894 and a Master of Science degree in bacterial botany and agriculture in 1897. He started teaching at Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanics.
In 1897, Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's Director of Agriculture. Carver remained on the faculty until his death in 1943.
At Tuskegee Carver developed his revolutionary crop rotation method, which saved and revived Southern agriculture. He educated the farmers to alternate the soil-depleting cotton crops with soil-enriching crops such as; peanuts, peas, soybeans, sweet potato, and pecans.
Carver also worked at developing industrial applications from agricultural crops. During World War I, he found a way to replace the textile dyes formerly imported from Europe. He produced dyes of 500 different shades of dye and he was responsible for the invention in 1927 of a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans. For that he received three separate patents.
In 1943, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, honored Carver with a national monument dedicated to his accomplishments.