BLACK HISTORY: BIOGRAPHIES
George Washington Carver
Washington Carver devoted his life to research projects connected primarily
with southern agriculture. The products he derived from the peanut and the
soybean revolutionized the economy of the South by liberating it from an
excessive dependence on cotton.
Born a slave on January 5, 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri, Carver was
only an infant when he and his mother were abducted from his owner's plantation
by a band of slave raiders. His mother was sold and shipped away, but Carver
was ransomed by his master in exchange for a race horse.
While working as a farm hand, Carver managed to obtain a high school education.
He was admitted as the first black student of Simpson College, Indianola,
Iowa. He then attended Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University)
where, while working as the school janitor, he received a degree in agricultural
science in 1894. Two years later he received a master's degree from the
same school and became the first African American to serve on its faculty.
Within a short time his fame spread, and Booker T. Washington offered him
a post at Tuskegee.
Carver revolutionized the southern agricultural economy by showing that
300 products could be derived from the peanut. By 1938, peanuts had become
a $200 million industry and a chief product of Alabama. Carver also demonstrated
that 100 different products could be derived from the sweet potato.
Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many
discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying "God gave them to me,
how can I sell them to someone else?" In 1938 he donated over $30,000
of his life's savings to the George Washington Carver Foundation and willed
the rest of his estate to the organization so his work might be carried
on after his death. He died on January 5, 1943.
Source: The African American Almanac, 7th ed., Gale, 1997.
Reprinted by permission of The
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