Colorized photo from 1902 Original title: Chemistry laboratory at Tuskegee Institute Photographer: Frances Benjamin Johnston Location: Tuskegee, Alabama
This is the classroom of George Washington Carver. He is that guy on the right with the flower in his lapel, something he would always wear.
But before this success, he was actually born into slavery back in 1864, on a small farm in southwest Missouri of Diamond Grove. His slave owners were Moses and Susan Carver. His own mother, himself and brother were once kidnapped and ransomed for a race horse. They were able to get back the kids, but the mother, know one knows what happened to her.
After the war, they were freed, but continued to work for the Carver's. As a child, George was frail and sickly, he wasn't able to work the fields. Instead, he worked in the house, learning to cook and do the laundry, and tend to the garden.
It was during this time that he started to love nature. He in fact had a secret spot in the forest where he would take care of his little beauties, little flowers that he raised or looked after. Because his owners were so kind to him, he decided he would take the Carver name for himself.
At around 14 years of age, he left to go the town of Neosho, Missouri, to attend a public school that was just for black children. He lived with a family, doing household and farm chores. Two years later, after learning all he could, he moved to Kansas attending different schools, while working as a laundry worker and a cook. In 1884 he graduated from the public high school of Minneapolis, Kansas. It was there he took on the middle name of "Washington" as there was already another George Carver in that town.
Using strong recommendations from his high school teachers, he mailed his application and was accepted int a small Presbyterian college in Highland Kansas. When he arrived to the school, they saw that he was black, and due to discrimination, turned him away, denying him admission. He was quite discouraged by this, he tried his hand at farming for about six years. He battled blazing hot summers and frigid winters near Beller, Kansas before calling it quits.
He tried yet again at another college, but was denied there too. He eventually was accepted at the Iowa Agricultural College (now known as Iowa State University). By 1894 he gained his Bachelor of Science degree, and his Master of Science in bacterial botany and agriculture in 1896. He then became the first black faculty member of Iowa College.
Later that same year, he was invited to be a teacher in Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Booker T Washington ran the school, it was a trade school that allowed colored students to learn all sorts of trades. They offered George $1000 a year (about $36,000 today), plus board "to include all expenses except travel".
While they gave him a nice salary, the school had a low budget, the class didn't have enough money for real equipment. The students had to scrounge up parts and made due with what they had. Which is why you'll find random things in this room. However they were successful in making contributions to the farming world. Creating hardier cotton plants that were more insect resistant.
But mostly George was the peanut guy, in those days, peanuts were a livestock food. But he saw its potential. As he worked with farmers he encouraged them to rotate the crops with peanuts and black eyed peas, as a way to replenish the soil. Once everyone was growing them he created recipes. By 1916 he developed of a 100 uses for nuts. He made cheese, facial creams, printers ink, medicine, shampoo, soap, vinegar, wood stain, peanut paste (peanut butter). He found that by roasting the nut it could be ground into a smooth creamy butter that was rich in protein and would last longer than dairy butter. By 1920, everyone had peanut butter.
While he created all of these things, he never profited off of them. He only had one patent to his name and it wasn't related to his field at all. Even Thomas Edison wanted him to work for him, but he refused and stayed with Tuskegee.
February 11th, 2023
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