George Washington Carver (1864 -1943)
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, idareu2bee.com would like to spotlight the achievements of African Americans who overcame insurmountable odds to expand their knowledge and create or invent ideas, concepts, products that would improve the world. Today we highlight the contributions of George Washington Carver.
George was born into slavery on a southern plantation born to a slave owned by Moses Carver. When George was a newborn, the Carver plantation was raided, and George and his mother Mary were kidnapped and taken to another state to be sold. Moses Carver hired an agent to search for them but was only able to find George who was returned to the plantation. In 1865, slavery was abolished and made illegal, thus freeing George as a young child. He stayed on the Carver plantation until he was around 12 years old when he decided to leave to find an education. He supported himself by taking several different jobs, and he educated himself by reading as much as he could. He developed a love for plants and animals and in his 20s completed high school in Kansas. He then went on to study agricultural science at Iowa State Agricultural College where he completed his Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree.
George then took a job heading the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. Here he devoted himself to research on soil management and crops with the intention of improving the agricultural yield for southern black farmers. It was a very difficult time for farmers because the soil had been depleted after decades of only growing one crop-cotton. As a result, the soil was dry and eroding, and whatever the farmers were able to grow was not of great quality or quantity. To prevent soil erosion, he knew that planting crops that had good ground coverage would be the key. Plants like peanuts, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. George discovered that peanuts would actually infuse nitrogen into the soil which is a vital nutrient to grow plants and that the climate in Alabama was perfect to support peanut and sweet potato crops. He convinced many farmers to change their crops to peanuts or sweet potatoes and the farmers yielded great crops, and the soil on their farms began to revitalize. Unfortunately, at that time there wasn’t a great demand for those particular crops, so the farmers were still struggling to make a living. This drove George back to his research laboratory where he set about finding new uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes so as to create a new industry and demand for the farmers’ crops. He succeeded in creating over 400 derivatives of peanuts and sweet potatoes that could be used in ink and dyes, cosmetics, adhesives, food, plastic, and medicine to name a few. His discoveries created new demand for peanut and sweet potato crops and when the cotton crops were being devastated by a weevil infestation, many southern farmers switched to growing peanut and/or sweet potatoes for a living.
Many world leaders took notice of George’s contributions and wanted his help in transforming agriculture in their countries. He never left his position and life at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute. He did, however, continue to develop and invent new ways of doing things, for example during the second world war, he figured out how to make over 500 colours of fabric dye to break the dependence of the US textile industry on importing European dyes. George Washington Carver was one of the United States’ most prolific scientists and inventors, and his inventions transformed the agriculture industry to this day. We, at idareu2bee.com thank George Washington Carver for his perseverance, curiosity, creativity, and ability to Let Go of Fear and Let Love Win!