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UA Amazing American: George Washington Carver

Leslie Brown

Most people probably think of “peanuts” when they think of George Washington Carver, and indeed he developed over 300 products with the lowly plant. But from where did he draw his inspiration?

Carver was curious by nature, and was a very spiritual man. One time,

“He asked God to reveal to him the secrets of the universe,” Tuskegee University’s Frank J. Toland said. “God’s response to him was that his mind was too small to perceive that.”

To that Carver replied, “Then teach me the mysteries of the peanut.”(1)

Carver was born to slave parents near Diamond Grove, Mo. in 1864. The Civil War ended a year later and times were hard for blacks – something from which Carver and his family were not exempt.

He grew up poor and was denied an education, because of his race. But that didn’t stop him from learning. Carver fell in love with the wonders of nature. It was a passion that earned him a nickname that lasted a lifetime.

“He was considered the “plant doctor” as a youngster,” explained Tyrone Brandyburg of the Carver Museum. “He pretty much had a green thumb – everything he touched grew.”

Carver eventually went to high school and later attended college at the age of 30. He earned a degree in agricultural science from Iowa State University.

In 1896, he completed his master’s degree and was invited by Booker T. Washington to join the faculty of the Tuskegee Institute, a trade school for blacks in Alabama.(1)

Carver sought to develop products using agricultural products such as peanuts and sweet potatoes knowing these plants were easily accessible to the common man. Most of the products he developed were not for himself, but for the good of others.



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