by Christine Sine
In my Tuesday newsletter I commented that this last week was really crowded with events and celebrations. One that I did not want to leave unnoticed, is the celebration of George Washington Carver. He is one of the few African Americans to have a day dedicated to his memory and he is a man we all need to celebrate. What he accomplished is awe inspiring.
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in 1864. His enslaver, Moses Carver, was a German American immigrant, who was obviously very dedicated to his slaves. When George was a week old, he, his sister, and his mother were kidnapped by night raiders from Arkansas and sold in Kentucky. Moses Carver hired John Bentley to find them, but he found only the infant George. After slavery was abolished, Moses Carver and his wife, Susan, raised George and his older brother, James, as their own children. They encouraged George to continue his intellectual pursuits, and “Aunt Susan” taught him the basics of reading and writing
George did continue his intellectual pursuits and became a prominent American agricultural scientist and prolific inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century and a man ahead of his time in many ways.
While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve types of soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He wanted poor farmers to grow other crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, to provide their own food and improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Although he spent years developing and promoting numerous products made from peanuts, none became commercially successful. Contrary to popular belief he did not however invent peanut butter.
Apart from his work to improve the lives of farmers, Carver was also a leader in promoting environmentalism. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In an era of high racial polarization, his fame reached beyond the black community. He was widely recognized and praised in the white community for his many achievements and talents. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”.
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