Carl Henning

G. W. Carver, Slave and Scientist

We didn’t realize that George Washington Carver was born in Missouri until we discovered the George Washington Carver National Monument. He was born a slave near the end of the Civil War, but as a slave there is no record of his birth – no date, not even a year.  He and his mother were owned by Moses Carver. George and his mother were kidnapped from Moses’ farm. He was returned but his mother was not; she was reported as dead. Moses and his wife took George and his brother into their home and raised them.

We also did not realize that slave owners and abolitionists battled each other in Missouri before and after the Civil War. Battled as in fought and killed each other.

George moved around between Iowa and Kansas to get an education. He became the first black student and the first black instructor at what is now Iowa State University at Ames.

We also didn’t realize it wasn’t just about peanuts. From childhood, he was “the plant doctor.” At Tuskegee Institute he developed uses for many new crops. Cotton had worn out the soil, so he came up with a rotation of crops to prevent soil depletion.

Although he could have become an artist instead of a botanist, he chose botany to help his people, the poor sharecroppers of the South. He was a devout Christian. Some quotes:

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting system, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

“There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.”

“I never have to grope for methods: the method is revealed at the moment I am inspired to create something new… Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.”

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