Early Life

Life Overview
George Washington Carver was an African American chemist of international fame in the field of agriculture. He introduced hundreds of uses for the peanut, soybean, pecan and sweet potato, which revolutionized the economy of the South by creating a market for these products. These crops also replenished the soil which had been depleted through years of cotton growth.
By the early 1940’s, George’s agricultural contributions had resulted in peanut farming covering over 5 million acres, with over $500,000,000 in peanut industry production. But life did not start out easy for this scientist.

In His Own Words

(excerpts from letters Carver wrote to friends and colleagues)

Family Roots:
“I was born in Diamond Grove, Mo., about the close of the great Civil War, in a little one-roomed log shanty.” His parents were slaves and shortly after his birth he was separated from them who were later killed along with a couple siblings. George and his older brother, Jim remained, and they were raised by Uncle Moses and Aunt Sue Carver, an elderly white couple who never had children. Being of poor health as a child after contracting whooping cough, George spent much time around the house helping with chores, learning to cook, clean, sew, mend, and do laundry. His recreation was to spend time in the woods near the house.

Desire to Learn:
From a small child, Carver had an inordinate desire for knowledge, and especially music, painting, flowers, and the sciences, Algebra being one of his favorite studies.

Day after day he spent in the woods alone in order to collect floral beauties and put them in the garden he had hidden not far from his house, as it was considered foolishness in that neighborhood to waste time on flowers. All sorts of vegetation succeeded to thrive under his touch until he was styled the plant doctor, and plants from all over the county would be brought to him for treatment. He hadn’t heard of botany and could scarcely read. Rocks had an equal fascination for Carver.

Observations of Faith:
As a very small boy exploring the almost virgin woods of the old Carver place, he had the impression someone had just been there ahead of him because things were so orderly, so clean, so harmoniously beautiful. “I was practically overwhelmed with the sense of some Great Presence. Not only had someone been there. Someone was there….”

Hardly ten years old, George said, “God just came into my heart one afternoon while I was alone in the “loft” of our big barn while I was shelling corn to carry to the mill to be ground into meal. I knelt down by that barrel of corn and prayed.”

Years later he read in the Scriptures, “In Him we live and move and have our being,” He connected this to his previous sense that he wasn’t alone as a child in the woods. “Never since have I been without this consciousness of the Creator speaking to me….”

Boyhood Hobbies:
Games were very simple in his boyhood days in the country. Baseball, running, jumping, swimming, and checkers constituted the principle ones. He also enjoyed  knitting, crocheting, and other forms of fancy work.

Read the entirety of Carver’s letters in George Washington Carver: His Life and Faith In His Own Words, by William J. Federer.

Available at www.amerisearch.net

DISCUSSION TOPIC:
From the above lecture, we learn that George Washington Carver was born into great hardship, and yet he had such a positive outlook on life. To what do you attribute his positive attitude and what about him impresses you the most so far?

Post your thoughts and observations with fellow students and your instructor. Join our message board to find out what people are saying.

HOMEWORK:

To celebrate Black History Month (February), the following proclamation may be introduced and read into your official state record. Find a state legislator who will submit the proclamation for you!


Proclamation Honoring George Washington Carver

Whereas Black History Month is celebrated in the month of February to acknowledge the many great accomplishments of African Americans;

Whereas Dr. George Washington Carver developed over three hundred uses for the peanut which, by the time of his death, contributed to creating a $500,000,000.00 peanut industry, revolutionizing the economy of America’s South and providing jobs for countless thousands;

Whereas George Washington Carver overcame innumerable obstacles in his life, such as being born into slavery, having his father killed in a log hauling accident, being kidnaped with his mother-who was never seen again, poor health, turned down on admission to college because of race, and shortage of funds for his students and agricultural work. Carver once wrote: “The family doctor had told them I would never live to see 21 years of age. I trusted God and pressed on (I had been a Christian since about 8 years old.) Sunshine and shadow were profusely intermingled, such as naturally befall a defenseless orphan by those who wish to prey upon them…” “The sad news reached me here that James, my only brother, had died with small pox. Being conscious as never before that I was left alone, I trusted God and pushed ahead.”

Whereas George Washington Carver is an inspiration to people of all races, being raised by the childless German immigrant couple-Moses & Susan Carver, being the first African American to graduate from college in the State of Iowa, as professor at Tuskegee interceding for a University of Georgia white student-John McCraney-to get a scholarship to Harvard Law School (later becoming Judge in Leeds, Alabama.) Carver wrote in 1925: “Thank God I love humanity; complexion doesn’t interest me one single bit.”

Whereas George Washington Carver is an example of determination and hard work, writing of his experiences: “Every year I went to school, supporting myself by cooking and doing all kinds of house work in private families…” “Entered a business college of short hand and typewriting. I was here to have a position in the Union telegraph Office as stenographer & typewriter…” “In working for others I had learned the minutia of laundering. I had opened a laundry for myself; got all I could do…” “I cooked at this hotel for some time, then opened a laundry for myself. I ran this laundry for one year…” “I would never allow anyone to give me money, no difference how badly I needed it. I wanted literally to earn my living…” “My attitude toward life was also my attitude toward science. Jesus said one must be born again, must become as a little child. He must let no laziness, no fear, no stubbornness keep him from his duty…”

Whereas George Washington Carver sacrificed personal opportunity for others, by turning down job offers from Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to stay at Tuskegee. Carver did pioneer work in physical therapy, writing: “Our patients have usurped almost all of my spare time…I have patients who come to me on crutches, who are now walking 6 miles without tiring, without either crutch or cane. (one man). My last patient today was one of the sweetest little 5 year old boys, who 3 months ago they had to carry in my room, being paralyzed from the waist down. When I had finished the massage today, much to our astonishment he dressed himself and stood up and walked across the floor without any support… Since last Dec. 31st I have received 2020 letters, plus the people who come every day and almost every night for treatment. It is truly marvelous what God is doing…” “I have now before me 3,000 or more letters from suffering humanity, besides the people who come to see me every day and every night. I often have to refuse to see any one until I can get a little rest.”

Whereas George Washington Carver was an example of humility, while being respected by some of the highest leaders of his day, including two of his Iowa State Professors, James A. Wilson and Henry C. Wallace, who both served terms as U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture, one of his students, Henry A. Wallace, who became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Vice-President for Franklin D. Roosevelt, being visited by then Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Franklin D. Roosevelt, receiving letters from around the world-including leaders such as India’s Mohandas Gandhi, Russia’s Joseph Stalin, professors, judges, etc. Carver admonished his students to be as one: “Who neither looks up to the rich or down on the poor, Who loses, if needs be, without squealing, Who wins without bragging, Who is always considerate of women, children and old people, Who is too brave to lie, Who is too generous to cheat, Who takes his share of the world and lets other people have theirs. May God help you to carry out these eight cardinal virtues and peace and prosperity be yours through life.”;

Whereas George Washington Carver was motivated to help people. Carver stated to James Hardwick in 1928: “Man, who needed a purpose, a mission, to keep him alive, had one. He could be…God’s co-worker….” “My purpose alone must be God’s purpose – to increase the welfare and happiness of His people. Nature will not permit a vacuum. It will be filled with something. Human need is really a great spiritual vacuum which God seeks to fill….With one hand in the hand of a fellow man in need and the other in the hand of Christ, He could get across the vacuum and I became an agent. Then the passage, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” came to have real meaning. As I worked on projects which fulfilled a real human need forces were working through me which amazed me. I would often go to sleep with an apparently insoluble problem. When I woke the answer was there. Why, then, should we who believe in Christ be so surprised at what God can do with a willing man in a laboratory?”

Now Therefore, I, ________________________, Governor of the State of _________________, do hereby proclaim the last day of February, 2003, as George Washington Carver day
in the State of ___________________ and encourage all citizens to acknowledge and appreciate the contributions and faith of this great African American.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the official seal of the State of ______________to be affixed in the city of __________________ on this ___________day of February, 2003
_____________________
Governor
_____________________
Secretary of State

by William J. Federer — www.amerisearch.net