an essay about george washington carver

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George Washington Carver

By: Editors

Updated: April 24, 2023 | Original: October 27, 2009

Pioneering African American scientist George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts (though not peanut butter, as is often claimed), sweet potatoes and soybeans. Born into slavery before it was outlawed, Carver left home at a young age to pursue education and would eventually earn a master’s degree in agricultural science from Iowa State University. He would go on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University for decades, and soon after his death his childhood home would be named a national monument—the first of its kind to honor a Black American.

Born on a farm near Diamond, Missouri , the exact date of Carver’s birth is unknown, but it’s thought he was born in January or June of 1864.

Nine years prior, Moses Carver, a white farm owner, purchased George Carver’s mother Mary when she was 13 years old. The elder Carver reportedly was against slavery , but needed help with his 240-acre farm.

When Carver was an infant, he, his mother and his sister were kidnapped from the Carver farm by one of the bands of slave raiders that roamed Missouri during the Civil War era. They were resold in Kentucky .

Moses Carver hired a neighbor to retrieve them, but the neighbor only succeeded in finding George, whom he purchased by trading one of Moses’ finest horses. Carver grew up knowing little about his mother or his father, who had died in an accident before he was born.

Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised the young George and his brother James as their own and taught the boys how to read and write.

James gave up his studies and focused on working the fields with Moses. George, however, was a frail and sickly child who could not help with such work; instead, Susan taught him how to cook, mend, embroider, do laundry and garden, as well as how to concoct simple herbal medicines.

At a young age, Carver took a keen interest in plants and experimented with natural pesticides, fungicides and soil conditioners. He became known as the “the plant doctor” to local farmers due to his ability to discern how to improve the health of their gardens, fields and orchards.

At age 11, Carver left the farm to attend an all-Black school in the nearby town of Neosho.

He was taken in by Andrew and Mariah Watkins, a childless Black couple who gave him a roof over his head in exchange for help with household chores. A midwife and nurse, Mariah imparted on Carver her broad knowledge of medicinal herbs and her devout faith.

Disappointed with the education he received at the Neosho school, Carver moved to Kansas about two years later, joining numerous other Blacks who were traveling west.

For the next decade or so, Carver moved from one Midwestern town to another, putting himself through school and surviving off of the domestic skills he learned from his foster mothers.

He graduated from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas, in 1880 and applied to Highland College in Kansas (today’s Highland Community College ). He was initially accepted at the all-white college but was later rejected when the administration learned he was Black.

In the late 1880s, Carver befriended the Milhollands, a white couple in Winterset, Iowa , who encouraged him to pursue a higher education. Despite his former setback, he enrolled in Simpson College , a Methodist school that admitted all qualified applicants.

Carver initially studied art and piano in hopes of earning a teaching degree, but one of his professors, Etta Budd, was skeptical of a Black man being able to make a living as an artist. After learning of his interests in plants and flowers, Budd encouraged Carver to apply to the Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University ) to study botany.

an essay about george washington carver

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Carver Makes Black History

In 1894, Carver became the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. Impressed by Carver’s research on the fungal infections of soybean plants, his professors asked him to stay on for graduate studies.

Carver worked with famed mycologist (fungal scientist) L.H. Pammel at the Iowa State Experimental Station, honing his skills in identifying and treating plant diseases.

In 1896, Carver earned his Master of Agriculture degree and immediately received several offers, the most attractive of which came from Booker T. Washington (whose last name George would later add to his own) of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University ) in Alabama .

Washington convinced the university’s trustees to establish an agricultural school, which could only be run by Carver if Tuskegee was to keep its all-Black faculty. Carver accepted the offer and would work at Tuskegee Institute for the rest of his life.

Tuskegee Institute

Carver’s early years at Tuskegee were not without hiccups.

For one, agriculture training was not popular—Southern farmers believed they already knew how to farm and students saw schooling as a means to escape farming. Additionally, many faculty members resented Carver for his high salary and demand to have two dormitory rooms, one for him and one for his plant specimens.

Carver also struggled with the demands of the faculty position he held. He wanted to devote his time to researching agriculture for ways to help out poor Southern farmers, but he was also expected to manage the school’s two farms, teach, ensure the school’s toilets and sanitary facilities worked properly, and sit on multiple committees and councils.

Carver and Washington had a complicated relationship and would butt heads often, in part because Carver wanted little to do with teaching (though he was beloved by his students). Carver would eventually get his way when Washington died in 1915 and was succeeded by Robert Russa Moton, who relieved Carver of his teaching duties except for summer school.

What Did George Washington Carver Invent?

By this time, Carver already had great successes in the laboratory and the community. He taught poor farmers that they could feed hogs acorns instead of commercial feed and enrich croplands with swamp muck instead of fertilizers. But it was his ideas regarding crop rotation that proved to be most valuable.

Through his work on soil chemistry, Carver learned that years of growing cotton had depleted the nutrients from soil, resulting in low yields. But by growing nitrogen-fixing plants like peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, the soil could be restored, allowing yield to increase dramatically when the land was reverted to cotton use a few years later.

To further help farmers, he invented the Jessup wagon, a kind of mobile (horse-drawn) classroom and laboratory used to demonstrate soil chemistry.

Carver: The Peanut Man

Farmers, of course, loved the high yields of cotton they were now getting from Carver’s crop rotation technique. But the method had an unintended consequence: A surplus of peanuts and other non-cotton products.

Carver set to work on finding alternative uses for these products. For example, he invented numerous products from sweet potatoes, including edible products like flour and vinegar and non-food items such as stains, dyes, paints and writing ink.

But Carver’s biggest success came from peanuts.

In all, he developed more than 300 food, industrial and commercial products from peanuts, including milk, Worcestershire sauce, punches, cooking oils, salad oil, paper, cosmetics, soaps and wood stains. He also experimented with peanut-based medicines, such as antiseptics, laxatives and goiter medications.

It should be noted, however, that many of these suggestions or discoveries remained curiosities and did not find widespread applications.

In 1921, Carver appeared before the Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives on behalf of the peanut industry, which was seeking tariff protection. Though his testimony did not begin well, he described the wide range of products that could be made from peanuts, which not only earned him a standing ovation but also convinced the committee to approve a high protected tariff for the common legume.

He then became known as “The Peanut Man.”

Fame and Legacy

In the last two decades of his life, Carver lived as a minor celebrity but his focus was always on helping people.

He traveled the South to promote racial harmony, and he traveled to India to discuss nutrition in developing nations with Mahatma Gandhi .

Up until the year of his death, he also released bulletins for the public (44 bulletins between 1898 and 1943). Some of the bulletins reported on research findings but many others were more practical in nature and included cultivation information for farmers, science for teachers and recipes for housewives.

In the mid-1930s, when the polio virus raged in America, Carver became convinced that peanuts were the answer. He offered a treatment of peanut oil massages and reported positive results, though no scientific evidence exists that the treatments worked (the benefits patients experienced were likely due to the massage treatment and attentive care rather than the oil).

Carver died on January 5, 1943, at Tuskegee Institute after falling down the stairs of his home. He was 78 years old. Carver was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee Institute grounds.

Soon after, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation for Carver to receive his own monument, an honor previously only granted to presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln .

The George Washington Carver National Monument now stands in Diamond, Missouri. Carver was also posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

George Washington Carver; American Chemical Society . George W. Carver (1865? – 1943); The State Historical Society of Missouri . George Washington Carver; Science History Museum . George Washington Carver, The Black History Monthiest Of Them All; NPR . George Washington Carver And The Peanut; American Heritage .

an essay about george washington carver

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George Washington Carver

Scientist and educator George Washington Carver was born into slavery and became an internationally famous botanist known for his many inventions, including more than 300 uses for the peanut.

portrait photograph of george washington carver looking to his left, he wears a suit

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c. 1864-1943

Who Was George Washington Carver?

Quick facts, early life: when was george washington carver born, tuskegee institute teacher, what did george washington carver invent, racial advocacy and personal life, how did george washington carver die, legacy: museum, national monument, and more.

FULL NAME: George W. Carver BORN: c. 1864 DIED: January 5, 1943 BIRTHPLACE: Diamond, Missouri

George Washington Carver was most likely born in 1864 in Diamond, Missouri, during the Civil War years. Like many children of slaves, the exact year and date of his birth are unknown. He was one of many children born to Mary and Giles, an enslaved couple owned by Moses Carver. Giles died in an accident prior to his son’s arrival.

Aladdin 'A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver' by Aliki

'A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver' by Aliki

A week after his birth, George was kidnapped from the Carver farm, along with his sister and mother, by raiders from the neighboring state of Arkansas. The three were later sold in Kentucky. Among them, only the infant George was located by an agent of Moses Carver and returned to Missouri.

The conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 brought the end of slavery in Missouri. Moses and and his wife, Susan, subsequently raised George, as well as his older brother James, and gave him their surname.

In his later recollections, George described himself as a sickly child whose body was feeble and in “a constant warfare between life and death to see who would gain the mastery.” As a result, he often assisted Susan with domestic chores instead of doing farm labor and learned how to cook and embroider.

While living there, George developed a fascination with plants and collected specimens from the nearby woods—a hobby that foreshadowed his accomplishments later in life.

Because no local school accepted Black students at the time, Carver’s stand-in mother, Susan, taught him to read and write. The search for knowledge remained a driving force for the rest of George’s life.

When he was around 11 to 12 years old, he left the Carver home to travel to a school for Black children about 10 miles away in the town of Neosho. Although George never lived on the Carver farm again, he kept in touch with Moses and Susan and often returned to visit them.

While at school in Neosho, Carver lived with Mariah and Andrew Watkins, a Black couple who offered him lodging in exchange for help with household tasks such as laundry. Upon meeting Mariah, the boy introduced himself as “Carver’s George,” as he had done his whole life in reference to his prior owner and caretaker. Mariah told him from now on he should refer to himself as “George Carver.”

Years later, Carver adopted the middle initial “W” to distinguish himself from another man named George Carver, but it didn’t stand for any name in particular. A reporter once asked him if the initial stood for “Washington,” and he replied, “Why not?” However, Carver never actually used the name Washington and signed letters as simply George Carver or George W. Carver.

Mariah was a great influence for Carver, introducing him to the African Methodist Episcopal Church and encouraging his studious habits. “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people,” she told him .

Carver attended a series of schools before receiving his diploma at Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas. Initially accepted to Highland College in Highland, Kansas, Carver was later denied admittance once college administrators learned of his race. Instead of attending classes, he homesteaded a claim, where he conducted biological experiments and compiled a geological collection.

george washington carver paints a floral picture onto a canvas as he holds a palatte in one hand and a paintbrush in the other

While interested in science, Carver was also interested in the arts. In 1890, he began studying art and music at Simpson College in Iowa, developing his painting and drawing skills through sketches of botanical samples. His obvious aptitude for drawing the natural world prompted a teacher to suggest that Carver enroll in the botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University).

Carver moved to Ames and began his botanical studies the following year as the first Black student at Iowa State. He excelled in his studies. Upon completion of his bachelor of science degree in 1894, Carver’s professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel persuaded him to stay on for a master’s degree, which he completed in 1896.

His graduate studies included intensive work in plant pathology at the Iowa Experiment Station. In these years, Carver established his reputation as a brilliant botanist and began the work he pursued throughout his career.

After graduating from Iowa State, Carver embarked on a career of teaching and research. Booker T. Washington , the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, hired Carver to run the historically Black school’s agricultural department in 1896.

Washington lured the promising young botanist to the Alabama institute with a hefty salary and the promise of two rooms on campus, while most faculty members lived with a roommate. Carver’s special status stemmed from his accomplishments and reputation, as well as his degree from a prominent institution not normally open to Black students.

george washington carver watches a student pour a substance into another vessel as several other students sit at lab tables nearby and work

The agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) achieved national renown under Carver’s leadership, with a curriculum and a faculty that he helped to shape. Areas of research and training included methods of crop rotation and the development of alternative cash crops for farmers in areas heavily planted with cotton. This work helped under harsh conditions, including the devastation of the boll weevil beginning in 1892.

The development of new crops and diversification of crop uses helped stabilize the livelihoods of American Southerns, including many former enslaved people who had backgrounds similar to Carver’s own. Additionally, the education of African American students at Tuskegee contributed directly to the effort of economic mobilization among Black people.

In addition to formal education in a traditional classroom setting, Carver pioneered a mobile classroom to bring his lessons to farmers. The classroom was known as a “Jesup wagon,” after New York financier and Tuskegee donor Morris Ketchum Jesup.

Carver went on to become a prominent scientific expert and one of the most famous African Americans of his time. Carver achieved international fame in political and professional circles. President Theodore Roosevelt admired his work and sought his advice on agricultural matters affecting the United States. In 1916, Carver became a member of the British Royal Society of Arts—a rare honor for an American. He also advised Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi on matters of agriculture and nutrition.

The educator used his celebrity to promote scientific causes for the remainder of his life. He wrote a syndicated newspaper column and toured the nation, speaking on the importance of agricultural innovation and the achievements at Tuskegee.

Carver’s work at the helm of the Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural department included groundbreaking research on plant biology, much of which focused on the development of new uses for crops including peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, and pecans.

At the time, cotton production was on the decline in the South, and overproduction of a single crop had left many fields exhausted and barren. Carver suggested planting peanuts and soybeans, both of which could restore nitrogen to the soil, along with sweet potatoes. Although these crops grew well in southern climates, there was little demand. Carver’s inventions and research solved this problem and helped struggling sharecroppers in the South find solid ground.

Carver’s inventions include hundreds of products, including more than 300 from peanuts (milk, plastics, paints, dyes, cosmetics, medicinal oils, soap, ink, and wood stains), 118 from sweet potatoes (molasses, postage stamp glue, flour, vinegar, and synthetic rubber), and even a type of gasoline.

Did George Washington Carver Invent Peanut Butter?

Contrary to popular belief, Carver didn’t invent peanut butter . However, he did do a lot of research into new and alternate uses for peanuts.

He even became known as the “Peanut Man” after delivering a speech before the Peanut Growers Association in 1920 attesting to the wide potential of peanuts. The following year, Carver testified before Congress in support of a tariff on imported peanuts, which Congress passed in 1922.

Beyond science, Carver spoke about the possibilities for racial harmony in the United States. From 1923 to 1933, he toured white Southern colleges for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation.

However, Carver largely remained outside of the political sphere and declined to criticize prevailing social norms outright. Thus, the politics of accommodation, which Carver and Booker T. Washington championed, stood in stark contrast to activists who sought more radical change. Nonetheless, Carver’s scholarship and research contributed to improved quality of life for many farming families, making Carver an icon for Black and white Americans alike.

henry and edsel ford talking on either side with george washington carver and all of them smiling

The high-profile scientist developed many friendships throughout his life, including with notable figures like auto magnate Henry Ford . Interested in developing alternatives to gasoline, Ford was drawn to Carver’s work with soybeans and peanuts. They worked on numerous projects together, including a successful replacement for rubber they created in 1942 using the goldenrod plant. Ford even had an elevator installed in Carver’s dormitory so he could access his lab more easily during his later years.

Carver never married and isn’t known to have fathered any children. Often more focused on his work than his relationships, he rejected matchmaking attempts by his friends. Still, around age 40, he began a three-year relationship with Sarah Hunt , a teacher in the Tuskegee Institute night school program. Author Christina Vella suggests in her 2015 biography titled George Washington Carver: A Life that Carver was bisexual.

In 1935, as his health was declining, Carver took on an assistant named Austin W. Curtis. Curtis assisted Carver with his research and writings and even accompanied him while traveling. Curtis also performed some of his own research during this time. “He seems to me more like a son than a person who has just come to work for me,” Carver said of Curtis, who even began calling himself “Baby Carver.”

Carver died after falling down the stairs at his home on January 5, 1943, around age 78.

He was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee Institute grounds. Carver’s epitaph reads: “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.” A funeral service for Carver was held at Tuskegee’s chapel.

Before Carver’s death, the first museum bearing his named opened in 1941. The George Washington Carver Museum, located on the Tuskegee Institute campus in Alabama, displayed much of his life’s work, including scientific specimens and some of his paintings and drawings. Carver, who had lived a frugal life, helped fund the museum as did his friend and collaborator Henry Ford . The scientist also established the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee, with the aim of supporting future agricultural research.

In December 1947, a fire broke out in the George Washington Carver museum, destroying much of the collection. One of the surviving works by Carver is a painting of a yucca and a cactus that was displayed at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Since 1977, the National Park Service has owned and operated the museum.

a statue of a man with a mustache and a beard in the foreground, behind a group of people and children walk away from the statue on a sidewalk

A project to erect a national monument in Carver’s honor also began before his death. Then-Senator Harry S. Truman from Missouri sponsored a bill in favor of a monument during World War II . Supporters of the bill argued that the wartime expenditure was warranted because the monument would promote patriotic fervor among Black Americans and encourage them to enlist in the military. The bill passed unanimously in both houses.

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated $30,000 for the George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri, the site of the plantation where Carver lived as a child. It is the first national monument dedicated to an African American. The 210-acre complex includes a statue of Carver as well as a nature trail, museum, and cemetery.

Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative postal stamps in 1948 and 1998, as well as a commemorative half dollar coin minted between 1951 and 1954. Numerous schools bear his name, as do two United States military vessels. In 2005, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis opened a George Washington Carver Garden, which includes a life-size statue of the garden’s famous namesake.

These honors attest to Carver’s enduring legacy as an icon of African American achievement and of American ingenuity more broadly. Carver’s life has come to symbolize the transformative potential of education, even for those born into the most unfortunate and difficult of circumstances.

  • It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.
  • When our thoughts—which bring actions—are filled with hate against anyone, Negro or white, we are in a living hell. That is as real as hell will ever be.
  • 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.
  • When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.
  • Look about you. Take hold of the things that are here. Let them talk to you. You learn to talk to them.
  • Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater. Keep your thoughts free from hate, and you need have no fear from those who hate you.
  • While hate for our fellow man puts us in a living hell, holding good thoughts for them brings us an opposite state of living, one of happiness, success, peace. We are then in heaven.
  • Instead of growing morose and despondent over opportunities either real or imaginary that are shut from us, let us rejoice at the many unexplored fields in which there is unlimited fame and fortune to the successful explorer and upon which there is no color line; simply survival of the fittest.
  • Our creator is the same and never changes despite the names given Him by people here and in all parts of the world. Even if we gave Him no name at all, He would still be there, within us, waiting to give us good on this earth.
  • Nature study is agriculture, and agriculture is nature study—if properly taught.
  • More and more as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings are we able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us.
  • 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.
  • We get closer to God as we get more intimately and understandingly acquainted with the things he has created. I know of nothing more inspiring than that of making discoveries for one’s self.
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George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a prominent American scientist and inventor in the early 1900s. Carver developed hundreds of products using the peanut, sweet potatoes and soybeans. He also was a champion of crop rotation and agricultural education. Born into slavery, today he is an icon of American ingenuity and the transformative potential of education.

Carver was likely born in January or June of 1864. His exact birth date is unknown because he was born a slave on the farm of Moses Carver in Diamond, Missouri. Very little is known about George’s father, who may have been a field hand named Giles who was killed in a farming accident before George was born. George’s mother was named Mary; he had several sisters, and a brother named James.

When George was only a few weeks old, Confederate raiders invaded the farm, kidnapping George, his mother and sister. They were sold in Kentucky, and only George was found by an agent of Moses Carver and returned to Missouri. Carver and his wife, Susan, raised George and James and taught them to read.

James soon gave up the lessons, preferring to work in the fields with his foster father. George was not a strong child and was not able to work in the fields, so Susan taught the boy to help her in the kitchen garden and to make simple herbal medicines. George became fascinated by plants and was soon experimenting with natural pesticides, fungicides and soil conditioners. Local farmers began to call George “the plant doctor,” as he was able to tell them how to improve the health of their garden plants.

At his wife’s insistence, Moses found a school that would accept George as a student.  George walked the 10 miles several times a week to attend the School for African American Children in Neosho, Kan. When he was about 13 years old, he left the farm to move to Ft. Scott, Kan., but he later moved to Minneapolis, Kan., to attend high school. He earned much of his tuition by working in the kitchen of a local hotel. He concocted new recipes, which he entered in local baking contests. He graduated from Minneapolis High School in 1880 and set his sights on college.

College years

George first applied to Highland Presbyterian College in Kansas. The college was impressed by George’s application essay and granted him a full scholarship. When he arrived at the school, however, he was turned away — they hadn’t realized he was black. Over the next few years, George worked at a variety of jobs. He homesteaded a farm in Kansas, worked a ranch in New Mexico, and worked for the railroads, always saving money and looking for a college that would accept him.

In 1888, George enrolled as the first black student at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. He began studying art and piano, expecting to earn a teaching degree. Carver later said, “The kind of people at Simpson College made me believe I was a human being.”  Recognizing the unusual attention to detail in his paintings of plants and flowers his instructor, Etta Budd, encouraged him to apply to Iowa State Agricultural School (now Iowa State University) to study Botany.

At Iowa State, Carver was the first African American student to earn his Bachelor of Science in 1894. His professors were so impressed by his work on the fungal infections common to soybean plants that he was asked to remain as part of the faculty to work on his master’s degree (awarded in 1896). Working as director of the Iowa State Experimental Station, Carver discovered two types of fungi, which were subsequently named for him. Carver also began experiments in crop rotation, using soy plantings to replace nitrogen in depleted soil. Before long, Carver became well known as a leading agricultural scientist.

Tuskegee Institute

In April 1896, Carver received a letter from Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute, one of the first African American colleges in the United States. “I cannot offer you money, position or fame,” read this letter. “The first two you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work – hard work, the task of bringing people from degradation, poverty and waste to full manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in your head.” Washington’s offer was $125.00 per month (a substantial cut from Carver’s Iowa State salary) and the luxury of two rooms for living quarters (most Tuskegee faculty members had just one). It was an offer that George Carver accepted immediately and the place where he worked for the remainder of his life.

Carver was determined to use his knowledge to help poor farmers of the rural South. He began by introducing the idea of crop rotation. In the Tuskegee experimental fields, Carver settled on peanuts because it was a simple crop to grow and had excellent nitrogen fixating properties to improve soil depleted by growing cotton. He took his lessons to former slaves turned sharecroppers by inventing the Jessup Wagon, a horse-drawn classroom and laboratory for demonstrating soil chemistry. Farmers were ecstatic with the large cotton crops resulting from the cotton/peanut rotation, but were less enthusiastic about the huge surplus of peanuts that built up and began to rot in local storehouses.

George Washington Carver working in his laboratory.

Peanut products

Carver heard the complaints and retired to his laboratory for a solid week, during which he developed several new products that could be produced from peanuts. When he introduced these products to the public in a series of simple brochures, the market for peanuts skyrocketed. Today, Carver is credited with saving the agricultural economy of the rural South.

From his work at Tuskegee, Carver developed approximately 300 products made from peanuts; these included: flour, paste, insulation, paper, wall board, wood stains, soap, shaving cream and skin lotion. He experimented with medicines made from peanuts, which included antiseptics, laxatives and a treatment for goiter.

What about peanut butter?

Contrary to popular belief, while Carver developed a version of peanut butter, he did not invent it. The Incas developed a paste made out of ground peanuts as far back as 950 B.C. In the United States, according to the National Peanut Board , Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame, invented a version of peanut butter in 1895.

A St. Louis physician may have developed peanut butter as a protein substitute for people who had poor teeth and couldn't chew meat. Peanut butter was introduced at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

Aiding the war effort

During World War I, Carver was asked to assist Henry Ford in producing a peanut-based replacement for rubber. Also during the war, when dyes from Europe became difficult to obtain, he helped the American textile industry by developing more than 30 colors of dye from Alabama soils.

After the War, George added a "W" to his name to honor Booker T. Washington. Carver continued to experiment with peanut products and became interested in sweet potatoes, another nitrogen-fixing crop. Products he invented using sweet potatoes include: wood fillers, more than 73 dyes, rope, breakfast cereal, synthetic silk, shoe polish and molasses. He wrote several brochures on the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and the protein found in peanuts, including recipes he invented for use of his favorite plants. He even went to India to confer with Mahatma Gandhi on nutrition in developing nations.

In 1920, Carver delivered a speech to the new Peanut Growers Association of America. This organization was advocating that Congress pass a tariff law to protect the new American industry from imported crops. As a result of this speech, he testified before Congress in 1921 and the tariff was passed in 1922.  In 1923, Carver was named as Speaker for the United States Commission on Interracial Cooperation, a post he held until 1933. In 1935, he was named head of the Division of Plant Mycology and Disease Survey for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. By 1938, largely due to Carver’s influence, peanuts had grown to be a $200-million-per-year crop in the United States and were the chief agricultural product grown in the state of Alabama.

Carver's legacy

Carver died on Jan. 5, 1943. At his death, he left his life savings, more than $60,000, to found the George Washington Carver Institute for Agriculture at Tuskegee. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated funds to erect a monument at Diamond, Missouri, in his honor.

Commemorative postage stamps were issued in 1948 and again in 1998. A George Washington Carver half-dollar coin was minted between 1951 and 1954. There are two U.S. military vessels named in his honor.

There are also numerous scholarships and schools named for him. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Simpson College. Since his exact birth date is unknown, Congress has designated January 5 as George Washington Carver Recognition Day.

Carver only patented three of his inventions. In his words, “It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that measures success.” 

Carver quotes

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses."

"Fear of something is at the root of hate for others, and hate within will eventually destroy the hater."

"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."

"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."

"Where there is no vision, there is no hope."

"Nothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise."

"There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything."

"Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."  

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an essay about george washington carver

  • African American Heroes

George Washington Carver

How this scientist nurtured the land—and people’s minds

To George Washington Carver, peanuts were like paintbrushes: They were tools to express his imagination. Carver was a scientist and an inventor who found hundreds of uses for peanuts. He experimented with the legumes to make lotions, flour, soups, dyes, plastics, and gasoline—though not peanut butter!

Carver was born an enslaved person in the 1860s in Missouri . The exact date of his birth is unclear, but some historians believe it was around 1864, just before slavery was abolished in 1865. As a baby, George, his mother, and his sister were kidnapped from the man who enslaved them, Moses Carver. The kidnappers were slave raiders who planned to sell them. Moses Carver found George before he could be sold, but not his mother and sister. George never saw them again.

After slavery was abolished, George was raised by Moses Carver and his wife. He worked on their farm and in their garden, and became curious about plants, soils, and fertilizers. Neighbors called George “the plant doctor” because he knew how to nurse sick plants back to life. When he was about 13, he left to attend school and worked hard to get his education.

In 1894 he became the first Black person to graduate from Iowa State College, where he studied botany and fungal diseases, and later earned a master’s degree in agriculture. In 1896, Booker T. Washington offered him a teaching position at Tuskegee Institute, a college for African Americans.

There, Carver’s research with peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans flourished. He made agricultural advancements to help improve the lives of poor Black farmers like himself. With the help of his mobile classroom, the Jesup Wagon, he brought his lessons to former enslaved farmworkers and used showmanship to educate and entertain people about agriculture.

On January 5, 1943, Carver died after falling down some stairs. But his contributions to the field of agriculture would not be forgotten. Carver became the first Black scientist to be memorialized in a national monument, which was erected near his birthplace in Diamond Grove, Missouri.

Read this next!

African american pioneers of science, black history month, 1963 march on washington.

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The Carver Museum

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George Washington Carver

“The Primary idea in all my work was to help the farmer and fill the poor man’s empty dinner pail … My idea is to help the ‘man farthest down’; This is why I have made every process as simple as I could to put it within his reach.”

George W. Carver

George Washington Carver, Born a slave around 1864, became a famous artist, teacher, scientist, and humanitarian. From childhood, he developed a remarkable understanding of the natural world. Carver devoted his life to improving agriculture and the economic conditions of African-Americans in the south.

In 1896, Booker T Washington hired Carver to teach agriculture at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Over a 40-year career, Carver taught many generations of Tuskegee students. He emphasized increasing the independence of local farmers. He believed that a practical education would both make African-Americans and white farmers self-sufficient.

“It has always been the one ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of my people possible and to this end I have been preparing myself for these many years, feeling as I do that this line of education is the key” 

an essay about george washington carver

Struggle and Triumph: The Legacy of George Washington Carver  (NPS Movie 28min) 

The Early Years

an essay about george washington carver

“Day after day I spent in the woods… to collect my floral beauties… all sorts of vegetation seemed to thrive under my touch until I was styled the plant doctor, and plants from all over the county would be brought to me for treatment”

 George Washington Carver

Born as a slave on a small farm in Diamond Grove, Missouri; the best information suggest he was born in 1864, near the end of the civil war. To appreciate nature and to assist his learning, George began a lifelong habit of taking long walks to observe nature and collect specimens.

Religion also played an important role in Carver’s life. It broke down social and racial barriers and was the inspiration for his research and teachings. Yet, he did not allow his beliefs to conflict with his scientific knowledge.

“The Great Creator… permit(s) me to speak to Him through… the animals, mineral and vegetable kingdoms…”

The School Days of G.W. Carver

“If you love it enough, anything will talk to you”  

In the 1880s, local white schools did not allow African American students. Therefore, even though he had a great desire for knowledge, carver attended school whenever he could.

  In 1890, Carver went to Simpson College Iowa to study art. Although African Americans were not allowed to register eventually Carver was admitted to class and he proved to be a talented artist. He paid for his tuition by doing laundry, cooking, and selling his paintings. Carver switched to agriculture studies because he saw this as a better way to contribute to his people. Carver set out to find practical ways to benefit African American farmers.

That led to enrolling at Iowa Agricultural College at Ames, Iowa. His teachers commented that Carver was “a brilliant student and collector.” He worked at the colleges’ experimental station until graduating with a Master of Science degree. He became an expert in field collecting, plant breeding, and plant diseases.

an essay about george washington carver

An Artistic Side

an essay about george washington carver

“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world” 

When young, Carver loved to draw and paint pictures. Originally an art student in college, he switched to agricultural studies. Yet, Carver continued to paint all of his life and one of his paintings won Honorable Mention at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Carver also would crochet, knit, and do needlework. Always practical, this enabled him to produce useful items for his friends. He learned how to dye his own thread and fibers with local trees, plants, and clay.

Carver collected local clays and extracted their pigments to make paints good enough to attract commercial paint companies. These paints were displayed in his laboratory and at county fairs. He used these paints in his artwork. He also developed house paint colors to encourage local farmers to improve the appearance of their homes. He arranged different paints into pleasing combinations for ceiling, cornices, and walls. Many buildings on the Tuskegee campus and throughout the area used these paint combinations.

Teaching Others

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom”

Booker T. Washington hired the best and brightest African American professionals to Tuskegee Institute. In 1896, he hired a young teaching assistant, George Washington Carver. They both believed a practical education was the best path to self-sufficiency for African Americans. Hired to head its Agriculture Department, Carver taught for 47 years, developing the department into a strong research center.

Carver spread the self-sufficiency message at schools, farms, and county fairs. Carver believed students learned best by doing. He expected students to “figure it out for themselves and to do all the common things uncommonly well.” Carver developed close personal relationships with his students, farmers, and powerful philanthropist with his engaging and charming talks and publications.

Booker T. Washington realized that Carver was a “great teacher, a great lecturer, and a great inspirer of young men and old men.”

an essay about george washington carver

Useful Bulletins by G.W. Carver

an essay about george washington carver

“In painting, the artist attempt to produce pleasing effects through the proper blending of colors. The. Cook must blend her food in such a manner as to produce dishes which are attractive. Harmony in food is just as important as harmony in colors.”   

Carver was a talented and innovative cook. He developed recipes for tasty and nutritious dishes that used local and easily-grown crops. He trained farmers to successfully rotate and cultivate new crops and encouraged better nutrition in the South. Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama that used Tuskegee Institute bulletins. In these bulletins, Carver shared his recipes with farmers and housewives.

During his more than four decades at Tuskegee, Carver published 44 practical bulletins for farmers. His first bulletin in 1898 was on feeding acorns to farm animals. His final bulletin in 1943 was about the peanut. Other individual bulletins dealt with sweet potatoes, cotton, cowpeas, alfalfa, wild plums, tomatoes, ornamental plants, corn, poultry, dairying, hogs, preserving meats in hot weather, and nature study in schools.

His most popular bulletin, How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption ,  was first published in 1916 and was reprinted many times. Carver’s bulletins were not the first American agricultural bulletins devoted to peanuts, but his bulletins were more popular and widespread than others.

Agricultural School On Wheels

Booker T Washington directed his faculty to “take their teaching into the community”

To take lessons to the community, Carver designed a “movable school.” Students built a wagon named for Morris k Jesup, a New York financier who gave Carver the money to equip and operate the movable school. The first one was a horse-drawn agricultural wagon called a Jesup Wagon. Later, a truck still called a Jesup Wagon carried agricultural exhibits to county fairs and community gatherings.

By 1930, the “Booker T Washington Agricultural School on Wheels” carried a nurse, a home demonstration agent, an agricultural agent, and an architect to share the latest techniques with rural people. Eventually, educational films and lectures were presented at local churches and schools. These vehicles were the foundation of Tuskegee’s extension services. 

an essay about george washington carver

Research For Practical Applications

an essay about george washington carver

“Soil enrichment, natural fertilizer use, and crop rotation” were Carvers message to students and farmers

From 1915 to 1923, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated planting of cotton. Also, in the early 20th century, the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crops, and planters and farm workers suffered. Together with other agricultural experts, he urged farmers to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation: alternating cotton crops with the planting of sweet potatoes, peanuts, or soybeans. These alternative crops restored nitrogen to the soil and were also good for human consumption. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yield and gave farmers alternative cash crops. He also began research into crop products (chemurgy), and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency. In these years, he became one of the most well-known African Americans of his time.

Always looking for practical solutions from his wide-ranging research, Carver experimented with seeds, soils, soil enrichment, and feed grains. All of his efforts were geared to increasing the self-sufficiency of African American farmers. Ahead of his time, Carver used plant hybridization and recycling the use of locally available technology.

Carver’s research also looked to provide a replacement for commercial products, which were generally beyond the budget of the small one-horse farmer. George W. Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more for soybean, pecans, and sweet potatoes. These alternative products included adhesives, axel grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder, and wood stain.

an essay about george washington carver

Later Years

“Professor Carvers Advice” – George W Carver’s syndicated newspaper column

During the last two decades of his life, Carver seemed to enjoy his celebrity status. He was often on the road promoting the Tuskegee Institute, peanut, and racial harmony. Although he only published six agricultural bulletins in 1922, he published articles in peanut industry journals and wrote a syndicated newspaper column., “Professor Carver’s Advice.” Business leaders came to seek his help, and he often responded with free advice.

From 1933 to 1935, Carver worked to develop peanut oil massages to treat polio. Ultimately researchers found the massages, not the peanut oil, provided the benefits of maintaining some mobility in paralyzed limbs.

Carver had been frugal in his life, and in his 70s, he established a legacy by creating a museum on his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee to continue agricultural research. He donated $60,000 in his savings to create the foundation.

an essay about george washington carver

G.W. Carver Last Days

an essay about george washington carver

Inscribed on Mr. Carver’s tombstone are the words, “He could have added fortune to his fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world”

Upon returning home one day, Carver took a bad fall down a flight of stairs; he was found unconscious by a maid who took him to the hospital. Carver died January 5, 1943, at the age of 78 from complications (anemia) resulting from his fall. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute.

National Recognition and Naming

His work, which began for the sake of the poorest farmers, paved the way for a better life for the entire South and became an inspiration to all.

George Washington Carver was born a slave. Since his owner was Moses Carver and given the first name of George, Carver referred to himself as Carver’s George. This was more a property description than a name. When George left to attend school, he slept in a barn owned by the Watkins family. Of hearing how George referred to himself, Mrs. Watkins told him that was no proper name and declared that henceforth he would be George Carver.

Like the man, Carver High school did not start with that name. The Phoenix Union High School district opted to officially embrace segregation. In 1925, to accommodate African American high school students, a bond issue was passed to erect a new high school building. The new school was named the Phoenix Union Colored High school until 1940 when the school became the Phoenix Colored High School. On January 5, 1943, George Washington Carver Died and a few months later the school took on the name of this distinguished educator, scientist, and innovator. In 1953, educational segregation was ruled unconstitutional in Arizona and the school closed the following year.

Why are so many schools, parks, and other landmarks named in honor of Carver? Carver came to stand as a symbol of the intellectual achievements of African Americans. He brought about a significant advance in agricultural training in an era when agriculture was the largest single occupation of Americans. It is so often said that Carver saved Southern agriculture and helped feed the country. His great desire was simply to serve humanity; and his work, which began for the sake of the poorest black sharecroppers, pave the way for a better life for the entire South and became an inspiration to all.

an essay about george washington carver


George Washington Carver National Monument orientation video. (NPS Movie 5min)

Our Monument to George Washington Carver

an essay about george washington carver

“How far you go in life depends on you being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

The George Washington Carver statue greeting visitors to the Carver Museum is an exhibit all to itself. The sculpture, Mr. Ed Dwight, is an internationally acclaimed sculptor whose works grace various venues around the United States. Among his works are major African American historic figures.

The Carver Statue was unveiled on February 15, 2004, in a ceremony where Governor Janet Napolitano, among many others, addressed the crowd. The artist, Ed Dwight, spoke movingly before the unveiling. There were musical presentations and acknowledgments of many distinguished guests. Visitors who have viewed and photographed the statue have praised its artistry.

The Carver Statue is an artistic achievement and a worthy monument to its namesake. This exquisite work faithfully captures Carver’s delicate features and somehow reflects the genius and hope that defined the man.

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an essay about george washington carver

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  • George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol

George Washington Carver

National historic chemical landmark.

Designated January 27, 2005, at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Commemorative Booklet (PDF)

There is the popular image of George Washington Carver known to every schoolchild in the United States: he was born a slave, worked hard to gain an education and become a scientist, taught at Tuskegee Institute, and became the Peanut Man who discovered myriad uses for the lowly legume. Of course, the story is not that simple. Yet despite criticisms of Carver, there is no denying his role in developing new uses for Southern agricultural crops and teaching poor Southern farmers methods of soil improvement.

George Washington Carver's Early Life

The tuskegee institute, george washington carver and booker t. washington, chemurgy: the agricultural chemist, teacher and mentor, carver as symbol, research notes and further reading, landmark designation and acknowledgments, cite this page.

“George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol” commemorative booklet

George Washington Carver guarded his image carefully. While he did not write extensively about his youth, he did leave behind snippets describing his hard early years. These writings tell of a poor orphan who sought knowledge and hungered for scientific discovery but who was sickly and weak. Carver's early years were indeed difficult, but he seems to have exaggerated his frailty. For example, in an autobiographical sketch he wrote in 1897, just as he was beginning his teaching career at the Tuskegee Institute, Carver claimed that when he was a child his "body was very feble [sic] and it was a constant warfare between life and death to see who would gain the mastery." Two paragraphs later comes this sentence: "Day after day I spent in the woods alone in order to collect my floral beautis [sic] and put them in my little garden…" 3

In a 1922 sketch Carver wrote "I was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, about the close of the great Civil War, in a little one-roomed log shanty, on the home of Mr. Moses Carver, a German by birth and the owner of my mother, my father being the property of Mr. Grant, who owned the adjoining plantation." 4 Carver was never clear about when he was born, sometimes writing "about 1865," or "near the end of the war," or "just as freedom was declared." Since Missouri never seceded from the Union, and thus was not in rebellion when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, slavery continued in the state until the adoption of a new constitution on July 4, 1865. So Carver was most certainly born a slave, probably in the spring of 1865. 5

Carver's mother Mary was purchased as a 13-year-old girl in 1855 when Moses Carver decided that the need for help on his 240 acre farm trumped his antislavery views. The youngster knew neither of his parents since his father was killed in an accident before his birth and his mother disappeared under somewhat mysterious circumstances. When Carver was an infant his mother and he were kidnapped by one of the many bands of bushwhackers roaming Missouri during the turbulent Civil War era. A neighbor of Moses Carver was hired to find them, but succeeded only in recovering George, at the cost of one of Moses' finest horses. This meant that the young George would be raised by Moses and Susan Carver on their farm in Newton County, Missouri. Carver spent much of his boyhood assisting Susan with domestic chores, since his fragility apparently meant he could not help Moses with the farm chores. As a boy, Carver learned how to cook, mend, do laundry, and embroider. He also developed an interest in plants and helped Susan with the garden.

The youngster had a keen desire to learn, first by exploring the flora and fauna on Moses Carver's farm and by devouring Webster's Elementary Spelling Book, which "I almost knew… by heart." 6 At the age of 11, Carver left the farm and traveled 8 miles to the county seat of Neosho to attend a school for Black children. For the first time, Carver was in a predominantly African-American environment. Previously, he had lived on the Carvers' farm in relative isolation; he had grown used to solitude and had developed a love of nature. Moses and Susan Carver had served as surrogate parents. But while he continued to return to the farm on weekends, he never lived permanently with the Carvers again.

In Neosho Carver acquired a set of Black "parents," Mariah and Andrew Watkins. He lived in the Watkins' modest three-room house in exchange for helping with household tasks such as laundry. Mariah Watkins appears to have had great influence on her 11-year-old charge. She was a midwife and nurse who had wide knowledge of medicinal herbs, and she was deeply religious. Her influence and the rather eclectic introduction he had had to religion at a little church a mile from the Carver farm imparted in young George a deeply felt but unorthodox and nondenominational faith and a belief in divine revelation. He later testified to the number of revelations he had received, recalling the first as a child when his wish for a pocketknife was answered in a dream in which he had a vision of a knife sticking out a half-eaten watermelon. The next morning, the young Carver found his pocketknife. 7

Carver was eager to learn, but his first attempt at formal school proved disappointing since the schoolmaster at the Neosho knew little more than he did. Not satisfied with basic literacy, Carver decided to move west in the late 1870s, joining Black Americans disillusioned by the failure of Reconstruction in a vast migration to Kansas. For the next decade or so, Carver shuttled among numerous Midwestern communities, attending school fitfully, trying his luck at homesteading for a time, and surviving by using the domestic skills he had learned from Susan Carver and Mariah Watkins.

Sometime in the late 1880s Carver's wanderings brought him to Winterset, Iowa, where he met the Milhollands, a white couple who profoundly influenced his life and who he later credited with encouraging him to pursue higher education. The Milhollands urged Carver to enroll in nearby Simpson College. Carver was hesitant; his one previous attempt at higher education resulted in racial humiliation. He had applied to Highland College in Kansas and had been accepted, sight unseen. When he showed up to register at the all-white college, an official said his acceptance had been a mistake as the school had never admitted a Black person and had no intention to do so. Carver was reluctant to be rejected again.

But the Milhollands persisted and Carver eventually entered Simpson College, a small Methodist school in Indianola, Iowa, that admitted all qualified applicants, regardless of race or ethnicity. One Black person had attended the school before Carver, and there were three people of Asian descent still on campus. The school's Methodist affiliation fostered a deepening of Carver's faith and piety, and the school's open policy had a profound affect on his developing self-identity: "They made me believe I was a real human being," he later wrote. 8 While at Simpson, Carver studied grammar, arithmetic, etymology, voice, and piano. But his main interest was in art, especially painting, in which he had dabbled as a young man. His teacher Etta Budd was at first dubious of Carver's talents, and although she changed her perception of him as an artist, she was skeptical about the chances of a Black man earning a living as an artist. When she learned of his interest in plants, Budd encouraged Carver to study botany and pushed him to enroll at Iowa State, the agricultural college in Ames, where her father taught horticulture.

Budd's suggestion evidently posed a dilemma for Carver. He loved painting, but he shared her doubts about his ability to succeed as an artist, and he wondered whether as a painter he could make a contribution to the welfare of African Americans. Now in his mid-twenties, he had come to believe that he had divinely granted talents that should be used to improve the lot of Black Americans. This, he decided, he could do as a trained agriculturalist.

Besides, while he was giving up a career in art it was not as if he had decided to pursue something in which he had no interest. He had long studied plants and he already had developed skills in raising, cross-fertilizing, and grafting plants. He quickly made an impression on the faculty of Iowa State College, and his professors encouraged him to stay on as a graduate student after his senior year. Working with L.H. Pammel, a noted mycologist, Carver honed his talent at identifying and treating plant diseases.

Carver obtained his Master of Agriculture degree in 1896 and immediately received a number of offers. He was asked to join the faculty of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, a school for Black people in Mississippi. The faculty at Iowa State wanted him to stay and teach. But it was an offer from Booker T. Washington that proved most attractive. Washington had persuaded the trustees of Tuskegee Institute to establish an agricultural school. Since Washington wanted the faculty to remain all Black, and since Carver was the only African-American in the country with graduate training in "scientific agriculture," he was the logical choice. Carver was at first hesitant to go to Tuskegee, but Washington was persuasive and on April 12, 1896, Carver accepted, writing that "it has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of 'my people' possible and to this end I have been preparing myself these many years; feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people." 9

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Tuskegee's origins were inauspicious. The school was founded on July 4, 1881, in a one-room shanty near Butler Chapel AME Zion Church with Booker T. Washington as the first teacher and a student body of 30. 10 The actual credit for the school's origins goes to George Campbell, 11 a former slave owner, and Lewis Adams, a former slave who could read and write despite a lack of formal education and who appears to have been a tinsmith, shoemaker, and harness-maker. Adams was approached by W.F. Foster, who was running for re-election to the Alabama Senate and wanted the support of African-Americans in Macon County. Foster asked Adams what he wanted in exchange for delivering votes from Black people. Adams requested Foster's support for an educational institution, and so the Alabama legislature passed a bill to establish a Negro Normal School in Tuskegee.

The initial legislation authorized $2,000 for teachers' salaries but nothing for land, buildings, or equipment. But while the school may have been poor, it had a vision from the beginning. That vision grew out of Washington's experience at Hampton Institute, a Virginia school established during Reconstruction, and it found expression in three objectives. First, Tuskegee was to concentrate on training students to be teachers and educators. Second, many Tuskegee students were taught craft and occupational skills geared to helping them find jobs in the trades and agriculture. And finally, Washington wanted Tuskegee to be "a civilizing agent:" as such education took place not only in the classroom but also in the dining hall and dormitories. Washington insisted on proper behavior and absolute cleanliness on the "Tuskegee plantation." He kept careful watch over Tuskegee's buildings and grounds as well as the dormitory rooms and table manners of faculty and staff.

Under Washington's adroit leadership the school quickly grew, moving the year after its founding to 100 acres of nearby abandoned farmland, which became the nucleus of the present school. Washington won widespread support for the school in both the North and the South. He traveled widely and spoke frequently, and convinced many wealthy and prominent people to donate money. Among the school’s early benefactors were Andrew Carnegie, Collis Huntington, and John D. Rockefeller. Washington was a skilled fund raiser, served as adviser to presidents, and helped found schools throughout the South. But he was not without his critics. W.E.B. Du Bois, for example, took exception to Tuskegee's emphasis on vocational training, arguing that it tended to keep Blacks people in a subordinate role. Du Bois favored stressing traditional higher education.

Washington died in 1915 and the debate over educational philosophy diminished as Washington's successor, Robert Russa Moton moved Tuskegee into a more traditional, degree-granting program with the establishment of a College Department in 1927. In 1985 Tuskegee became a university and now has doctoral programs. Today, the school has 3,000 students on a campus that includes 5,000 acres and more than 70 buildings.

As the most prominent African-American of his day, Booker T. Washington had tremendous influence on southern race relations from 1895 to his death in 1915. Much of this stemmed from Washington's speech at the Atlanta Exposition of 1895 in which he advocated the "doctrine of accommodation." 12 The so-called Atlanta Compromise urged Black people to accommodate to the reality of white control and acquiesce in disfranchisement and social segregation. In return, white people should encourage and reward Black progress in economic and educational development. Washington told Black people "to cast down their buckets" where they were and climb the ladder of economic success through the old virtues of hard work and thrift. "The opportunity to earn a dollar," he said, "in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera-house." Washington asserted that Black people should for the foreseeable future eschew demanding political and social rights, saying those rights would follow economic independence. "No race," he stressed, "that has anything to contribute to the markets of the world is long in any degree ostracized."

Washington's racial philosophy mirrored the times. The abolitionist spirit of the Civil War and Reconstruction had resulted in Black people winning many civil and political rights. But even before the end of Reconstruction in 1877 those rights were being eroded. Over the next 20 years the North and the federal government effectively abandoned protection of the former slaves, leaving it to white southerners to work out racial relationships. The gradual erosion of political and social rights accelerated in the 1890s during the political turmoil of the Populist era, when attempts to forge an alliance of the dispossessed of both races foundered on the race-baiting appeals of the politically entrenched. For the next half-century all white people, regardless of socio-economic status, tacitly agreed to submerge class differences in the interest of racial separation.

George Washington Carver readily accepted Washington's racial philosophy and his program of interracial cooperation in the economic sphere. Carver's own success demonstrated to him the importance of economic development in raising the economic status of former slaves. And since the vast preponderance of southern Black people remained tied to the land, Carver fervently believed that his training as an agricultural scientist had prepared him for Tuskegee.

But in reality Carver was not prepared for Tuskegee. He had spent most of his life living and working around white people; now he found himself in a community of Black people where his dark skin made him suspect among the generally lighter-skinned faculty and students. He came from the North to teach "scientific agriculture" to southern farmers who believed they already knew how to farm. Many on the faculty resented Carver's exorbitant salary of $1,000 a year plus virtually all expenses for a man who did not have a family. At the time, the average salary for a Tuskegee faculty member was less than $400 a year. Some resented Carver's demand, which was met, to have two dormitory rooms, one for him and one for his plant specimens when other unmarried faculty lived two to a room.

Carver expected that as director of the newly created Agricultural Experimental Station he would devote most of his time to research. Washington was not hostile to research, but he also expected Carver to manage the school's two farms, teach a full regimen of classes, serve on numerous committees (a chore Carver particularly disliked), and sit on the institute's executive council as well as insure that the schools water closets and other sanitary facilities functioned properly. Above all, Washington and Carver were very different men who were almost fated to clash. Washington was a pragmatist always in a hurry to get things done; Carver was a dreamer who only wanted freedom to tinker in his laboratory, experiment with plants, or if the spirit moved him, pick up a brush and paint. In addition, the well-organized Washington resented the disorganized, administratively sloppy, and shabbily dressed Carver.

To make matters worse, Carver had a running feud with George Bridgeforth, a subordinate who was not reticent in campaigning for Carver's position. Bridgeforth openly criticized Carver to Washington and the latter appeared to often take Bridgeforth's side and repeated his criticisms to Carver, who found the dispute distasteful. But Carver often refused to accept Washington's suggestions, which the principal admitted were just "a polite way of giving orders." 13 The dispute ran on for years, and Washington careened from trying to satisfy Carver to issuing him ultimatums.

Part of the problem stemmed from Carver's insistence on having a laboratory for his exclusive use and to be relieved of his teaching duties. Washington's response to this was clear: "We are all here," he said, "to help the students, to instruct them, and there is no justification for the presence of any teacher here except as that teacher is to serve the students." 14 Washington tried to placate Carver because he genuinely recognized Carver's "great ability in original research," but he refused to allow the scientist to completely stop teaching. 15 Washington's successor, Robert Russa Moton, who took over in 1915, was more accommodating, relieving Carver of all teaching except summer school.

George Washington Carver believed he had a God-given mission to use his training as an agricultural chemist to help improve the lot of poor Black and white Southern farmers. He did this by teaching farmers about fertilization and crop rotation and by developing hundreds of new products from common agricultural products. In addition to his work as a scientist, Carver served the cause of science, in the words of his chief biographer, "magnificently as an interpreter and humanizer, providing an essential link between researchers and laymen and enabling many to reap the benefits of others' work by helping them to apply it to their own circumstances." 16

Late in Carver's life he became a devotee of the chemurgy ("chem" from chemistry; urgy, Greek for work) movement. The term was used to describe scientists, agriculturalists, and industrialists who were determined to put chemistry to work to find nonfood uses for agricultural surpluses. One of the prime backers of chemurgy was Henry Ford, who Carver variously addressed in letters as "My beloved friend" and "The greatest of all my inspiring friends." 17 Ford visited Tuskegee in 1938, and Carver was Ford's guest in 1940 at the automaker's Georgia estate.

But Carver did not need the imprimatur of Henry Ford or the formal title of a movement to explain his role as a scientist, for in truth Carver dedicated his entire scientific work to the goals later advocated by the chemurgy movement. Carver's laboratory at Tuskegee, almost from the beginning of his tenure at the Institute, developed hundreds of new uses for agricultural products. The need for this resulted in part from Carver's initial success in increasing agricultural productivity on the cotton-depleted, tired, old soils of the South. On the 10-acre experimental station at Tuskegee Carver was able, by using good cultivation practices and rotating soil-enriching plants like cowpeas and beans, to dramatically increase soil productivity.

For example, on a one-half acre plot Carver increased the yield of sweet potatoes in a few years from 40 bushels to 266 bushels. He showed that when he took land on which cotton had been planted, a crop which robs soil of nutrients, and planted nitrogen-fixing legumes, like peas and beans, he was able to increase yields significantly when the land reverted to cotton a few years later. Carver accomplished this without the use of commercial fertilizers, an expense beyond the reach of most poor Southern farmers, many of whom were sharecroppers or tenant farmers. Carver was aware that "every operation" he performed had to be within the reach of a "poor tenant farmer with a one-horse equipment." 18

Carver's successes with planting legumes of course led to his encouraging Southern farmers to turn to these crops. This became even more urgent with the devastation in the early 20th century of the cotton crop due to the boll weevil. But if Southern farmers were to be convinced to grow crops other than cotton (or other traditional staples such as tobacco and rice), there had to be a market for peas, sweet potatoes, soybeans, and the like. This need pushed Carver into the laboratory to work on finding alternative uses for these products. From sweet potatoes, for example, came a raft of new products: flours, starches, sugar, a faux coconut, vinegar, synthetic ginger, and chocolate as well as non-foods such as stains, dyes, paints, and writing ink.

But it was the lowly peanut which made Carver famous. The peanut attracted his attention because it is easy to cultivate, it enriches the soil, and it is a ready source of protein, an especially important consideration since poor Black farmers could not afford meat. From the peanut Carver developed a host of new products: most notably milk, but also butter, meal, Worcestershire sauce, various punches, cooking oils, salad oil, milk, and medicines as well as cosmetics such as hand lotions, face creams, and powder. All together, he discovered more than 300 food, industrial, and commercial products from the peanut. Carver's research on foodstuffs derived not only from his belief that he had to find new uses for agricultural products to encourage farmers to grow them, but also because he saw many of these new products as nutritious additions to the diet of poor southerners. Similarly, he experimented with paints that could be made from Alabama clay since he knew that poor farmers could not afford commercial applications.

But inventing new products and demonstrating how to increase yields were only part of Carver's accomplishments. Intrinsic to his image of himself as a scientist - and as someone destined to assist impoverished blacks to improve their lot - was his role as a disseminator and an interpreter of scientific information. This was a role Carver assumed early on in his tenure at Tuskegee. One example of this was the Jessup wagon which grew out of the need to reach rural dwellers. Teaching modern farming practices and demonstrating new seeds to Black belt farmers proved difficult, despite the best efforts of the Agricultural Extension Station and various conferences, fairs, and the like sponsored by Tuskegee.

Out of this frustration came the idea that if farmers would not or could not come to a school, then the school should go to them. Already, agriculturalists in Europe were experimenting with movable schools. In 1904 Iowa State organized "Seed Corn Gospel Trains," which carried lecturers and demonstration materials to farmers gathered at railroad stations. That same year Washington suggested that Carver outfit a wagon as a "traveling agricultural school." 19 Carver called the idea "most excellent" and funding to equip and operate such a wagon was obtained from New York banker and philanthropist Morris K. Jessup, hence the name of the wagon, and from the John F. Slater Fund.

Tuskegee's traveling school opened for business on May 24, 1906. Carver never operated the wagon, but he drafted plans for it, selected the equipment, drew charts demonstrating farm operations, and suggested lectures on self-sufficient farming, fertilization, and the best crops to grow in various soils. The wagon was so successful that within a few months it was made part of the outreach program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture with Thomas Campbell, who had been a Tuskegee student, as operator under Carver's tutelage. The Jessup wagon greatly widened Tuskegee's reach, as Campbell's travels took him farther and farther away from the Institute. Rather than lecture farmers about proper agricultural techniques, Campbell would select a typical farm in a particular region, show the owner proper procedures for increasing yields, and guarantee the owner against losses. The success of these "cooperators" in increasing production then spurred their neighbors to adopt scientific farming methods.

Carver reached an even wider audience through the bulletins he issued as director of the Agricultural Experiment Station at Tuskegee. Publishing bulletins was one of the major functions of experimental stations; the bulletins generally reported the findings of station experiments and were usually aimed at agricultural researchers, not farmers. Carver intended his bulletins to bridge that gap; as such, he reported on the results of his experiments, but he also wanted the publications to serve as manuals for farmers. Initially, Carver set a goal of issuing four bulletins a year. He averaged less than half of that, and the number diminished over time, mostly because Carver's experimental station was a one-man operation, and that one man had many other responsibilities. In addition, the station was continually starved for funding.

Washington constantly pressed Carver to issue more bulletins, but in truth the scientist was laboring against impossible odds. 20 He did all the research himself and prepared the manuscripts, including writing, editing, and typing them. He had no stenographer at the beginning and never had a printing press. So, Carver had to have his bulletins printed at the school's printing office, which frequently had no money. Since most of the bulletins were provided free of charge, Carver often had to beg for money to pay production costs.

Still, between 1898 and 1943, the year of his death, Carver issued 44 bulletins, ranging from Experiments with Sweet Potatoes to How to Build up Worn Out Soils to Fertilizer Experiments in Cotton . Some were decidedly practical: How to Cook Peas and Three Delicious Meals Every Day for the Farmer are examples. Virtually all of the bulletins exhibited what Carver called his threefold approach: to supply simple cultivation information for farmers, a little science for teachers, and some recipes for housewives. Carver believed this approach spurred demand; in fact, demand for the bulletins was great, quickly exhausting the supply of two to five thousand copies that were usually printed. Success bred further problems since getting money for reprints was even harder than for the first printing.

But the widest audience Carver reached came in the forum that cemented his fame as "The Peanut Man": his appearance in 1921 before the House Ways and Means Committee as an expert witness on behalf of the peanut industry, which was seeking tariff protection. Carver's testimony did not begin well. He showed up in his usual manner: clean but rather shabbily dressed. Then he fumbled around as he laid out samples of peanut products on the table. He quickly used up his allotted 10 minutes, but his time was repeatedly extended, as he showed and described the vast number of items that could be made from peanuts. He so captivated committee members that he received a standing ovation. More importantly, he convinced the committee that peanuts should be protected, helping to secure a high protective tariff for them. As his biographer wrote, "In less than an hour Carver had won a tariff for the peanut industry and national fame for himself." 21

Carver was so enamored with the potential powers of the peanut that he became convinced the legume had miraculous curative powers. Carver had been introduced to the belief that natural products could cure a variety of diseases as a child while living with Mariah Watkins in Neosho, Missouri. Linked to his belief in the wonders of natural products and herbal remedies was his conviction that massages were beneficial, a belief which stemmed from his days as masseur to the Iowa State football team.

At Tuskegee Carver treated his friends to massages with peanut oil. By the 1930s he became convinced peanut oil could ameliorate the devastating paralysis that accompanied polio. He was certain that peanut oil applied during a massage not only saturated the skin and flesh but actually entered the blood stream and helped restore life to limbs withered by the effects of polio. In 1933 the Associated Press carried a story about Carver's alleged successes with peanut oil massages and, for a time, Tuskegee began to look like Lourdes as paralyzed pilgrims flocked to the Alabama school.

It is not clear just how effective Carver's massages were in treating polio. It is true that many of those treated testified that he had helped them regain at least some use of paralyzed limbs. Certainly, his claims about peanut oil massages do suggest a bit of the charlatan, but it should be pointed out that he never took payment for his treatments and that polio was a crippling disease that each summer seemed to affect more and more people. The fear of polio did not end until the development of an effective vaccine in the 1950s.

Booker T. Washington, who was frequently at odds with Carver, never wavered in his belief that Carver's "great forte is in teaching and lecturing. There are few people anywhere who have greater ability to inspire and instruct as a teacher..." 22 Carver was not a great speaker. He had in fact a rather high-pitched voice. But he was a showman who frequently used dramatic examples and humor to make his points. Most importantly, his success as a teacher stemmed from his obvious enthusiasm for his subject, which was an appreciation of the wonders of nature. It did not matter whether the formal topic was chemistry, botany, or agriculture, for all of these subjects meant studying how to use nature for the benefit of man. Learning was the process of a student moving from what he already knew to the "nearest related unknown" while education was the process of "understanding relationships." 23

Although Carver gave up the formal classroom after 1915, he did not ignore Tuskegee's students. Carver's contacts with students, even in the early years, were never limited to the classroom. He took seriously Tuskegee's goal of educating the total person, and he understood that since many of the first students were just a generation or two removed from slavery, they needed to be taught more than chemistry or agriculture: they needed instruction in how to survive in a competitive as well as hostile world.

Carver emphasized the teacher's responsibility to be concerned with his students both in and out of the classroom. Since he lived in a dormitory, he was accessible to all students, regardless of their field of study. Many students, particularly those who suffered most from poverty and discrimination, flocked to him; they became "his boys." He recognized that white racism often proved an impenetrable obstacle to the success of his students, but he was an optimist and a dreamer and he tried to instill in them his abiding faith in a just universe. This was partly why he taught a Sunday evening Bible class, which was well-attended during the 30 years of Carver's involvement. The class was a labor of love for Carver, an intensely religious man who viewed the Creator as good and saw evil as the result of man's inability to grasp the good. These religious beliefs informed Carver's outlook on white racism.

"Carver's boys" initially were drawn from the Tuskegee student body. But over the years, as his fame and interests widened, Carver came into contact with young men from all over the South, some of whom were white and all of whom frequently sought his advice. Many of these contacts came through speeches Carver gave to the Atlanta-based Commission in Interracial Cooperation and the Young Men's Christian Association. Both groups were committed to furthering interracial harmony, and in his speeches Carver would scan the audience for faces that seemed interested in what he was saying. It was in this way that Carver met Jim Hardwick, a descendant of slave owners. Hardwick had been captain of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute football team and was now looking for a way to be of Christian service. Hardwick became one of Carver's boys and the two had a long correspondence, with many of the letters from Carver addressed to "My Beloved Boy."

Late in his life, Carver wrote a letter to Dana Johnson, another of Carver's protégés, as was his brother Cecil, in which he tried to express how much these young men meant to him. "Not a day passes," Carver stated, "that I do not think of my boys and often wonder just what they are doing." He continued, "It is such an inspiration to me to watch the progress that you and your brother have, and are yet, making, and the future that will doubtless be yours as young aspiring American citizens who must figure into the building up of this great American commonwealth..." 24 For Carver, who never married and had no children, the friendship, love, and dependence of these young men meant as much to him as his advice meant to them.

George Washington Carver: inventor, scientist, agriculturalist, teacher, mentor, and above all symbol. Carver was all of the above at various times; as such, he often eludes easy categorization. Certainly, he was a scientist, but not one who always used the most rigorous methods. He was very successful as a scientist, inventor, and agriculturalist, but he did not measure success by the usual methods. He said: "It is not the style of clothes one wears, neither the kind of automobiles one drives, nor the amount of money one has in the bank that counts. These mean nothing. It is simple service that measures success." 25 Measured by this standard, Carver was indeed a success.

Carver's ability to develop new products, especially from the peanut, cemented his fame, and that fame spread after his House testimony and his quasi-adoption as the peanut industry's spokesman. In the 1920s a number of newspapers in the South touted his accomplishments and saw him as an example of the New South, a movement that preached a degree of interracial harmony based on economic opportunity for Black people. Carver's multifaceted role as an example of what Black people could achieve by dint of hard work as well as the use of his success by others to promote racial harmony must be remembered in any assessment of him.

Carver's stature as a symbol had become fixed by his later years. Various groups adopted him as an emblem for whatever cause they represented. It is no wonder that the country was quick to make his birthplace in Diamond Grove, Missouri, a national monument, the first such honor bestowed on an African-American.

Research Notes

  • Cited in Gary Kremer, ed., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 1987), p. 1.
  • Cited in Gary Kremer, ed., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 1987), p. 3.
  • George Washington Carver, 1897 or thereabouts, George Washington Carver Papers, Tuskegee Institute Archives, reel 1.
  • Carver, A Brief Sketch of My Life, ibid.
  • Linda McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist & Symbol (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), pp. 9-10.
  • Carver, A Brief Sketch, Carver Papers, reel 1.
  • McMurry, Carver, p. 18; Rackham Holt, George Washington Carver: An American Biography (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1946), p. 19.
  • Quoted in McMurry, Carver, p. 28.
  • Carver to Booker T. Washington, April 12, 1896, Booker T. Washington Papers (online version) vol. 4; p. 159.
  • Washington describes the school's founding and early years in his autobiographical writings, Up From Slavery and The Story of My Life and Work, both of which can be found in the online version of the Booker T. Washington Papers, vol.1.
  • Campbell provided funds frequently in the early years and was initial president of the Board of Trustees. Washington, Up From Slavery, Washington Papers, vol. 1, p. 279.
  • For the text of Washington's Atlanta Compromise speech, see Booker T. Washington Papers (online version) vol. 3, pp. 583-87.
  • Linda McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist & Symbol (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 69. This discussion of the relationship between Carver and Washington leans heavily on McMurry's analysis.
  • Washington to Carver, February 26, 1911, Washington Papers, vol. 10, p. 595.
  • Ibid., p. 594.
  • Linda McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist & Symbol (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 306.
  • Gary Kremer, ed., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 1987), pp. 159, 161.
  • George Washington Carver, How to Build Up Worn Out Soils, Tuskegee Experiment Station, Bulletin Six (Tuskegee, 1905), p. 4.
  • McMurry, Carver, pp. 125-27.
  • Ibid, p.78. Washington worried that the Tuskegee Agricultural Station would be unfavorably compared with other stations, particularly the one at Auburn University. The station at Auburn was more productive, but the comparison was not fair. By 1913 the Auburn station had thirteen employees and the Alabama State Legislature, which controlled the purse strings of the stations, awarded the lion's share of funds to Auburn. Ibid. Note that the funds to operate the Agricultural Stations came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the USDA gave the money in a block to state legislatures which in turn allocated funds to stations within a state. Given the racial politics of the early 20th century, it was no surprise that most of the money went to Auburn University, not the Tuskegee Institute.
  • McMurry, Carver, p. 174.
  • Washington to Carver, February 26, 1911, Booker T. Washington Papers (online version), vol. 10, p. 594.
  • Linda McMurry, George Washington Carver: Scientist & Symbol (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 97
  • Carver to Dana Johnson, February 14, 1942, in Gary Kremer, ed., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 1987), p. 191.
  • Quoted in Gary Kremer, ed., George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 1987), p. 17.

Further Reading

  • Legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver (Tuskegee University)

Landmark Designation

The American Chemical Society dedicated the agricultural chemistry of George Washington Carver a National Historic Chemical Landmark on January 27, 2005. The plaque commemorating the event reads:

George Washington Carver achieved international fame as a scientist and innovator who applied novel chemical insights to agriculture. Born a slave, Carver joined the faculty of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in 1896 where he developed new products from peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other crops and conducted experiments in crop rotation and the restoration of soil fertility. Through his research, Carver urged southern farmers to rotate cotton with soil-enhancing crops such as soybeans and peanuts. To improve the lot of poor southern farmers, Carver produced a series of free, easily understood bulletins that included information on crops and cultivation techniques.


Adapted for the internet from “George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol,” produced by the National Historic Chemical Landmarks program of the American Chemical Society in 2005.

American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol. (accessed Month Day, Year).

Back to National Historic Chemical Landmarks Main Page .

Learn more: About the Landmarks Program .

Take action: Nominate a Landmark and Contact the NHCL Coordinator .

an essay about george washington carver

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In Search of George Washington Carver’s True Legacy

The famed agriculturalist deserves to be known for much more than peanuts

Rachel Kaufman

Contributing writer

George Washington Carver

If the name George Washington Carver conjures up any spark of recognition, it’s probably associated with peanuts. That isn’t an unfair connection—he did earn the nickname “the peanut man” for his work with the legume—but it’s one that doesn’t give credit to the rest of Carver’s pioneering, fascinating work.

“People, when they think of Carver, they think of his science—or they think he invented peanuts,” says Curtis Gregory, a park ranger at the George Washington Carver National Monument at Carver’s birthplace in Diamond, Missouri. “There’s so much more to the man.”

Mark Hersey, a history professor at Mississippi State University and author of an environmental biography of Carver, says that “[Carver] became famous for things he probably shouldn’t have been famous for, and that fame obscured the reasons we should remember him.” In Hersey’s view, the contributions Carver made to the environmental movement, including his ahead-of-the-times ideas about self-sufficiency and sustainability, are far more important than the “cook-stove chemistry” he engaged in.

Nonetheless, Carver became ludicrously famous for his peanut work—possibly the most famous black man in America for a while. ­Upon his death in 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked on his passing: “The world of science has lost one of its most eminent figures,” he said.

Carver was born enslaved in western rural Missouri, orphaned as an infant and freed shortly after the Civil War. Sometime in his 20s, Carver moved to Iowa where a white couple he met encouraged him to pursue higher education. Carver’s education before this had been largely patchy and self-taught; at Simpson College in central Iowa, he studied art until a teacher encouraged him to enroll at Iowa State Agricultural College to study botany. There, he became the school’s first African-American student.

Founded in 1858, Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) was the country’s first land-grant university, a group of schools with a mission to teach not just the liberal arts but the applied sciences, too, including agriculture. There, students studied soils, entomology, analytical and agricultural chemistry, practical agriculture, landscape gardening and rural architecture, in addition to more basic subjects like algebra, bookkeeping, geography and psychology.

Upon graduation from Iowa State in 1896, Carver was bombarded with offers to teach. The most attractive was that from Booker T. Washington, the first leader of the Tuskegee Institute, which was opening an agricultural school. As the first black man in the U.S. to receive graduate training in modern agricultural methods, Carver was the logical choice for the role. He accepted, writing that “it has always been the one great ideal of my life to be of the greatest good to the greatest number of ‘my people’ possible and to this end I have been preparing myself these many years; feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people.”

As Carver rode the train to Alabama, however, his heart sank. In a 1941 radio broadcast, he recalled: “My train left the golden wheat fields and the tall green corn of Iowa for the acres of cotton, nothing but cotton, ... ... The scraggly cotton grew close up to the cabin doors; a few lonesome collards, the only sign of vegetables; stunted cattle, boney mules; fields and hill sides cracked and scarred with gullies and deep ruts ... Not much evidence of scientific farming anywhere. Everything looked hungry: the land, the cotton, the cattle, and the people.”

What Carver understood was that cotton, while lucrative, did nothing to replenish the soil. It’s not the most demanding crop, but its shallow roots, and the practice of monocropping, mean that soil erodes faster from a cotton field than if the earth was left alone. (Carver later would describe eroded gullies on the Tuskeegee campus that were deep enough for a person to stand inside.)

What he failed to understand, however, were the political and social forces he would be up against.

“He’s enormously arrogant when he comes down,” Hersey says. “It’s an innocent arrogance, if anything.” At Tuskegee, Carver published and distributed bulletins suggesting farmers buy a second horse to run a two-horse plow, which could till soil deeper, and described commercial fertilizers “as if people have never heard of them.” Most of the poor sharecropping black farmers had heard of fertilizer, but couldn’t scrape together the money to buy any, let alone a second horse.

“And then it dawns on him,” says Hersey. In turn-of-the-century Alabama, black farmers lived a precarious existence, ever-threatened by unevenly enforced laws that disproportionately harmed blacks. After the Civil War, Southern landowners “allowed” poor farmers, mostly blacks, to work their land in exchange for a fee or a cut of the crop. The system was precarious—one bad year could push a farmer into ruinous debt—and unfair: One historian called it “a system of near slavery without legal sanctions.” Near Tuskegee, one tenant farmer was arrested “for chopping wood too close to the property line,” Hersey says. While the farmer remained in jail, whites put up his farm for sale. When tenants didn’t control their land and could be evicted at any time—or kicked off their land on trumped-up charges—they had little incentive to improve the soil.

George Washington Carver

Still, Carver got to work. He worked tirelessly—the Carver Monument says from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. some days—on improving crop yields and encouraging farmers to diversify. That, too, was tough: Financially lucrative cotton, Hersey says, was seen as the only crop that could get tenants out of debt. Carver encouraged farmers to grow, or at the very least forage, their own vegetables and proteins so they would spend less money on food. Later, he developed and implemented the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, a school-on-wheels that brought agricultural equipment and demonstration materials to rural farmers unable to travel. The wagon reached 2,000 people a month in its first summer of operations, in 1906.

“What Carver comes to see,” Hersey says, was that “altering [black sharecroppers’] interactions with the natural world could undermine the very pillars of Jim Crow.” Hersey argues that black Southerners viewed their lives under Jim Crow through an environmental lens. “If we want to understand their day to day lives, it’s not separate drinking fountains, it’s ‘How do I make a living on this soil, under these circumstances, where I’m not protected’“ by the institutions that are supposed to protect its citizens? Carver encouraged farmers to look to the land for what they needed, rather than going into debt buying fertilizer (and paint, and soap, and other necessities—and food). Instead of buying the fertilizer that “scientific agriculture” told them to buy, farmers should compost. In lieu of buying paint, they should make it themselves from clay and soybeans.

“He gave black farmers a means of staying on the land. We all couldn’t move north to Chicago and New York,” Michael Twitty, a culinary historian, told the Chicago Tribune .

And that’s where the peanuts come in. Peanuts could be grown in the same fields as cotton, because their productive times of year were different. While some plants need to be fertilized with nitrogen, peanuts can produce their own, thanks to a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that live on their roots. That special trait meant they could restore nutrients to depleted soil, and they were “an enormously rich food source,” high in protein and more nutritious than the “3M--meat, meal and molasses” diet that most poor farmers subsisted on.

Carver encouraged farmers to grow peanuts, but then he had to encourage them to do something with those peanuts, hence his famous “ 300 uses for peanuts .” Carver’s peanut work led him to create peanut bread, peanut cookies, peanut sausage, peanut ice cream, and even peanut coffee. He patented a peanut-butter-based face cream, and created peanut-based shampoo, dyes and paints, and even the frightening-sounding “peanut nitroglycerine.”

However, this number may be a little inflated. Of the roughly 300 uses for the peanut (the Carver Museum at Tuskegee gives 287) Carver detailed, “many…were clearly not original,” such as a recipe for salted peanuts, historian Barry Mackintosh wrote in American Heritage in 1977 on the occasion of the election of peanut-farmer Jimmy Carter as president. Others he may have gotten from contemporary cookbooks or magazines; at the beginning of “ How To Grow The Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It For Human Consumption “ Carver “gratefully acknowledge[s] assistance” from more than 20 sources, including Good Housekeeping , The Montgomery Advertiser , Wallace ’s Farmer and a number of other magazines, newspapers and cookbooks.

Yet Carver had no illusions about his work. He wasn’t trying to create “the best” products—or even wholly original ones, as few of his creations were—but to disseminate information and recipes that could be made by poor farmers with few tools or resources.

He cared about helping what he called “the furthest man down,” says Gregory.

Carver’s student John Sutton, who worked with him in his lab around 1919, recalled:

When I could not find the “real” scientist in him, I became hurt.... I should have known better since time and again he made it clear to me that he was primarily an artist who created good ... out of natural things. He knew that he was not “a real chemist” so-called engaged in even applied chemical research. He used to say to me jokingly, “You and I are ‘cook-stove chemists’ but we dare not admit it, because it would damage the publicity that Dr. Moton [Booker T. Washington’s successor] and his assistants send out in press releases about me and my research, for his money-raising campaigns.”

Carver’s ubiquitous association with peanuts is in many ways due to the explosive testimony he delivered before Congress in favor of a peanut tariff. In 1921, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee asked Carver to testify on a proposed tariff on imported peanuts. Expecting an uneducated backwoodsman, the committee was blown away by the soft-spoken scientist.

“He’s had thousands of public speaking appearances at this point,” Hersey says. “He can handle it all. [Congress] is making watermelon jokes, but they’re not saying anything he hasn’t already heard at the Georgia State Fair.” The tariff on imported peanuts stuck, and Carver became, in Hersey’s words, “a rockstar.”

In Search of George Washington Carver’s True Legacy

Late in his life, a visitor asked Carver if he believed his peanut work was his greatest work. “No,” he replied, “but it has been featured more than my other work.”

So what was his work? Hersey argues it was a way of thinking holistically about the environment, and an understanding, well before it had reached mainstream thought, of the interconnectedness between the health of the land and the health of the people who lived on it. “His campaign is to open your eyes to the world around you,” Hersey says, to understand, in Carver’s phrase, “the mutual dependency of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms.” But that doesn’t make for good soundbites, even today.

It’s not as catchy as 300 uses for peanuts, but years before the environmental movement took hold, Twitty told the Tribune , “Carver knew the value of working the land, of being with the land, of working with each other.”

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George Washington Carver, His Life and Research Essay (Biography)

The personality of the brilliant African American chemist and botanist George Washington Carver seems to be reduced nowadays to “the man who worked with peanuts”. This remarkable person has made a revolution in farming, enlightened the Tuskegee Institute, and has reached the fame that was hard to achieve being an African American in the 19-20 th century US. For historians and human right activists he has served as a living rebuttal of ethnocentric and racist theories. For farmers, he was the savior of Southern agriculture. For religious people, he was an epitome of faith and humility. What is left of this person is “the Peanut Man” image and a monument in Diamond, Missouri, where George Washington Carter was born. Mistakenly believed to have invented peanut butter – which he has not – George Washington Carver is a complex and ambiguous personality, which seems to be somewhat mistreated by history and public recognition.

George Washington Carver comes from Diamond Grove, Missouri. The exact date of his birth is unknown, but it is estimated to be in the mid-1860s. Carver had never excelled in health, which is why, coming from a slave family, he has never been sent to work in the fields. Instead, the boy did gardening. He also developed a passion for watching Nature in its ways and was very talented with plants (Kremer 3-4). At the age of 12, George Washington Carver stepped out on the platform in Iowa on his geas to get educated. The Simpson College has shown the young man the beauty of art, in which he also proved to be gifted. Nevertheless, having set and reset his priorities, Carter chose the path of agriculture and went to the Iowa State University in the beginning of 1890s. He turned out to be the first African American youth to ever make an attempt to enter the Iowa State. Also, he was the first ever African American to work at an educational institution. He was invited to teach at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, in 1886. Working as a professor, George Washington Carver got the chance to begin his research (Hersey 14-16).

Having arrived at Tuskegee, however, George Washington Carver had to face the shortage of funds, which forced him to personally construct the laboratory and equipment he needed. With the help of his students, Carver did it literally out of trash: they made things out of garbage they encountered. We are fully aware of the concept of recycling, but at the end of the 19 th century, these trash raids were ahead of the time. Nevertheless, the lab was built – and the results of the research have brought George Washington Carver fame and recognition, at least back then. He has conducted a phenomenal research featuring sweet potatoes, which could be used for producing wood fillers, sweets, flours, and more (Hersey 135-137). In 1916, his well-known research bulletin “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption” was brought out (Hersey 258). The bulletin proved very helpful for farmers who had to face the mass destructions of cotton caused by the swarms of boll weevil in Alabama. Peanuts were cheap and multifunctional and have quickly become popular. There was the peanut oil and peanut plants for cattle, and multiple ways of cooking with peanuts. Apart from food, George Washington Carver discovered 300 ways of using peanuts in various products for everyday use, e.g., dyes, plastic, gasoline, shaving cream, hand lotion, etc. (Hersey 259-230). The actual peanut butter was never on the list; the product has been developer long before Carver.

George Washington Carver has never regarded his research as purely scientific. What he wanted was to help people; this stance and his Christianity made him a figure of respect. Another factor of Carver’s popularity was that he did not only talk about helping each other but actually did it. He was very well aware that his research might help people of color dwelling in the South and being choked by poverty. What was still more drastic, the South was rapidly running out of resources. Carver’s main contribution was with regard to low price of peanuts and sweet potatoes, and he devoted his entire life to saving other people’s lives – although he never acknowledged that being a person devoid of vanity. George Washington Carter has experienced much difficulty in his way due to ethnocentric and racist inclinations of the society he lived in. However, he made frequent travels during which he taught agriculture to anyone who would listen. On his travels, he had to use the “colored” train carriages and hotels – but he never stopped (Kremer 47-50).

After his death in 1943, George Washington Carver’s fortune, in which he had shown very little personal interest, was donated to Tuskegee Research Institute. Perseverance and faithfulness, as well as his utmost devotion to research for the sake of common good characterizes Carver much better than the common image of “the Peanut Man” that we are so used to, today.

Works Cited

Hersey, Mark D. My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver . Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011. Print.

Kremer, Gary R. George Washington Carver: In His Own Words . Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2013. Print.

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10 Facts About George Washington Carver

an essay about george washington carver

Shannon Callahan

06 apr 2022.

an essay about george washington carver

George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist whose work positively impacted farming practices in the South after the American Civil War .

Born in to slavery, Carver was the first African American to receive a bachelor’s degree in the United States, and he spent much of his life working at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). Though many of his experiments did not yield products used today, his theories on crop rotation and other practical farming methods improved soil conditions in the South.

Here are 10 facts about George Washington Carver.

1. George Washington Carver was born into slavery in Missouri

Though his exact birthdate is unknown, it is believed Carver was born in the early 1860s, potentially in 1864. He was enslaved from birth by Moses Carver in Diamond, Missouri. During the war , Carver and his family were kidnapped by slave raiders, and when the infant Carver was found, he was alone. Moses Carver raised the boy until he left the farm to pursue education, eventually earning a high school diploma.

2. Carver was the first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree

Upon completing high school, Carver obtained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from what is now Iowa State University in 1894. There, he gained a reputation as an excellent botanist and became the first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree in the United States.

In 1896, he received a master of science in agriculture as well. After graduation, he was offered a teaching position at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama.

3. Carver remained at Tuskegee Institute for the remainder of his life

When Carver finished his master’s programme, he had many avenues for employment but accepted an offer at Tuskegee Institute, Booker T. Washington’s new vocational school for African Americans . Washington provided him with two rooms – one for his plants – and a higher salary than other employees, but the investment was worthwhile, as Carver remained at Tuskegee for the rest of his life.

Carver was not much interested in teaching and preferred to be researching, though he was admired by his students. It was at Tuskegee that Carver was able to experiment with the farming methods for which he would become known.

an essay about george washington carver

Botanist George Washington Carver photographed in 1910.

Image Credit: Tuskegee University Archives, LOC via Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

4. Carver’s encouragement of crop rotation improved soil conditions

When he moved to Alabama, Carver was shocked by the ways in which growing cotton had depleted the landscape. After the war , many African Americans in the south were granted portions of white landowner’s farms and were allowed to work the land in exchange for a cut of the crop. As tenant farmers, one bad crop year could thrust them into serious debt. Because of this, Carver pivoted his focus and began encouraging self-sustaining farming practices, primarily crop rotation, to protect the soil.

By focusing on growing a single crop – cotton – for so many years, the soil had been left depleted of nutrients. Carver recommended growing peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans in these nitrogen-depleted fields, as they grew in different seasons and produced their own nitrogen that would replenish the soil.

5. He created a commercial need for peanuts and sweet potatoes

Once Carver convinced farmers to employ crop rotation methods, there came to be a surplus of peanuts and sweet potatoes, which at the time were not staples of the American diet. To resolve the issue and increase demand, Carver detailed an estimated 300 ways to use peanuts to showcase its variability. Some uses for peanuts included milk, oil, cosmetics and antiseptics .

Carver’s goal was not to create the best products, and many of his suggested uses for peanuts were not wholly original; his purpose was to provide information and recipes to poor farmers that required little resources but would improve their living conditions. His uses for peanuts especially took off.

an essay about george washington carver

6. Carver convinced Congress to impose a tariff on foreign peanuts

In an effort to protect African American farmers as they grew peanuts, Carver travelled to Washington DC to lobby Congress. There, he convinced them to pass a tariff on foreign peanuts, meaning farmers would be protected growing this new crop. He was then dubbed the ‘Peanut Man’, and his success in Washington launched him to celebrity status. He even met with Mahatma Gandhi to discuss nutrition in developing nations.

7. Carver did not invent peanut butter

It is often stated that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter, but that is false. By the time Carver published his practical bulletin How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption in 1916, early versions of peanut butter had already been developed. Other notable figures credited with the invention of peanut butter include Marcellus Gilmore Edson and John Harvey Kellogg, though variations of grinding peanuts into paste date back to Aztec and Inca civilizations.

an essay about george washington carver

A depiction of George Washington Carver on an Alabama banknote. Applied Currency Concepts.

Image Credit: Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab /

8. Carver brought his teachings on the road through the Jessup Wagon

As he developed his farming methods, Carver realized he needed to meet farmers in the field. With funding from a Tuskegee donor, he brought a mobile classroom, the Jessup Wagon, on the road to reach more farmers about soil chemistry. In the first summer of operations in 1906, he reached 2,000 people a month. Further, he distributed bulletins freely to farmers that detailed his findings and other practical information, including recipes.

9. Carver was an early promoter of sustainability

Though he remains most known for his work with peanuts, this was not the effort he was most proud of. Carver was motivated to find new ways to work the land so that African American farmers could have a better quality of life. He was focused on how the health of the land impacted the health of people. He believed humans are interconnected with land, and so his methods for sustainable farming – like crop rotation – were developed to improve people’s connection to the land while simultaneously improving the quality of the earth.

an essay about george washington carver

10. Carver preferred to let his work speak for itself

Carver largely stayed out of politics and rarely corrected the myths and exaggerations published about him because he was not concerned with celebrity. His reluctance to speak on racial equality sometimes earned him criticism from those advocating for more radical change. However, he was dedicated to improving the quality of life for farming families – many of whom were African American.

After Carver’s death, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation to erect a monument in his honour, the first granted to an African American. The legacy of the ‘Peanut Man’ lives on through his sustainability and farming methods today.

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The History of Advent

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

  • Occupation: Scientist and educator
  • Born: January 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri
  • Died: January 5, 1943 in Tuskegee, Alabama
  • Best known for: Discovering many ways to use the peanut

Professor Washington working in his lab

  • Growing up George had been known as Carver's George. When he started school he went by George Carver. He later added the W in the middle telling his friends it stood for Washington.
  • People in the south at the time called peanuts "goobers".
  • Carver would sometimes take his classes out to the farms and teach farmers directly what they could do to improve their crops.
  • His nickname later in life was the "Wizard of Tuskegee".
  • He wrote up a pamphlet called "Help for Hard Times" that instructed farmers on what they could do to improve their crops.
  • It takes over 500 peanuts to make one 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • Listen to a recorded reading of this page:

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George Washington Carver Papers at Tuskegee Institute, 1864–1943

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George Washington Carver, 1906. Courtesy Library of Congress.

( Microfilm Edition)

Tuskegee Institute

Additional information at

George Washington Carver  (c. 1860 –1943) was an American botanist and inventor. While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton and encouraged poor farmers to grow alternative crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Correspondence and other writings by, to, and about Carver, focusing on such topics as science, agriculture, education, industry, medicine, race relations, religion, and politics. Includes material on Carver’s experiments with the peanut. Photocopies of thousands of documents in other repositories, especially the National Archives and the Library of Congress, were added to the collection at Tuskegee Institute and are published in this edition.

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The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: more than Just Peanuts

This essay about George Washington Carver highlights his transformative contributions to agricultural science and education beyond his well-known innovations with peanuts. Born into slavery, Carver overcame significant barriers to become a pioneering African American scientist. At Tuskegee Institute, he revolutionized farming practices through crop rotation and soil conservation, introducing sustainable crops like peanuts, which replenished the soil. He developed over 300 peanut products, significantly boosting the economy for Southern farmers, especially in African American communities. Carver also pioneered mobile classrooms to educate farmers directly, enhancing agricultural knowledge and self-sufficiency. Furthermore, his work fostered racial harmony and showcased the intellectual contributions of African Americans. The essay portrays Carver as a dedicated scientist and educator whose legacy extends into modern sustainable farming and environmental conservation.

How it works

When most people hear the name George Washington Carver, they instantly think of peanuts and maybe peanut butter. However, Carver’s true impact goes well beyond clever uses for peanuts. He was an African American scientist and educator in the early 20th century whose work fundamentally changed agricultural practices in the United States. This exploration into Carver’s numerous achievements reveals a man deeply committed to improving not just agriculture but also the lives of disenfranchised communities.

Born into slavery around 1864 in Missouri, Carver faced numerous obstacles from the start.

But these challenges didn’t deter him; they only fueled his thirst for knowledge. Eventually, Carver made history by not only attending Iowa State University but also earning a Master’s in agricultural science, a rare feat for an African American at the time. He became a revered figure on campus, both as a student and later as a faculty member.

Carver’s move to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama was a game-changer for him and for the field of agriculture. At Tuskegee, he wasn’t just a teacher; he was a visionary who completely reshaped the institution’s agricultural department. One of his most significant initiatives was promoting sustainable farming practices. Carver was a staunch advocate for crop rotation and soil conservation, advocating for planting peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans to enrich the depleted soil—a direct challenge to the prevailing practice of growing cotton year after year.

But Carver’s brilliance shone brightest when it came to these alternative crops. He didn’t just promote their cultivation; he transformed them into an economic lifeline for struggling farmers by developing over 300 products from peanuts alone, including everything from dyes and plastics to gasoline and cosmetics. His innovations provided new sources of income for the farmers in the South, particularly benefiting the African American community.

Carver also pioneered the concept of mobile classrooms. He developed the “Jesup wagon,” a horse-drawn classroom that brought his teachings directly to farmers. This initiative was revolutionary, making education accessible to those who were often left out. It wasn’t just about teaching farming techniques; it was about empowering farmers with knowledge and science.

His efforts didn’t stop at agriculture. Carver was a subtle but influential advocate for racial harmony. He leveraged his stature in the scientific community to promote better understanding and cooperation across racial divides. His relationships with influential figures like Henry Ford and several U.S. presidents highlighted his role as a prominent advocate for both scientific and racial progress.

Carver’s life and work demonstrate his unwavering dedication to bettering the world through science and education. His legacy is not just in the fields and labs where he worked but also in his profound impact on the environmental and sustainable agricultural practices we continue to develop today. His approach—using innovation to help others—makes his story incredibly relevant, especially as we face modern challenges in sustainability and farming.

Reflecting on George Washington Carver’s contributions, it’s clear he was more than just the ‘Peanut Man.’ His innovations in agricultural science helped transform farming practices, and his commitment to education and community outreach has left an indelible mark on American society. Carver’s life reminds us of the enduring value of ingenuity and compassion in tackling the great challenges of any era. His story is a powerful testament to how one person’s resolve and creativity can indeed change the world for the better.


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The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: More Than Just Peanuts. (2024, May 12). Retrieved from

"The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: More Than Just Peanuts." , 12 May 2024, (2024). The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: More Than Just Peanuts . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 15 May. 2024]

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"The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: More Than Just Peanuts," , 12-May-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 15-May-2024] (2024). The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: More Than Just Peanuts . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 15-May-2024]

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Artwork of a child and George Washington Carver. Also including is a blue ribbon.

Art and Essay Contest – Kindness   

George Washington Carver National Monument, in partnership with the Department of Teacher Education at Missouri Southern State University, the Spiva Center for the Arts, and the Carver Birthplace Association announces the George Washington Carver National Monument 3rd and 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest.   Open to 3rd and 4th graders, Art and Essay encourages artistic expression and trait-based essay writing, centered on the theme:  Kindness , which is derived from George Washington Carver’s advice that a kind student,  “…takes his (or her) share of the world and lets others have theirs,"  from his Eight Cardinal Virtues letter.   Students are invited to explore this theme to create art and write essays. Entry deadline is February 25th, 2022. An awards ceremony will be held April 2, 2022. Roary the Lion from Missouri Southern State University will be there to congratulate the students! New this year: each first place winner will become a park ranger for a day and work with park rangers in the visitor center!  Teachers can access the information packet online at Art and Essay Contest . For further information or to schedule a virtual visit with a park ranger, please call 417-325-4151 or email . Administered by the National Park Service, an agency of the Department of the Interior, George Washington Carver National Monument preserves the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, scientist, educator, and humanitarian. Please call the park at 417-325-4151 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. for further information. Visit our  Facebook and Twitter pages. The park is located two miles west of Diamond, Missouri, on Highway V, then south ¼ mile on Carver Road.  

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    The verifiable parts of his story prove that the obstacles existed, and Carver's method of overcoming them is worth celebrating. The early chapters of the biography deal with Carver's life ...

  16. Biography: George Washington Carver

    George Washington Carver was known throughout the south as the "farmer's best friend". His work on crop rotation and innovative products helped many farmers to survive and make a good living. His interest was in science and helping others, not in getting rich. He didn't even patent most of his work because he considered his ideas as gifts from God.

  17. George Washington Carver: An American Biography

    George Washington Carver was born a slave near Diamond Grove, Missouri, possibly on July 12, 1861. According to an unconfirmed but plausible story, George and his mother, Mary, were kidnaped by ...

  18. George Washington Carver: An American Biography

    For example, Barry MacKintosh attacked Holt's interpretation of Carver's life in "George Washington Carver: The Making of a Myth" in the Journal of Southern History (1976), claiming that ...

  19. George Washington Carver: A Life

    George Washington Carver: An American Biography (1943; rev. ed., 1963). Vella's contribution is a narrative that strives to reveal the man inside the legendary, heroic, mystic, humble, non-materialistic, extraordinary scientist. Her quest for Carver's inner self reveals more than a little that

  20. George Washington Carver Papers at Tuskegee Institute, 1864-1943

    George Washington Carver (c. 1860 -1943) was an American botanist and inventor. While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton and encouraged poor farmers to grow alternative crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins ...

  21. The Lasting Impact of George Washington Carver: more than Just Peanuts

    Essay Example: When most people hear the name George Washington Carver, they instantly think of peanuts and maybe peanut butter. However, Carver's true impact goes well beyond clever uses for peanuts. He was an African American scientist and educator in the early 20th century whose work fundamentally

  22. Unveiling George Washington Carver's Character Traits:

    In addition to his resilience, George Washington Carver was known for his ingenuity and innovative spirit. He possessed a remarkable ability to think outside the box and find creative solutions to complex problems. One of his most famous achievements was his development of over 300 products using peanuts, including peanut butter, peanut oil, and peanut flour.

  23. George Washington Carver: An American Biography

    Summary. Rackham Holt's George Washington Carver: An American Biography gives details of Carver's life from beginning to end, including the development of his research. Starting with the ...

  24. Art and Essay Contest

    2024 Art and Essay Contest for 3rd and 4th Graders. Theme-Education Based on George Washington Carver's quote from 1896 letter to Booker T. Washington: "…education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom to our people." Two primary documents are included in this packet: Attachment One is his letter to Booker T. Washington on April 12, 1896, and Attachment Two is his biographical ...

  25. 2022 George Washington Carver Art and Essay Contest

    Art and Essay Contest - Kindness George Washington Carver National Monument, in partnership with the Department of Teacher Education at Missouri Southern State University, the Spiva Center for the Arts, and the Carver Birthplace Association announces the George Washington Carver National Monument 3rd and 4th Grade Art and Essay Contest ...