A Tribute to George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was alive in a time where the United States suppressed millions of Black Americans to the highest degree; Jim Crow established itself and the terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan became mainstream in politics. This makes his long list of accolades which include obtaining a Master of Agriculture degree at Iowa State University and becoming a renowned expert on the science of Agriculture, even more impressive. In his time Carver was one of the most famous men in America with the Time naming him the ‘Black Leonardo’ in 1941. Though Carver’s accomplishments have an array of misconceptions, there is still much to appreciate.
Born shortly before the abolishment of slavery, Carver was raised by his family’s white masters and was able to attend grade school. Though he made stellar grades, Carver was declined from attending a college on a full scholarship when Administrators realized he was black when he showed up to school and revoked his scholarship. Carver moved forward and eventually became the first Black student and faculty member at Iowa State University.
At the age of 30, Carver graduated with a Bachelor’s in agricultural sciences. He was then invited to complete his Masters at Iowa State University while teaching. In 1896, Carver received his master’s degree, becoming the first African American to earn an advanced degree in the field. Shortly after obtaining his Masters, Carver received a letter from Booker T. Washington, a man who Carver looked up to and whose Agricultural research was greatly respected. Washington was able to recruit Carver to Tuskegee Institute to head its Agriculture Department. Under Carver’s leadership, the department became renowned for its curriculum and faculty. Carver led his staff in the development of new crops and crop uses that helped many African Americans stabilize their lives financially.
Carver went on to become a major name in the world of agriculture and became a celebrity of sorts in America at the time. During World War 1, Carver researched and created a variety of alternative uses for Sweet Potatoes which gained wide-spread interest. What may be the source of the misconception of him inventing peanut butter are the reports that he created a list of over 300 uses for the peanut that aided farmers looking for an alternative to selling cotton. President Theodore Roosevelt even sought advice from Carver on agricultural matters furthering showing the level of respect he garnered. His position as a spokesperson for the United Peanut Association of America might be the biggest factor contributing to his fame and a speech he gave in 1921 to Congress to lobby for a tariff on foreign peanuts.
George Washington Carver lived during a period that found itself between the abolishment of slavery and the spread of a civil rights movement that would have allowed him to be even more accepted amongst his white peers. It is telling that though he made many advancements in the field of agriculture, there are few that were able to become widely accepted and used. Despite all of the obstacles he faced because of the color of his skin and background, Carver defied all skeptics and became a pioneer in the world of agricultural science. He made it his life’s purpose to improve the lives of others. He inspired many to exhaust every option possible in the realm of agriculture and educated countless Black Americans to give them a chance in a world working against them. Carver’s accomplishments and generosity made him a well-known and respected figure in the Black community, so much so that his name has been included in American History.