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George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver

George Carver was born into slavery in America. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born in Missouri in January of 1864.

Tragedy befell him early when his family fell prey to racial violence. He was raised along with his older brother by an elderly couple, Moses Carver and his wife Susan. They were great influence on him, right until his end of time. They encouraged George to continue his intellectual pursuits, and "Aunt Susan" taught him the basics of reading and writing.

Soon enough it was evident that George was an inquisitive child, hungry for more than what Aunt Susan's lessons had to offer. In the small town where they lived, Diamond Grove, Black people were not allowed at the public school. There was a school for black children 10 miles (16 km) south in Neosho, George decided to go there. Thus at the fragile early age the eager to learn George left home.

When he reached the town, he found the school closed for the night. He slept in a nearby barn. By his own account, the next morning he met a kind woman, Mariah Watkins, from whom he wished to rent a room. When he identified himself as "Carver's George," as he had done his whole life, she replied that from now on his name was "George Carver". George liked this lady very much, and her words, "You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people", made a great impression on him.

All this while, along with his lessons, George stumbled across his niche. He demonstrated a flair for cultivating plants. He could cure anything that grew into full blossom. Such was his repute that for kilometres he earned the reputation of the plant doctor.

At the age of thirteen, due to his desire to attend the academy there, he relocated to the home of another foster family in Fort Scott, Kansas. After witnessing a black man killed by a group of whites, Carver left the city. He attended a series of schools before earning his diploma at Minneapolis High School in the Kansas town of the same name.

In his life this far, George fended for himself. He not only worked hard to learn, but he had to also work for his sustenance requirements. This struggle was made only more difficult by the then ubiquitous racism. Such hardships, however, left profound impressions on young George, which later propelled him to contribute to the same cause.

Carver applied to several colleges before being accepted at Highland College in Highland, Kansas. Here he again faced racial discrimination when he arrived, they rejected him because of his race. In August 1886, Carver traveled by wagon with J. F. Beeler from Highland toEden Township in Ness County, Kansas. He homesteaded a claim near Beeler, where he maintained a small conservatory of plants and flowers and a geological collection. He manually plowed 17 acres (69,000 m2) of the claim, planting rice, corn, Indian corn and garden produce, as well as various fruit trees, forest trees, and shrubbery. He also earned money by odd jobs in town and worked as a ranch hand.

In early 1888, Carver obtained a $300 loan at the Bank of Ness City for education. By June he left the area. In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver's talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural Collegein Ames. When he began in 1891, he was the first black student, and later taught as the first black faculty member.

When he completed his B.S., professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to continue at Iowa State for his master's degree. Carver did research at the Iowa Experiment Station under Pammel during the next two years. His work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist.

Thus upon the completion of his education Dr. Carver was a man of repute with the promise of a rewarding career and a life of comfort. However, as he later reminisced 'God had a plan for me'.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington, the first principal and president of the Tuskegee Institute, invited Carver to head its Agriculture Department. Carver taught there for 47 years, developing the department into a strong research center and working with two additional college presidents during his tenure. He taught methods of crop rotation, introduced several alternative cash crops for farmers that would also improve the soil of areas heavily cultivated in cotton, initiated research into crop products (chemurgy), and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency.

Carver designed a mobile classroom to take education out to farmers. He called it a "Jesup wagon" after the New York financier and philanthropist Morris Ketchum Jesup, who provided funding to support the program.

To recruit Carver to Tuskegee, Washington gave him a higher-than-normal salary and two rooms for his personal use, both of which concessions were resented by some other faculty. Because he had earned a master's in a scientific field from a "white" institution, some faculty perceived him as arrogant when a young man. Unmarried faculty members normally had to share rooms, with two to a room, in the spartan early days of the institute.

It was during his early days at Tuskegee that several anecdotes of Dr. Carver's creativity were formed. One of Carver's duties was to administer the Agricultural Experiment Station farms. He had to manage the production and sale of farm products to generate revenue for the Institute. When he arrived at Tuskegee, all the college land was dry, cracked and parched. Dr. Carver took this as an opportunity to work wonders. He instituted the usage of compost heap in the college, which was unheard of in those days. The result was that the soil significantly improved.

Those were the times when cotton ruled agriculture, for it was a cash crop. Dr. Carver, however, demonstrated great patience, and sowed sweet potato instead. It being a legume fixed nitrogen into the impoverished soil. After three harvests of sweet potato, when Dr. Carver finally planted cotton, the produce per hectare was unbelievably high. Farmers and producers from hundreds of miles came to see the results.

This was only the beginning of a life long affair, where Dr. Carver influenced the farmers to adopt novel, then radical, methods to improve their produce, and their lives.

In 1904, an Institute committee reported that Carver's reports on yields from the poultry yard were exaggerated, and Washington confronted Carver about the issue. Carver replied in writing, "Now

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