A Forgotten American Hero

A Forgotten American Hero

Featured in the February, 2013 Issue of the Ashburn Baptist News

George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was born to slave parents near Diamond Grove, Missouri.  Following the Civil War, his owner learned that all the slaves had vanished except for a child named George who was suffering with whooping cough.  This frail orphan was returned to his master’s home and nursed back to health.  He stayed on the plantation until about 12 years old and then, began wandering about working, supporting himself with assorted odd jobs.

Carver finally finished High School, then was refused at the University in Kansas because he was black, but enrolled in Simpson    College in Iowa.  He then transferred to the Iowa      Agriculture College where he got both a Bachelors’ and Masters’.

In 1896, he was on the faculty at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he spent the rest of his career as a teacher lecturer and experimenter.  He revolutionized agriculture in the South by introducing the peanut, which became the second crop after cotton.

Carver developed over 300 products from peanuts, including cheese, milk, ink, various dyes, flour, wood stains, oils, soap, cosmetics – there seemed no end to what he could squeeze from the peanut.

He also went to work on the sweet potato from which he got flour, shoe blackening, candy, assorted dyes, vinegar, molasses, rubber, ink, glue – altogether 118 products.

He finally was honored with a long list of citations and awards from academic institutions and government.

When this small, soft spoken eccentric person appeared before Congress on behalf of the United Peanut Growers Association, he was received with amusement, but they were soon amazed.  He was given 10 minutes for his presentation.  When the time was up, he began to pack up his assortment of packages and bottles, but they gave him unlimited time for his talk.

As he spread out dozens and dozens of  products from the peanut, one Congressman asked, “Did you make all those products yourself?”  He responded, “Yes sir, they were all made in my laboratory.  I said that we have discovered them.” “Who’s the ‘we’?” asked one of the Congressmen. Carver  responded, “God and myself.  I worked together with God.  God has shown me the secrets of the peanut. Publicly, I want to thank you for letting me tell you the secrets of the  peanut, which I have gotten from God.”

Some scientists scoffed at his collaborating with God, but no one could deny the vast contribution he made to the agricultural economy of the South.

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