Wednesday, February 3, 2010
February is black history month so I will give a little black history. One of my daughters had the opportunity to be taught by two different black teachers, one for first grade and one for second grade. We learned a lot about black history during those two years. I considered both women to be good teachers and had a lot of respect for them. I was grateful for the knowledge they shared with my daughter. I remember reading a book while I was in grade school many years ago. The book was about George Washington Carver, a black American scientist who won international fame for his agriculture research. I remember that he did a lot of work with peanuts. I also remember being very impressed with his accomplishments, not realizing that being black was supposed to make him different from other men. Let me tell you a little about George Washington Carver (1864-1943). He was born a slave on a farm in Missouri. Soon after he was born, his father was killed and his mother was kidnapped. He was reared by Moses and Susan Carver, his owners until slavery was abolished in 1865. He had a great desire to learn and was taught to read and write by the Carvers. At age 11 he moved to another town in Missouri to attend a school for black children. He spent the next twenty years working to support himself and to pay for school. In 1890 he started at Simpson College in Iowa. He decided that he wanted a degree in agriculture and transferred to Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in Ames. He received a bachelor's degree in agriculture in 1894 and a master's in 1896. In 1896 he moved to Alabama and joined the faculty of Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), an industrial and agricultural school for blacks. There he became head of the agricultural department and director of a state agricultural station. In 1910 he became head of a newly created Department of Research at Tuskegee. Sometime after 1914 he began to focus his research on peanuts. He made more than 300 products from peanuts, including a milk substitute, face powder, printer's ink, and soap. He received national attention in 1921 when he went before a committee of Congress to talk about the many uses of peanuts. He traveled through much of the country lecturing to promote peanuts. Carver spent much time and effort trying to improve race relations. He never married. In 1940 he gave $33,000, his life's savings, to establish the George Washington Carver Research Foundation for agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute. I still believe that George Washington Carver was an exceptional man who accomplished much by commitment, hard work, and education. Facts for this post came from an article by John W. Kitchens in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp 268-269.