Kidsville Connections | George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

When you’re eating a bagel smothered with peanut butter, what are you thinking? You’re probably not thinking about a man who died in 1943, but maybe you should be.

For many, the name George Washington Carver makes them think of peanuts. The truth is, Carver was up to much more than the great peanut accomplishments he is known for. But thank goodness the plain old peanut has become a simple, small symbol that reminds us of a great American dreamer, teacher and agricultural chemist.

Because George Washington Carver was born a slave, it’s difficult to know exactly when his birthday was. All he knew was that he was born some time around 1861. Can you imagine not knowing when to celebrate your birthday? Carver didn’t let this unknown fact about his life define who he became.

In 1865, the United States declared slavery to be an extinct practice, and Carver was no longer owned by a slave master. He was about 4, maybe 5 years old at the time, so he remained on his former master’s land until he left to start school around the same age that most of us are already attending middle school.

He grew up to be a great entrepreneur and professor at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, which we now know as Tuskegee University in Alabama. During his life, he made amazing scientific advances that led to a better agricultural economy for the Southern states. A few of the plants he experimented with were peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. He talked Southern farmers into planting these foods instead of cotton after the cotton plant depleted certain nutrients from the ground. This gave the land a chance
to recover.

And it’s true that he found 300 uses for the peanut, but that’s not the whole picture. He also discovered 118 uses for sweet potatoes. If you’ve ever licked a stamp to send a letter, placed a sandwich in a plastic bag or patted on makeup for a dance recital, then you’ve probably used stamp adhesive, plastic or cosmetics that George Washington Carver’s scientific discoveries
made possible.

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