FIVE GREAT FACTS ABOUT GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH!
It’s Black History Month, and here at Landers Chevrolet Cadillac of Joplin, we love learning about all the ways African-Americans have shaped the history of our state and the way we live even today. One of the greatest black Missourians was botanist, researcher and scientist George Washington Carver. Though his exact birthdate is lost, we do know that he was born in 1864 on a small farm in Diamond, Missouri, just a short distance from Joplin! Seen below, check out five fun facts about George Washington Carver, a great Black American whose innovations are still shaping the way we live today!
1) He was kidnapped as an infant: in the waning days of the Civil War, when George Washington Carver was only an infant, raiders who came to the Carver farm kidnapped him, his sister and his mother, spiriting them away to Kentucky, where they were sold. Moses Carver, the white man who owned the farm where George Washington Carver was born, hired a bounty hunter to find and retrieve them, but the man was only able to locate and recover baby George, who he purchased by trading one of Moses Carver’s best horses for the child.
2) He learned about botany from his adoptive mother: With George’s birth mother missing and his father killed in an accident when he was small, Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised George and his brother James as if they were their own children. Though James helped out with chores, George, who was sickly as a child, stayed closer to home, helping Susan with cooking, mending and other tasks. Like many people in Southern Missouri in those days, Susan made and used traditional herbal medicines from trees, roots and plants and taught those skills to George. He soon developed a passion for learning about growing things. By the time he was 10, George was so knowledgeable about plants, plant diseases and fertilizers that local farmers began coming to him for advice to help keep their gardens, crops and orchards growing strong.
3) He invented an agriculture technique that still helps feed the world: After becoming the first African-American in the nation to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from what is now Iowa State University, Carver began studying ways to help farmers increase their crop yields so they could have bigger harvests. One of his most enduring ideas has been crop rotation. In his research, Carver found that many common crops such as cotton deplete the soil where they’re grown of nutrients, particularly nitrogen, which resulted in lower yields year after year until cotton could simply not be grown there. Carver realized that by periodically growing nitrogen-fixing crops like sweet potatoes, soybeans and peanuts on a plot of land, soil where cotton had been grown could be replenished, allowing cotton to be grown there at high yields again after only a few seasons. This idea of rotating crops to replenish the soil is still used by farmers all over the world.
4) He invented over 300 products from peanuts (but not peanut butter!): One of the most well-known facts about George Washington Carver is his extensive research into uses for the humble peanut besides using it as a topping for your hot fudge sundae. Carver eventually created over 300 products from peanuts, including glue, lubricants, face creams, soaps, automotive axle grease, cooking charcoal, a renewable kind of paper, and even an early form of organic-derived plastic. What’s not so well known is that unlike many inventors working at the time, George Washington Carver gave away most of his inventions and ideas for free to help farmers all over the world. He reportedly sought only three patents for his hundreds of inventions over the years, allowing information about the rest of his ideas to be distributed freely to anyone who wanted to try them. One of the few things George Washington Carver didn’t invent from peanuts, however, was peanut butter. Though it’s a popular misconception that Carver invented peanut butter, grinding peanuts into a spreadable paste has actually been traced back to the Ancient Incan Empire.
5) His birthplace became the first National Park to honor an African-American: Though today there are plenty of National Historic Sites, National Historic Monuments and other historic places set aside by the National Parks Service to honor African-Americans and their contributions to our shared history, George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, established in July 1943 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the first park in the National Park Service system specifically set aside and dedicated to honor an African-American. Today, the park protects 240 acres of the original Moses Carver Farm where George Washington Carver was born and raised until around age 11. In addition to information about Carver, his upbringing and his incredible life, the park helps preserve the natural landscape where Carver literally learned to love plants and growing things, and includes a 3/4-mile nature trail, a museum, a theater and more. For more information about the park, its programs and hours, visit: https://www.nps.gov/gwca/index.htm