February 20th of 2014 marked a milestone in the history of science, African Americans, education and the United States – the 150th birthday of George Washington Carver. In honor of this great man and his incredible accomplishments, Tuskegee University is hosting a year-long celebration filled with history, events and reflections.
The Man: George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was born in either 1864. Carver was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri, now known simply as Diamond.
At just one week old George, along with his mother, a sister and a brother, were kidnapped and sold in Kentucky. Only baby George was recovered. After the abolition of slavery, Moses Carver and his wife raised George and another sister as their own children, educating them and encouraging intellectual pursuits.
Although blacks were not allowed in white schools, George heard of a school for African-Americans close by, and attended. He went on to obtain his high school diploma in Minneapolis, Kansas. He was accepted by the first college he applied to, but was rejected due to his race upon arrival. He then set up a small homestead where his love for and talent with agriculture was showcased.
Carver attended college in Iowa, where a professor recognized his talent with plants. On her recommendation, he attended Iowa State Agricultural College as its first African American student. Years later, he would become its first African American faculty member.
In 1897, Carver was personally invited to head the Agricultural Department at Tuskegee by its first principal and president, Booker T. Washington. Carver spent an illustrious and groundbreaking 46-year career at Tuskegee, filled with discoveries and innovations. He is thought to have preferred research to teaching, although his strong convictions, morals and high intelligence made him a standout at both.
Carver is perhaps best-known for his work with crops. In the Reconstruction-Era South, cotton had been grown for so many generations that the soil was severely depleted. Carver focused on alternative crops, notably peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans and soybeans. His efforts were two-sided, offering both an alternative use for spent cotton fields and practical ways for farm families to feed and support themselves.
During the late 1910s and early 1920s, George Washington Carver presented his research, findings and visions to the country, and became perhaps the most widely recognized and respected African American of his era. His research in botany, science, agriculture, the arts, education and more led to principles and techniques which are still used today.
George Washington Carver Events
Celebrating a brilliant visionary who gave so much of himself to his students and the entire country, Tuskegee University will host many events in the coming months.
April 4th, 2014 – Closed since last year for renovations, the Carver Museum on the Tuskegee campus will reopen at ten o’clock in the morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony sponsored by Tuskegee University and the National Park Service.
May 3rd, 2014 – The George Washington Carver Memorial Festival will be held in the City of Tuskegee’s Downtown Square. The festival – open from eight in the morning until six in the evening – will feature science demonstrations, arts and crafts.
October, 2014 – On a date and time yet to be determined, the inaugural Food and Nutritional Sciences Carver Lecture will be held at Henderson Hall on the Tuskegee University campus.
December 8th, 2014 – At Tuskegee University’s Kellogg Conference Center, the annual Carver Chapter MANNARS Lecture will be held at six in the evening. MANNARS stands for National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. A student recognition and awards banquet will also be held.
December 9th, 2014 – Also at the Kellogg Center, the Professional Agriculture Workers Conference (PAWC) will hold their annual Carver Hall of Fame banquet and lecture at six in the evening.