July 14 - Carver Day

Posted on July 14, 2018

Hopefully you've heard of George Washington Carver (I've written about him here and here). Some people think of Carver as "The Peanut Man," but this inventor and scientist was way more than that!

When Carver was a child and could barely even read (he was born into slavery), he was so into nature that he noticed how various plants responded to different conditions... People who lived near him began to ask for his advice about plants, often handing over a potted plant that was sick; he would get the plant to flourishing again and then return the plant, better than ever. He wasn't educated in the ways of science, but at that point Carver was already considered a young plant doctor!

After slavery was abolished, Carver's previous owners, from whom he got his name, raised him and his older brother as their own children and taught them to read and write. But Carver wanted to go to school, and black kids were not allowed at the only school in town. Carver decided to go to the school for black children - ten miles away from his home! That was too far a walking commute, so at a young age (maybe 11 or 12?) Carver began staying at others' houses or renting rooms - just so he could get an education.

Carver sometimes had to leave a school and a community when race-based violence would break out there.

Carver applied to universities and was finally accepted in one in Kentucky. But when he arrived there, the university personnel realized he was black and took back their acceptance.

He ended up finally attending a university in Iowa and became a professor at Tuskegee University. He studied and researched and taught about - of course - plants!

Carver's research involved clays, seeds, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and more. But he got the "Peanut Man" label when he was asked to talk to the U.S. Congress about peanuts and all the many uses he had created for peanuts.

Carver applied for few patents, because he wanted his products and discoveries to be available to everyone. He spent little money on clothes, even though he was really famous in his own time and corresponded with and met many famous people. He turned down a very well-paid job with Thomas Edison, he was friends with Henry Ford, he wrote back and forth with Harvey Kellogg (of cereal fame), he gave U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt peanut oil for massages of his polio-inflicted legs, and he was even asked for advice from supporters of Mahatma Gandhi - and Gandhi himself wrote to him to say thanks for his informative responses!

The reason that today is Carver Day is because the George Washington Carver National Monument was established on this date in 1943, about half a year after the esteemed scientist died. This was the first National Park locale established to honor an African American person - actually, the first to honor anyone other than a former president! - and every year the anniversary is celebrated at the National Monument.

This year is super special, because it is the 75th anniversary! There are going to be speakers, a one-person show with actor Paxton Williams playing the role of Carver, live music, peanut milk demonstrations, kids' activities, storytelling, guided tours, and food. 

The George Washington Carver National Monument is located in Missouri, in an area where Carver spent much of his childhood.

Carver Day is celebrated in many places
on the anniversary of his death on January 5,
1943, because we have no idea when he was

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