2.29.2012

The Peanut Man

When I was a child, I remember my mother reading me the story of an amazing inventor by the name of George Washington Carver. If you don't know who I'm talking about, then you have been missing out on one of the great men of U.S. history.


Carver was born towards the end of the Civil War to Mary and Giles, slaves of a German-American couple, Moses and Susan Carver. One week after his mother, Mary, gave birth to him, George, an older sister, and Mary were kidnapped by night raiders and sold in Kentucky. Moses Carver searched high and low for them, but was only able to locate and retrieve young George. After the abolition of slavery, Moses and Susan took George and his brother and raised them as their own. Susan taught George how to read and write and both Susan and Moses encouraged George to continue his education.

“[...] when you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world”
{George Washington Carver}

Despite the fact that he was turned away a several schools because of his skin color, George persevered and graduated from Minneapolis (Kansas) High School, eventually going on to study art and music at Simpson College, before a teacher recognized George's talent for botany and encouraged him to attend Iowa State Agricultural College. He was the first black student to attend ISAC (graduating with a B.S.) before becoming the first black faculty member as ISAC while working on his Masters in plant pathology and mycology. 

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”
{George Washington Carver}

In 1896, Booker T. Washington hired Carver to head the Agricultural Department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he went on to instruct for the next forty-seven years. It was during his time at T.I. that he worked upon the idea of crop rotation, instructing farmers to rotate the years of cotton growth with years of sweet potatoes, soy beans, and the now famous, legumes (peanuts).

Although his work in agriculture did much to improve the financial outlook of poor southern farmers, it is some of his quotes that impress me the most. You've already seen a couple of my favorites, but how about this one for a reminder of why we should be tender, compassionate, sympathetic, and tolerant: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”


Remember all of those "I am the 99%" protesters that were in the news last year? I wonder what they would think of this Carver quote, “Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.” Before pointing a finger at others, I'm pointing first to myself. I know all too well the habit that I have of making excuses as to why I haven't fully pursued my dreams and ambitions. Too busy, not enough on my resume, no name recognition, I had laundry to do...you get the idea. Instead of making excuses, I am challenged to make changes.

If you're interested in reading more about this amazing man, I would recommend a book that I wore out in childhood: A Pocketful of Goobers: A Story about George Washington Carver by Barbara Mitchell. I'm sure that there are lots of other great biographies about Carver, but this gives a simple overview of his life and work (and is part of an excellent series called, Creative Minds Biography), especially good if you are looking for a kid-friendly book.


Is there some historical figure that has encouraged YOU to growth?

3 comments:

  1. i think this guy might have been the one i've heard about who asked god what he created the peanut to do and then went on to discover amazing things to do with it!! i couldnt remember his name and just knew him as the peanut guy! how lovely to hear his story. thanks for sharing carrie sx

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  2. He was a very great man. One woman who always inspired me was Bessie Coleman. She certainly didn't take no for an answer!

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  3. Sophie - I'm sure Carver WAS the man that you heard about. He was an amzxing man - you should read more about him!

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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