Faithful Heroes: George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was a renowned agriculturalist scientist and inventor. However, he felt as if his research was doing the Lord’s work. He stated: “I am simply trying as best I can and as fast as God gives me light to do the job I believe He has given me in trust to do.”

Carver was born into slavery in Crystal Place {now Diamond}, Missouri sometime in the early to mid 1860s. While the exact date is unknown, it is known to be before slavery was abolished in Missouri in January 1865. His family was owned by Moses Carver.

When he was a week old, he was kidnapped along with his sister and mother. Moses Carver searched for the family, but only found the infant. Carver and his wife raised George and his brother, James {who was rushed to safety from the kidnappers}, even after slavery was abolished. They are said to raise the boys as “their own children” and taught them reading and writing and to continue intellectual pursuits.

When he went to school ten miles away, the woman he rented a room from, Mariah Watkins, told him “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people”, and this made a great impression on him.

He became a Christian as a young boy. In 1931 he wrote:
“I was just a mere boy when converted, hardly ten years old. There isn’t much of a story to it. God just came into my heart one afternoon while I was alone in the ‘loft’ of our big barn while I was shelling corn to carry to the mill to be ground into meal.

A dear little white boy, one of our neighbors, about my age came by one Saturday morning, and in talking and playing he told me he was going to Sunday school tomorrow morning. I was eager to know what a Sunday school was. He said they sang hymns and prayed. I asked him what prayer was and what they said. I do not remember what he said; only remember that as soon as he left I climbed up into the ‘loft,’ knelt down by the barrel of corn and prayed as best I could. I do not remember what I said. I only recall that I felt so good that I prayed several times before I quit.

My brother and myself were the only colored children in that neighborhood and of course, we could not go to church or Sunday school, or school of any kind. That was my simple conversion, and I have tried to keep the faith. — G. W. Carver; Letter to Isabelle Coleman; July 24, 1931″

He homsteaded a claim in Kansas, maintaining a conservatory of plants, flowers and geological collection. He planted corn, rice, fruit trees, forest trees and shrubbery and garden produce on his seventeen acres. All of which he manually plowed.

He desired to attend college, but was rejected based on his race. In 1891, he became the first black student at Iowa State Univeristy and eventually obtained his masters and became the first “black faculty member” at the school. He also studied art and piano.

In 1896, he went on the invitation of Booker T. Washington to Tuskegee Institute to head its agriculture department. He would teach there for the next 47 years. He designed a mobile classroom to educate farmers in the field.

He developed a technique to improve soil depletion from cotton being replanted and founded an industrial research laboratory, all of which began to make him a well known agriculturalist. President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work.

He stated “We get closer to God as we get more intimately and understandingly acquainted with the things he has created.”

By 1906, he led a weekly Bible class at Tuskegee. He is often said to act out the Bible stories he taught. “He responded to critics with this: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.””

Carver’s promotion of peanuts gained him much notice and in 1916 he became one of a handful of Americans to become a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England. In 1921, he testified in front of Congress on the importation of peanuts, which made him a public known figure. After this he often traveled promoting Tuskegee University, peanuts and racial harmony.

“He attributed inspiration of his work to God, and his studies of nature convinced him of the existence and benevolence of the Creator: “Never since have I been without this consciousness of the Creator speaking to me….The out of doors has been to me more and more a great cathedral in which God could be continuously spoken to and heard from.”

While in his seventies, he created a museum of his work and the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee in 1938 to continue agricultural research.

He took a bad fall down his stairs at home one day and was found unconscious by a maid who took him to a hospital. George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943 from complications from the fall. He was around seventy-eight years old. He was buried beside Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University.

He is said to have been “frugal in finance and humble in character”.

“Carver believed he could have faith both in God and science and integrated them into his life. He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.”

On his grave was written, He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.

“Dr. Carver claimed he could not have done what he did without God’s inspiration: “God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His…The method is revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new. Without God to draw aside the curtain I would be helpless.”

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