By Anna Khan
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the 1860s in Diamond, Missouri. His mother and family were kidnapped by slave raiders, and after slavery was abolished he was raised by Moses Carter, the man who previously owned him. Here, he first became interested in plants from working in their garden and was known by the neighbors for his ability to heal plants that were dying. At age 13 he began attending school and eventually studied Botany and Fungal Disease at Iowa State University. He was the first black person to graduate from the school. He began teaching at a school for African American students called Tuskegee Institute in 1896, where he researched more efficient ways to farm. He took this information to black farmers, to help them make a better profit off their crops. For example, he taught that they could lower their cost of feed and fertilizer by feeding pigs acorns and using swamp much.
Most notably, however, he was one of the first people to bring crop rotation to America, discovering that repeated planting of cotton over the years was harming the nutrients in the soil. His method of alternating the cotton peas, peanuts, and other legumes that produced nitrate helped heal the soil and make the land more fruitful. However, peanuts are not a crop with as high demand as others, so after producing large amounts of peanuts and using some of it for feed, farmers had a surplus. This led Carver to famously discover more than 300 uses for peanuts. This included some pretty important things, like flour, paper, soap, shaving cream, and skin lotion. Inventions like these helped many of the small southern farms save and earn money, greatly boosting the south’s economy.
George Washington Carver won the Spingarn Medal for the Advancement of Colored People in 1923. He was also the first African American to have a National Monument, which depicts his childhood home in Missouri. This is to celebrate the positive way he impacted America with his intelligence, kindness, and his ability to persist against great opposition.
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