John Washington Carver

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John Washington Carver

By | November 2009
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George Washington Carver (1864-1943) started his life as a slave and ended it as a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist.

Born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Mo., during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders, George Washington Carver became the kidnap victim of night riders. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom; but before they could be rescued the mother died. Merely a babe in arms, Carver was ransomed for a $300 racehorse by Moses Carver, a German farmer. Thus he was orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from early childhood.

Carver had responsibility for his own education. His first school was in Neosho, Iowa, some 9 miles from his home. Neosho had once been a Confederate capital; by now it had become the site of the Lincoln School for African American children. With James he walked there every day. His first teacher was an African American, Stephen S. Frost. He and his brother went faithfully to school for several years. Finally James tired of formal schooling and quit to become a house painter, but not George. He continued until he was 17. Then he went on to complete his high school work in Minneapolis, Kans.

Carver really wished to become an artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca gloriosa won him a first prize at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893).

Carver applied to study at the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts but was turned down when it was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa, where he was the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but even this small amount was hard to come by. Carver raised the money by working as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, Iowa.

After 3 years' attendance at Simpson College, he once again applied for admission to Iowa State. He was admitted and was placed in charge of the greenhouse of the horticultural department while doing...
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