George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver was an American inventor born during the Civil War in Missouri. As he was an African-American, he was born a slave, so his influence on American culture, and the fact he has risen to the status of a famous inventor, is proof of his strong character.
George's life started with a lot of trouble. He was born into slavery in Missouri, and to add to that, he, his mother, and his sister were kidnapped in the night by raiders when he was only a week old, and sold into slavery in Kansas. His master, a German immigrant names Moses Carver, hired a man to find the three, but only found George, and negotiated that the kidnappers bring George back. When the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished, Moses freed George and raised him as his own son, and his wife Susan taught George to read and write.
As African-Americans were not allowed to attend school in his town, George had to walk to a different school 10 miles away. In this town, he met a woman named Mariah Watkins, who told him his name was not 'Carver's George', as he had said, but 'George Carver.' She also encouraged him to learn and to make his mark on the world.
After being rejected from one college because of his race, George became the first black student at the Iowa State Agricultural College in 1891. His professors convinced him to stay on for his master's degree, and he ultimately wound up becoming the first black professor at the college.
In 1896 Carver was invited by Booker T. Washington, one of the big leaders and heroes of the African American community at the time, to become the head of the agriculture department at Tuskegee Institute, where he would work for most of the rest of his life.
George rose to fame for his scientific research into agriculture. He was a big advocate of crop rotation, a farming method in which every so often, a farmer plants nitrogen-rich crops in his field in order to make sure the earth has nutrients in it. George recommended that farmers periodically plant sweet potatoes or legumes in their cotton fields, as they not only returned nutrients to the soil but were good to eat as well.
He was most famous for the work he did in his research laboratory, in which he discovered hundreds of consumption and manufacturing uses for peanuts, including making milk, butter, and personal care products. This made him one of the most famous scientists-and African Americans-in his day.
Presidents like Theodore Roosevelt were fans of his work, and he wound up meeting with three US presidents and the Crown Prince of Sweden during his life.
His most important moment in the public light came in 1921, when he was asked by peanut farmers to appear before Congress and ask for a tariff on Chinese peanuts, which were cheaper than American peanuts. Carver was mocked by some of the Congressmen, as an African-American presenting before congress as an expert in the field was uncommon during this time. However, he was successful in persuading Congress, and the tariff came into effect in 1922.
George died in 1943 after falling down a flight of stairs in his home-he was 78 at the time. Upon his death, he donated his life savings, over $60,000 (more than $1 million of today's dollars) to create the George Washington Carver foundation.
George is an incredible example of the American Dream at work. He started his life as a slave, and worked his way up to becoming a millionaire despite racial prejudice dogging him at every turn. He grew famous not just because he discovered thousands of uses for the peanut, but for his dedication to scientific excellence.
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