George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver , born in the 1860s and died on January 5, 1943, was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century.

While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He wanted poor farmers to grow other crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes, as a source of their own food and to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Although he spent years developing and promoting numerous products made from peanuts, none became commercially successful.

Apart from his work to improve the lives of farmers, Carver was also a leader in promoting environmentalism. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In an era of high racial polarization, his fame reached beyond the black community. He was widely recognized and praised in the white community for his many achievements and talents. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo”.

Color film of Carver shot in 1937 at the Tuskegee Institute by African American surgeon Allen Alexander was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2019. The 12 minutes of footage includes Carver in his apartment, office and laboratory, as well as images of him tending flowers and displaying his paintings. The film was digitized by The National Archives as part of its multi-year effort to preserve and make available the historically significant film collections of the National Park Service. It can be seen on the US National Film Archives YouTube channel.

Resources

National Geographic Readers: George Washington Carver  by Kitson Jazynka

Take a bite into the fascinating history of peanut butter and the man who invented it. Through leveled text and engaging photos, kids meet George Washington Carver and learn about his important work with peanuts and other plants. This level 1 reader is carefully leveled for an early independent reading or read aloud experience, perfect to encourage the scientists and explorers of tomorrow!

George Washington Carver for Kids: His Life and Discoveries, with 21 Activities (For Kids series) by Peggy Thomas

 George Washington Carver was a scientist, educator, artist, inventor, and humanitarian. Born into slavery during the Civil War, he later pursued
an education and would become the first black graduate from Iowa Agricultural College. Carver then took a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington. There, Carver taught poor Southern farmers how to nourish the soil, conserve resources, and feed their families. He also developed hundreds of new products from the sweet potato, peanut, and other crops, and his discoveries gained him a place in the national spotlight.
        George Washington Carver for Kids tells the inspiring story of this remarkable American. It includes a time line, resources for further research, and 21 hands-on activities to help better appreciate Carver’s genius. Kids will: 

  • Turn a gourd into a decorative bowl
  • Construct a model of a sod house
  • Brew ginger tea
  • Create paints using items found in nature
  • Grow sweet potatoes
  • Build a compost bin for kitchen and yard waste
  • Learn how to pickle watermelon rinds
  • And more!

Who Was George Washington Carver? by Jim Giglotti

Born in 1860s Missouri, nobody expected George Washington Carver to succeed. Slaves were not allowed to be educated. After the Civil War, Carver enrolled in classes and proved to be a star student. He became the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College and later its first black professor. He went on to the Tuskegee Institute where he specialized in botany (the study of plants) and developed techniques to grow crops better. His work with vegetables, especially peanuts, made him famous and changed agriculture forever. He went on to develop nearly 100 household products and over 100 recipes using peanuts.

A Picture Book of George Washington Carver by David A. Adler

This is the inspiring story of the pioneering African-American teacher, scientist, and artist. Carver is perhaps best known for his scientific work with peanuts and sweet potatoes (and for inventing peanut butter!), but Time magazine also called him the “Black Leonardo” for his painting. Adler tells of Carver’s work at the Tuskegee Institute with Booker T. Washington, his hard childhood, and his determination to learn despite many obstacles,

A man of deep faith, Carver worked throughout his life to create scientific discoveries that would improve the lives of Southerners–especially African Americans. 

The colorful illustrations show Carver in all stages of his life and give children insight to Carver’s world.

In the Garden with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby

Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grown-ups with their farms and the children with their school garden. He teaches them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He even prepares a delicious lunch made of plants, including “chicken” made from peanuts. And Sally never forgets the lessons this wise man leaves in her heart and mind. Susan Grigsby’s warm story shines new light on a Black scientist who was ahead of his time.

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