July 9, 2021
When George Washington Carver, one of America’s most prolific botanists and scientists, was born in 1864, it was to enslaved African American parents. Just one year later, slavery was abolished in the United States. Although he grew up as a free man, Carver’s life was marked by poverty and racial discrimination.
In spite of the obstacles in his path – or perhaps, because of them – Carver, shown here in a colorized photograph from 1906, found a path to education and became one of the country’s foremost agricultural scientists. Let’s take a brief look at the accomplishments of this brilliant scientist, educator, environmentalist, and advocate.
The exact date of George Washington Carver’s birth was not recorded. The births of slave children were rarely documented. But we do know that Carver was born one year before the end of slavery in the U.S. He was just a week old when he was kidnapped by slave raiders along with his mother and sister. Carver’s master was able to secure Carver’s safe return, but his mother and sister were sold in Kentucky. Carver, along with his older brother James, were raised by the master, Moses Carver, and his wife, Susan. Susan Carver taught the boys to read and write and encouraged their academic interests. Carver graduated from high school and applied to numerous colleges. All of them turned down his application because he was black.