George Washington Carver: Spotted in the Archives
George Washington Carver (abt 1860-1943) was born into slavery in Newton County, Missouri. He is best known as the scientist and inventor who forever changed how we look at farming. In an effort to improve the quality of life for poor farmers in the U.S., Carver conducted extensive research into alternative crops and their creative uses, including 105 recipes and 285 products that could be derived from the peanut.
When he was born, Carver and his family were “owned” by Moses and Susan Carver. When he was still a baby, he was kidnapped with his mother and one sister to be sold in Kentucky. However, Moses Carver was able to locate young George (not his mother or sister) and had him returned to his plantation in Missouri. After slavery’s end in 1865, Moses and Susan Carver raised George and his older brother, James, as their adopted children.
Fortunately, Moses Carver encouraged George’s education. At the age of 13, George left home to attend a number of schools in Kansas. In 1891, he became the first Black student to enroll in Iowa State Agricultural College, where he obtained a B.S. and an MSc in botany.
In 1896, Carver was recruited by Booker T. Washington to lead the Tuskegee Institute’s Agricultural Department. Due to his education, reputation, and the prestige of his degrees from a white university, Washington offered Carver an above average salary and two rooms to himself (unmarried faculty typically shared a room). Carver taught and conducted research at Tuskegee for 47 years, establishing the Institute as a respected research center.
In the archives
We spotted Carver in the archives. First in 1870, when he was still living in Missouri with Moses and Susan Carver, along with his brother, James. Later, in 1920, he was in his privileged accommodations at the Tuskegee Institute, listed alongside a number of other faculty members. By the 1930s, he was mentioned in countless newspaper articles. It’s remarkable to observe his documented progression from slavery to an esteemed and well-recognized scientist, having accomplished more than most, regardless of race.
(Click the images for a closer look)
U.S. Census records courtesy of Ancestry.com
Newspaper articles courtesy of Genealogybank.com