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George Washington Carver

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Born into slavery, George Washington Carver started his journey on July 12, 1864. It was the tail end of the Civil War and the difficulty of holding slaves in the bordering state of Missouri was growing helpless. Infant George, his slave mother, Mary, and brother, Jim, lived on a farming plantation near Diamond Grove, Missouri with owner's Moses and Susan Carver. George's father, a slave from a neighboring farm, died before he was born in a log hauling accident just weeks before his birth. When George was only a few months old, he and his mother were kidnapped from the Carver plantation by bushwhackers, confederate outlaws, hoping to sell them in the liberated South. The plantation owners pleaded for their return and even tried to bargain with the outlaws, offering them two horses for ransom but only George was returned, seemingly worthless to the men, leaving his mother behind. After the kidnapping, George's plantation owners decided to release the remaining slaves to be held further South in Alabama for safe keeping. When the North won the war, slaves sought freedom and scattered but young George and his brother's return was requested by his former slave owners. After being returned by a neighbor, Moses and Susan Carver nursed the sick, young boy to health and soon adopted him and his brother.

George, a frail child, was not required to do farm work with his brother and Moses, instead he spend most of his time helping Susan around the house doing domestic chores. She taught him how to cook, clean, do laundry and also tended to their garden. This is where his fascination with plants originated. After being home schooled by Susan, George focused most of his attention on drawing, painting flowers, plants and landscapes and exploring nature at their home. The plantation his family was once owned by was now the place he freely roamed, developing his love for horticulture and the coined nickname "the plant doctor".

At age eleven, George left his home to attend a school in Neosho for African Americans. After only two years, he received a certificate of merit and moved again to continue his education, this time seventy-five miles away to Fort Scott, Kansas. Here he worked several menial jobs while trying to save enough money for school and often used his domestic skills to help him raise funds. George lived a lonely life, filled with poverty, cruelty and prejudice. He fled Fort Scott, before attending school, after having witnessed a lynching and instead was accepted at Highland College. When he arrived at college, he was sadly turned away because of his race. In 1886, George finally settled on a farm in Ness County, Kansas and performed agricultural experiments. Soon he had saved up enough money for a semester at Simpson College in Iowa and studied piano and art. With 300 attending students, George was the only African American student and was greatly accepted by his new school and teachers. He was described as having a "burning zeal to know everything". George's art teacher was so impressed with his ability of plants; she encouraged him to major in horticulture. He transferred to Iowa State Agricultural College after a year and graduated with his bachelor's in 1894 and received his master's in 1896.

George was then offered a position by respected educator, Booker T. Washington, at the Tuskegee Institute of Alabama and graciously accepted. It was here that he decided on his purpose in life and that was to help the former slave population become self sufficient through education and the use of helpful skills for farming. After becoming the institute's director, George spent most of his energy of his own experiments and research projects which were focused on helping Southern farmers improve their financial situations and increasing the quality and quantity of their crops.

He advertised his



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