Thomas Jefferson Knowledge Institute

George Washington Carver

George Washington CarverKidnapped! That's how George Washington Carver started his first week of life. Slave traders captured him, his mother, and a sister from their home in Missouri in 1865, the same year the War between the States ended and the thirteenth amendment, freeing the slaves, was ratified. But before these historic events took place, the slavers took Carver to Kentucky, where Moses Carver, his owner, sought him, found him and brought him back, buying his freedom with the price of a racehorse. After the surrender of the Confederate States and the freeing of the slaves, Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised George and his older brother James as their own children. They encouraged Carver to continue his intellectual pursuits, and "Aunt Susan" taught him the basics of reading and writing. The local public school would not admit blacks, so he moved ten miles away to a town that had a school for blacks. There he rented a room from Mariah Watkins, who counseled him: "You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people."

After further education and focusing on research, he encouraged southern farmers to replace their cotton crops, crops that were suffering from depleted soil as well as the boll weevil invasion, with, among other crops, peanuts. Peanuts? After George came up with over two hundred uses for the lowly peanut, it became a crop that "saved the South."

Carver did not benefit finiancially from his research. Rather, he wanted his work to benefit the southern farmer. Following Mariah Watkins advice, he "gave his learning back to the people."