The Man Behind the Peanut: George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in 1864. He and his mother, Mary, were owned by Moses and Susan Carver.

Carver was orphaned as a child when his mother was captured by slave raiders. After slavery was abolished, Moses and Susan Carver took in Carver, and regarded him as their own son. The Carvers taught him how to read and write. A good student, Carver especially enjoyed learning about plants and animals.

Carver wanted to go to school, but no schools in his home state of Missouri would admit Black students. Because of this, he traveled around the Midwest to find a school. Eventually, he attended and graduated from high school in Minneapolis, Kansas. After graduation, Carver attended Simpson College in Iowa. Here, one of his teachers advised him to become a botanist, or a scientist who researches plants. Carver ultimately became the first African American student to attend Iowa State, where he earned both a bachelor's and master's degree, both in science.

After Carver received his master's degree, he began to teach at Iowa State. He was the first African American professor at this college. In 1894, Booker T. Washington contacted Carver about teaching at an all-black college in Tuskegee, Alabama. Carver accepted this offer and remained at Tuskegee for the rest of his life.

At Tuskegee College, Carver worked in the agriculture department. He taught his students a farming technique called, “crop rotation.” For example, instead of planting cotton every year, one year they planted cotton, then the next year they planted other crops such as sweet potatoes and soy beans.

In 1892, farmers across the country had a problem with the boll weevil. This insect ate cotton and destroyed crops. Carver discovered that the boll weevil does not like peanuts. But farmers thought that peanuts could not make that much money. Carver discovered that many products can be made out of peanuts such as cooking oil, dyes for clothing, plastic and fuel for cars.

A distinguished scientist, George Washington Carver made many advances to the tield of agriculture. In fact, he was known in the South as the ''farmer’s best friend.'' Though he died many decades ago, his is a legacy that will continue for generations.