Beginning as National Negro History Week in 1926, it developed into a month-long recognition in the late 1960s across the U.S. on college campuses. In 1976, President Gerald Ford formally recognized February as Black History Month. From social progress to science and politics to athletics, Black History Month pays tribute to the incredible achievements and contributions made by black and African American individuals.
Mary Jackson, Patricia Bath, Jesse Ernest Wilkins, Jr., Shirley Ann Jackson, George Washington Carver…
Any of these faces or names not ring a bell?
Do a quick google search and see what each of them has contributed to a STEM-related field and who:
Started at the University of Chicago at just 13 years old?
Pioneered laser technology for cataract surgery?
Got astronauts to the moon?
Taught farmers the need for crop rotation?
Was the first African American female to obtain a doctorate from MIT?
Ready to be inspired?
George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the mid-1860s, kidnapped as an infant, later found, and then raised as an orphan with his brother by the family that owned them. He went on to become the first black student at Iowa State University, where he subsequently obtained a master’s degree, and ultimately became the first black professor at the institution.
As a pioneering botanist and chemurgist, Carver was recruited by Booker T. Washington to head up the agricultural division of Tuskegee University, where he remained for decades. Teaching black farmers the art of crop rotation, Carver even took his teachings on the road in his “Jesup Wagon” to reach rural regions. He produced brochures with recipes for how to use the different crops that were rotated through cotton fields.
Because of his extensive study of a nitrogen-enriching plant to enhance depleted soils, Carver’s name is irrevocably tied to peanuts. He was even called to Congress to testify about the use of a tariff against imported peanuts, which were hurting the national peanut economy.
Befriended by Henry Ford, Carver visited Dearborn, Michigan where Ford constructed a replica cabin in honor of him. If you’re ever in the Detroit area, be sure to swing by Greenfield Village and check it out. You’ll even get to see some of the original brochures Carver used in his extensive teachings and travels.
Strength of character
It is reported that Carver was as concerned about his students’ character as he was their academics and intellect. He compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues to define a lady or gentlemen:
- Be clean both inside and out
- Who neither looks up to the rich nor down on the poor
- Who loses, if need be, without squealing
- Who wins without bragging
- Who is always considerate of women, children, and old people
- Who is too brave to lie
- Who is too generous to cheat
- Who takes his share of the world and lets other people have theirs
What’s in a name?
George Washington Carver began life as “Carver’s George.” Moses Carver was the man who owned George’s family as slaves. Given the first name of George, he was quite literally “Carver’s George.” Upon emancipation, his name evolved to George Carver. The Washington middle name was entirely made up. He was living in a town in Kansas as a youth where there was another “George Carver.” To correct the mail delivery quandary, he added a W to his name. When asked by another person if the W stood for “Washington,” Carver replied, “Why not?”
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