(Note: Though long, keep reading for the highlight of the story.)
Many people have heard this man’s name and possibly some know his story, but not many know just how religious this man was. Born during the days of slavery near Diamond Grove, Missouri, in 1864, Carver’s parents were slaves.
The young Carver fell in love with the wonders of nature, a passion that earned him the lifetime nickname of the “plant doctor”. As a youngster, he was denied an education by law, because of his race. While working as a farmhand, however, he obtained a high school education. Later at the age of 30, he was the first African American student to be admitted to Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa (just down the road from this writer). He then attended Iowa Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in Ames, Iowa, where he received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural science in 1894. Two years later, he received his master’s degree from this Iowa college and became the first African American on its faculty. As his fame spread, Booker T. Washington offered Carver a faculty position at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Claim to Fame
What most people know about Carver are his inventions and innovations that revolutionized the southern agricultural economy. Even Henry Ford offered him an opportunity to work at the Ford Foundation, something unheard of in those days for an African American. Carver turned him down, however, saying he “felt he could do more for his people” in Tuskegee — and by his people, he meant everyone, regardless of race. He looked at the entire town and surrounding area as “his people”. He was offered many other positions that would have made him wealthy, but he turned those down, as well.
Carver showed that 300 products, including peanut butter, could be derived from the peanut; while 118 different products could be derived from the sweet potato. These and other discoveries by Carver liberated the South from its dependence on cotton. By 1940, peanuts were the second largest cash crop in the South, thanks to his efforts.
His Real Claim to Fame
George Washington Carver was a very humble man, who dealt with racism and prejudice but refused to be affected by it. He was a very devout Christian. He chose to serve God and his fellowman, which included all races.
He once asked God to show him all of the secrets to the universe; but God told him that his mind was too small to understand it all. So, Carver asked God to instead teach him all the mysteries of the peanut — and He did. Carver always — to the day he died — gave all the credit to God for his discoveries, saying that “God worked through him” or “God was the total inspiration for them”.
Although Carver held three patents, he didn’t patent the bulk of his many discoveries. His reasoning? “God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?” Besides, his inventions were for the benefit of others. “His people” were starving and didn’t have money to care for themselves. His discoveries helped “his people” to survive. And he wasn’t ashamed to boldly proclaim, “The Lord has guided me. Without my Savior, I am nothing!”
Carver died in 1943 at the age of 79 in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Faith played an important part in the lives of many great people around the world.
Isn’t it sad that the Christian part of these people, the part that made them “great”, is being omitted from our history books?
It’s time we put a stop to it!
We need to know about the whole person — not a scrubbed version.