George Washington Carver


George Washington Carver : biography

1864 – 5 January 1943

To recruit Carver to Tuskegee, Washington gave him an above average salary and two rooms for his personal use, both of which concessions were resented by some other faculty. Because he had earned a master’s in a scientific field from a "white" institution, some faculty perceived him as arrogant when a young man.McMurry, pp. 45–47 Unmarried faculty members normally had to share rooms, with two to a room, in the spartan early days of the institute.

One of Carver’s duties was to administer the Agricultural Experiment Station farms. He had to manage the production and sale of farm products to generate revenue for the Institute. He soon proved to be a poor administrator. In 1900, Carver complained that the physical work and the letter-writing required were too much., edited by Louis R. Harlan, Raymond Smock, University of Illinois Press, 1975, Vol. 5, p. 481 In 1904, an Institute committee reported that Carver’s reports on yields from the poultry yard were exaggerated, and Washington confronted Carver about the issue. Carver replied in writing, "Now to be branded as a liar and party to such hellish deception it is more than I can bear, and if your committee feel that I have willfully lied or [was] party to such lies as were told my resignation is at your disposal."Harlan, Vol. 8, p. 95 During Washington’s last five years at Tuskegee, Carver submitted or threatened his resignation several times: when the administration reorganized the agriculture programs,Harlan, Volume 10, p. 480. when he disliked a teaching assignment,Harlan, Vol. 12, p. 95. to manage an experiment station elsewhere,Harlan, Vol. 12, pp. 251–252. and when he did not get summer teaching assignments in 1913-1914.Harlan, Vol. 12, p. 201.Harlan, Vol. 13, p. 35. In each case, Washington smoothed things over.

Carver started his academic career as a researcher and teacher, which he clearly preferred. In 1911, Washington wrote a letter to him complaining that Carver had not followed orders to plant particular crops at the experiment station. This revealed Washington’s micro-management of Carver’s department, which he had headed for more than 10 years by then. Washington at the same time refused Carver’s requests for a new laboratory, research supplies for his exclusive use, and respite from teaching classes. Washington praised Carver’s abilities in teaching and original research but said about his administrative skills: "When it comes to the organization of classes, the ability required to secure a properly organized and large school or section of a school, you are wanting in ability. When it comes to the matter of practical farm managing which will secure definite, practical, financial results, you are wanting again in ability."In 1911, Carver complained that his laboratory had not received the equipment which Washington had promised 11 months before. He also complained about Institute committee meetings.Harlan, Vol. 4, p. 239. Washington praised Carver in his 1911 memoir, My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience. Washington called Carver "one of the most thoroughly scientific men of the Negro race with whom I am acquainted." After Washington died in 1915, his successor made fewer demands on Carver for administrative tasks.

Carver also while a professor at Tuskegee joined the Gamma Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. Carver also spoke at the 1930 Conclave that was held at Tuskegee, Alabama. In which he delivered a powerful and emotional speech to the brothers in attendance.

From 1915 to 1923, Carver concentrated on researching and experimenting with new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, soybeans, pecans, and other crops, as well as having his assistants research and compile existing uses. from the National Park Service website This work, and especially his speaking to a national conference of the Peanut Growers Association in 1920 and in testimony before Congress in 1921 to support passage of a tariff on imported peanuts, brought him wide publicity and increasing renown. In these years, he became one of the most well-known African Americans of his time.


At work in his laboratory Carver applied to several colleges before being accepted at Highland College in Highland, Kansas. When he arrived, however, they rejected him because of his race. In August 1886, Carver traveled by wagon with J. F. Beeler from Highland to Eden Township in Ness County, Kansas. from the "Blue Skyways" website of the Kansas State Library He homesteaded a claimSoutheast Quarter of Section 4, Township 19 South, Range 26 West of the Sixth Principal Meridian, Ness County, Kansas near Beeler, where he maintained a small conservatory of plants and flowers and a geological collection. He manually plowed of the claim, planting rice, corn, Indian corn and garden produce, as well as various fruit trees, forest trees, and shrubbery. He also earned money by odd jobs in town and worked as a ranch hand.

In early 1888, Carver obtained a $300 loan at the Bank of Ness City for education. By June he left the area. In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa., Simpson College website His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver’s talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames. When he began in 1891, he was the first black student, and later taught as the first black faculty member.

When he completed his B.S., professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to continue at Iowa State for his master’s degree. Carver did research at the Iowa Experiment Station under Pammel during the next two years. His work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist.