george washington carver

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George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute

In 1896 George Washington Carver, a recent graduate of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now Iowa State University), accepted an invitation from Booker T. Washington to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute for Negroes (now Tuskegee University). During a tenure that lasted nearly 50 years, Carver elevated the scientific study of farming, improved the health and agricultural output of southern farmers, and developed hundreds of uses for their crops.

As word of Carver's work at Tuskegee spread across the world, he received many invitations to work or teach at better-equipped, higher-paying institutions but decided to remain at Tuskegee, where he could be of greatest service to his fellow African Americans in the South. Carver epitomized Booker T. Washington's philosophy of black solidarity and self-reliance. Born a slave, Carver worked hard among his own people, lived modestly, and avoided confronting racial issues. For these reasons Carver, like Booker T. Washington, became an icon for white Americans.

George Washington Carver's interest in plants began at an early age. Growing up in postemancipation Missouri under the care of his parents' former owners, Carver collected from the surrounding forests and fields a variety of wild plants and flowers, which he planted in a garden. At the age of ten, he left home of his own volition to attend a colored school in the nearby community of Neosho, where he did chores for a black family in exchange for food and a place to sleep. He maintained his interest in plants while putting himself through high school in Minneapolis, Kansas, and during his first and only year at Simpson College in Iowa. During this period, he made many sketches of plants and flowers. He made the study of plants his focus in 1891, the year he enrolled at Iowa State College. After graduating in 1894 with a B.S. in botany and agriculture, he spent two additional years at Iowa State to complete a master's degree in the same fields. During this time, he taught botany to undergraduate students and conducted extensive experiments on plants while managing the university's greenhouse. These experiences served him well during his first few years at Tuskegee.

When George Washington Carver arrived in Tuskegee in 1896, he faced a host of challenges.

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