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George Washington Carver

Allan Heard


George W. Carver was born about 1859 to slave parents on a farm near Diamond Grove, Missouri. In his struggle to educate himself, he earned his way by cooking, taking in laundry, and working as a janitor. He graduated from Iowa State College in 1894 and accepted a position there as a botanist. He quickly gained professional fame. he went to Tuskegee Institute in 1896 at the invitation of Booker T. Washington, and he spent the rest of his life there. He died in 1943.

Carver's life was dedicated to finding new sources of farm income to replace cotton. He made over 300 products from peanuts, 118 products from the sweet potato, and 75 products from the pecan. He also made synthetic marble from wood shavings, dyes from clay, and wellboard from corn stalks.

Though he was widely recognized and honored for his accomplishments, Carver's monetary gains were modest. In 1940 he gave his life savings, $33,000, to help establish the George Washington Carver Foundation for Agricultureal Research at Tuskegee. His belief in "farm relief through science," as stated in the closing remarks of his letter, has proven to be a prophecy. Scientific innovations in agriculture have enabled the United States to be a sufficient, world-feeding nation instead of one based on a subsistence-level, agrarian economy. Dr. Carver wanted to open up "new possibilities in the way of industries, and at the same time develop creative minds who will take care of these new industries." George W. Carver was a visionary.

In 1930 Dr. Carver wrote a letter to Thomas Ganaway Conner, Florence Hearn's father, in response to a letter that T. G. Conner had written to him. The text of Dr. Carver's letter appears below. Suzanne Lusk searched the archives of the library at Tuskegee Institute for the original of T. G. Conner's letter, but was unable to locate it.

Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute
Founded by Booker T. Washington
For the Training of Colored Young Men and Women

Research and Experiment Station
George W. Carver, Director
Tuskegee Institute, Alabama


My dear Mr. Conner:

Your letter comes as a distinct surprise to me. I am amazed, but knowing you as I do I am not surprised.

Your letter is written in the same spirit that my work is done. Your letter is humanitarian. You had in mind saying things that would help me. You took very high ground to my mind.

My work as I see it is much bigger than mere dollars and cents coming to me. I have in mind opening up new possibilities in the way of industries, and at the same time develop creative minds who will take care of these new industries.

I may never get a dollar out of it myself but if during my life time I can blaze a trail that will be developed in the years to come, as study reveals the possibility of these products, I shall feel that I have made a real contribution to my day and generation.

I am inclosing a little folder which will I think substantuate the thoughts in your letter.

I believe we are on the road to farm relief through science.

I believe science must be taken to the farm.

Again thanking you for your great kindness, which I have found from 90% of the splendid southern people ever since I have been among them,

I am so sincerely yours,
G.W. Carver