George Washington Carver: A Brief Biography

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George Washington Carver started his life as a slave and worked his way to becoming a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist. He helped develop agricultural techniques used around the world.
Early years

George Washington Carver was born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Missouri, during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and slaveholders. His father, a slave on a nearby farm, was killed shortly before Carver was born. Carver himself became the kidnap victim of night riders while still a baby. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom. Before they were rescued, his mother died. Moses Carver, a German farmer, ransomed (traded) the infant Carver for a $300 race-horse. Thus he was orphaned and left in the
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Reproduced by permission of Fisk University Library.
George Washington Carver.
Reproduced by permission of
Fisk University Library
He continued until he was seventeen. Then he went on to complete his high school work in Minneapolis, Kansas, and finally graduated in his mid-twenties. At the time Carver had wished to become an artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca gloriosa won him a first prize at the World 's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

An agricultural education

Carver applied to study at the Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, but he was turned down when it was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, Iowa, where he was the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but it was hard to come by even this small amount. Carver worked as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, Iowa, to raise the
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Wallace; the pair knew each other for forty-seven years. Wallace said that Carver often took him on botanical (relating to plants) expeditions, and it was he who first introduced Wallace to the mysteries of plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and modest bachelor, an unmarried man. An attack of whooping cough (a contagious disease that attacks the respiratory system) as a child had permanently caused him to have a high-pitched tenor voice. He considered it a high duty to attend classes and was seldom absent. In 1908 he returned to the West to visit his ninety-six-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to visit the grave of his brother, James, in
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