Show Me Adventure Kids continues its coverage of Black History Month by spotlighting selected historical sites and attractions throughout Missouri. Today, we look at an inspiring man, Dr. George Washington Carver, who was born a slave in southwest Missouri, but grew up to become a respected scientist.
George was born in the early 1860s in Diamond Grove (now Diamond), Mo. He never knew his birthdate, but it was sometime before 1865; that was the year slavery was stopped in Missouri. A German immigrant, Moses Carver, bought George’s parents in 1855 to work on his farm.
But it got worse for George.
George and his brother were later orphaned. When slavery was abolished, George and James stayed with the Carvers, who continued to raise the boys. Susan Carver taught George how to read and write, but blacks were not allowed in Diamond Grove’s public schools. So, young George decided to travel 10 miles to Neosho, Mo., to attend a school for black children.
There, he met a nice woman named Mariah Watkins, and he rented a room to stay with her while going to school. She encouraged George to learn all he could.
And George did just that.
Although he applied to several colleges, George was rejected because he was black. In 1890 while studying art and piano at a college in Iowa, his teacher saw his talent for painting flowers and suggested he study botany (the science of plants) at Iowa State Agricultural College. George was the first black student to attend the school when he began his studies in 1891. He went on to teach (for 47 years) at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama (now Tuskegee University).
George eventually became famous throughout the world for his research and work to improve cotton and peanut crops.
At the national monument in Diamond that honors George, you can see a re-created house where the Carvers lived and the site where George was born (although the cabin’s gone). Check out the trails and programs offered at the center and in the park. This year, the monument will celebrate its 75th anniversary, and a whole calendar of special events is planned. The anniversary celebration will be July 14.
If you’re near St. Louis, stop by the Missouri Botanical Garden that devotes a garden to George and his career. You can read parts of his speeches on plaques along paths and see a cool bronze statue of him. The flowers and plants are pretty, too. There is plenty to explore at the Missouri Botanical Garden, including the Doris Schnuck Children’s Garden, which will open for the season in April.
This has been Peter, your history and science reporter from Show Me Adventure Kids.
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