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George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life

Feb 27, 2020
Financing for George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life is brought to you by -- ♪♪ Wherever your operation takes you or who you share it with, we'll be where we've been all along, with you from the start. ♪♪ The Wallace Genetics Foundation. ♪♪ The Alliant Energy Foundation. ♪♪ And by the Des Moines Community Playhouse. ♪♪ he was a man of many talents. He was a broad based individual with a love of


. He was more than just a scientist, he was an artist, he was an educator, he was a humanitarian. And he did a lot to help others. Scientist, teacher, leader, man of faith.
george washington carver an uncommon life
He was a conservationist. He was very creative and had a childlike wonder about


. He loved humanity from the beginning. He loved the blacks and the whites. George Washington Carver was a man of hope. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Who was George Washington Carver? George Washington Carver's rise from slavery to scientific achievement has inspired people around the world. Even today, children study Carver's history, and lists of notable African-Americans always contain his name. However, time has dulled the shine on his reputation, reducing him to the man who made something with peanuts. ♪♪ George Washington Carver was a complex man with many gifts. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed him the "black Leonardo." Dana Chandler: George Washington Carver was an artist.
george washington carver an uncommon life

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george washington carver an uncommon life...

He was a scientist. He was a geologist. He was a poet. He was a Bible scholar. That's a renaissance man. Luther Williams: George Washington Carver was a creative genius who was able to invoke personal and shared identities to protect him from the verogencies of slavery, discrimination, and who took those negative experiences and translated them into the unity of humanity that is extraordinary on a global level. local, national and global. internationally. Following Carver's death in 1943, the nation was quick to commemorate him. Congress made his birthplace a national monument. Postage stamps and coins were issued bearing his effigy.
george washington carver an uncommon life
And warships and dozens of public buildings were named in his honor. Sceiva Holland: He was a man of concern, a man of vision, a man who really wanted to make a difference and the difference wasn't necessarily for him, it was a difference for other people. Born into slavery in the final months of the Civil War, George Washington Carver became one of the best known and most respected African Americans in the world. Henry Ford called him "the world's greatest living scientist." Both presidents and poor black farmers praised it. Mahatma Gandhi's aide asked him for advice on creating a vegetarian diet for the Indian activist.
george washington carver an uncommon life
Groups as different as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the United Daughters of the Confederacy honored him. Gary Kremer: He's a useful hero to the American people and I think that's a disservice to Carver. I think he is important for many other reasons besides that. Actually, Carver was a complicated man. Thousands of people around the world loved him warmly and considered him a personal friend. However, Carver never married, lived alone in a bedroom for most of his adult life, rarely socialized, and worked alone in his lab. He was known for his humbleness and simplicity, wearing a tattered suit adorned with a single flower on the lapel.
He dedicated his life to helping African-American farmers who suffered the oppression of racism, poverty, and ignorance. Peter Burchard: I used to quote this little poem called It's Service That Measures Success. And the gist of it is that it's not the price of the clothes you wear or the number of servants that come to your call, it's the service that measures success. He stated things simply and beautifully and that's what I think makes him so relevant: he's accessible. George Washington Carver's long journey to world fame began under dark circumstances. He was born around 1864 on an isolated Missouri farm owned by Moses Carver.
Both of his parents were slaves. His father was crushed under the wheels of a wooden cart around the time of George's birth. Before George was a year old, he and his mother Mary were kidnapped by lawless robbers and taken to Arkansas, where they could be resold. Moses Carver sent a Union Army scout to find and return them. Somehow, the man found George seriously ill with whooping cough, but he never saw Mary again. Moses and Susan Carver brought George and his older half-brother Jim into his home and raised them as their own. Orphaned, infirm and newly freed from slavery, George's prospects were dead.
However, from an early age, he was drawn to nature, seeing it as something special. He was unusually talented in almost everything he tried to do and was very curious to learn as much as he could. Lana Henry: He talked about spending time in nature and just enjoying the solace, the quiet, and talking to the Creator is what he did. And then he took that throughout his life. Throughout her life, she had this love of nature, which later moved into the life of plants and focused on how she could take plants and chemically break them down and create other products, all with the benefit of helping people.
Peter Burchard: He had what we might call visions. He said: "As a little boy exploring the almost untouched woods of the old Carver home, I had the impression that someone had just been there before me. Things were so neat, so clean, so harmoniously beautiful, some years later in these same woods he was to understand the meaning of this childhood impression because he was practically overwhelmed with the feeling of a great presence, not only had someone been there, someone was there, he knew even then that it was the great spirit of the Since So, I have never been without this awareness that God speaks to me through the plants, rocks and all other aspects of his creation." Curtis Gregory: Being here, being in the wooded area when he had free time where he would learn about how flowers grow, how trees grow and he was very curious and exploring and asking a lot of questions from what I understand.
And he became known as the plant doctor when he was in the woods here. And I really think he influenced him quite a bit. Because George was often sick and frail, his brother Jim helped Moses on the farm. George helped Susan with the housework, where he learned to sew, cook, do laundry, and knit. Moses' influence was seen in George's relentless work ethic, love of music and his disdain for waste. Gary Kremer: The paradox is that this young African-American man grew up in a household dominated by two rather older white people, and for a time he had his brother Jim with him.
But other than his brother Jim, there's no evidence that Carver had much contact with other African-Americans, and to me that's a very important reality of his life. So he is born in a state that is in great conflict, the conflict ends but the animosities do not, and he is born in a segregated state as far as education is concerned. African Americans and whites went to separate schools. And that would have, I think, a tremendous effect on Carver. There were multiple instances in Carver's life where he variously referred to himself as the orphaned child of a despised race.
And that has always been a very revealing phrase for me. I think in that sense, Carver had a lot of tremendous insecurities. Why wouldn't he? The Carvers did their best to provide George with some education. But when he was around 12 years old, his curiosity could no longer be contained. There was a school for blacks in Neosho, a town eight miles away. George set out alone and on foot to pursue an education. ♪♪ Luther Williams: He represents a powerful psychological resilience. What motivates a 10- or 12-year-old to leave where he lives and walk five miles to a school?
It's not just the site from which he originated his education, it's the site that actually represents the initiation of what I call his path to freedom and that's the anchor. That is the beginning of the incredible story called Carver. ♪♪ When George arrived in Neosho, Andrew and Mariah Watkins, a childless black couple, agreed to take him in as long as he was willing to help with the housework. Although George lived with the Watkins for only a short time, Mariah seemed to have made quite an impression on him. She was a midwife in the community and had a wealth of knowledge of plants and their medicinal powers, which appealed to George and inspired his lifelong conviction that illnesses can be cured through the proper use of plants and their products. .
Mariah's strong faith also influenced George and she was the first person he met who urged him to use her genius to serve his people. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Luther Williams: It's what I call deeply forged spirituality, which doesn't mean the same thing as religion, which I hold that a deeply forged spirituality requires that you use it, be aware of it, be in touch with it in all of one's interactions. And I think one of the reasons why he was such an extraordinary humanitarian is that it stems from what I just talked about. ♪♪ George loved people and dedicated his life to improving the lot of humanity.
He once wrote: "I love mankind and all mankind striving to be something and somebody. I don't care about complexion, hair texture, nationality, etc. I like all of God's handiwork. So let's keep praying and love each other more and more, if possible, as time goes by." William Carver Lennard: That's what Jesus Christ did, he came to serve others. And that's what I think Carver did. I think the influence and the impact, the influence of his life, like Christ's, influenced many other people in a very positive way. ♪♪ Gary Kremer: The dreams were real to him, dreams that he perceived as the way God spoke to him, and in that sense, I think he thought he was special, that he was imbued with God-given qualities.
And I think that was a source of great strength for him and a source of confidence. Simon Estes: I have always said that God gives everyone a talent and God gave George Washington Carver a talent for science without compromising faith, religion or God. And I think that's what motivated him. He was born with this mission, even when he was a little boy, he probably didn't know when he was five years old that he was going to be a great scientist and a great humanitarian, but God instilled it in him at birth. . George's teacher at Neosho was unable to give him the level of education he desired.
So when a couple stopped at the Watkins' home on the way to Fort Scott, Kansas, he hitchhiked. He made friends, many of them white, but he was never far from the shadow of racism. In Fort Scott, he witnessed the lynching of a black man and immediately left town. Later, he was admitted to Highland College in Kansas, only to be rejected when officials saw the color of his skin. Lana Henry: That kind of thing could drive you into a cave, you could step back and say, I just can't face this. But he didn't, he just kept going and facing the harsh realities that lay ahead.
And it's very interesting because towards the end of his life, when he was hired to be a spokesperson for interracial cooperation and the impact that he had on so many people that impacted others and impacted others and all those experiences that he had, the encounters and the racial barriers, the struggles, the prejudices and yet keeping one foot in front of the other. Curtis Gregory: One thing I can appreciate about Carver is that as an African American, all the things that Carver went through, leaving here and experiencing hate, and he experienced hate, Carver was never bitter. And that's something I can definitely appreciate.
Even in our current society, some of the things Carver went through are still very relevant today, and I sometimes look at Carver's life story as an example of how I can be a better person, too. Sceiva Holland: He didn't take life's tragedies, life's disappointments, to define him. And so much happened to him, so much that you think, how the hell did he ever want to do anything, let alone do anything? Why would he want to help someone else if he wasn't getting some of the things he thought he should have? ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Learning that Iowa might have a university that would accept him, George went there in 1888 and landed in the town of Winterset, where he found work in a hotel.
Visiting a local church there, he met a white couple named John and Helen Milholland. They treated him like family. Years later he would say, "Mr. and Mrs. Milholland have been my warmest and most helpful friends." ♪♪ Paxton Williams: They didn't know he was going to grow up to be this famous scientist or this famous educator. They just saw that he was a person that he was worth. They saw a person who had potential. And they took the time to learn about him as an individual and they took the time to see what they could do to foster that potential. ♪♪ Paxton Williams: Although we can't all be like Carver, because I think he had a real genius, we could all be like the kind of people who encouraged and inspired him in his way, ordinary people who do things every day. days. what they could learn about another human being.
Helen Milholland encouraged George to apply to Simpson College, a small Methodist school 20 miles away in Indianola, Iowa.He was accepted and matriculated on September 9, 1890. Dr. Jay Simmons: Carver came here and presented his credentials and the president, President Holms at the time, said, of course, you're welcome and admitted it and that's how his career began. at Simpson College. Years later, George acknowledged the warmth of his reception at Simpson College simply by saying, "I was made to believe that he was a real human being." Paxton Williams: He really found a home there. There is a well-known story about how several of his classmates invited him to go to concerts and he couldn't go because he didn't have money.
And before long, after this got out, he would come home to find concert tickets slipped under his door. ♪♪ It wasn't botany or chemistry that George longed to study at Simpson. He wanted to be an artist, a painter and capture the beauty of nature. That's how he asked Etta Budd, the art teacher at the university, to be admitted to her class. And she gave him the chance. Dr. Jay Simmons: It's kind of interesting that she was new to Simpson College the same year he came in and she was a freshman art faculty member and he had been drawing and wanted to pursue his art and he met her and she was reluctant to let him into her art studio because he didn't submit a portfolio or any of the usual reviews that would give her an indication of his talent.
Nevertheless, she persisted. He was an awesome guy and he blossomed. And she encouraged him, and as he grew as an artist, she encouraged him to be better and more skilled. But she was concerned that if he could really make a living doing that and she realized that he had a great interest in agriculture, agronomy and botany and so she encouraged him to go to Iowa State and enter the agricultural program. , which of course he did. ♪♪ In 1891, George transferred to the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, now Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, where Etta Budd's father taught horticulture.
He stayed at Iowa State for five years as its first African-American student, earning a master's degree and becoming the first African-American member of the faculty. Luther Williams: I think it was a powerful validation of his value, his value as seen by others. My view is that, at that point, Carver was in charge of his own career and his life. At first, George's life at his new school was not easy. Paxton Williams: They didn't give him a room near the other students. He was not allowed to eat with the other students. His professor Pammel gave him one of his labs to live in.
And a white lady from Indianola, a friend named Mrs. Sophia Liston, came to visit Carver in Ames. She decided that she was going to walk with Carver all over town so that people could see that he was accepted and known in society. And she insisted that she eat where he eats. And so, whereas before he had to eat with the day laborers or the workers, the powers that be decided that he could eat with the other students. I'm very proud of the fact that Carver decided to stick it out when he first came to Ames. But I'm also proud of the fact that the people who might not have welcomed him so well when he first got there, were able to learn, were able to grow, were able to change.
Eventually, he was embraced by white students and faculty alike, who saw in him a spark of genius. ♪♪ Dr. Wendy Wintersteen: I think that legacy is a message to all of us today and in the future about how important it is to value diversity, to give to all people who choose to work hard, George Washington Carver certainly worked hard. every day, an opportunity to excel and reach your full potential. At Ames, George became friends with James Wilson, director of the agricultural school, who would serve as United States Secretary of Agriculture for sixteen years. His dairy teacher, Henry C.
Wallace, would serve in the same position in the 1920s. And Wallace's son, Henry A. Wallace, who frequently accompanied George on nature hikes, would serve as Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President. under Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dr. Wendy Wintersteen: On Sundays, George Washington Carver would be invited to dinner at the Wallace home and then George Washington Carver and Henry A. Wallace would go for a walk and study nature, look at the plants, talk about what George Washington Carver I was studying at Iowa State University. And interestingly, George Washington Carver's undergraduate thesis was on plant hybridization. And here he was talking to Henry A.
Wallace, who had founded Pioneer Hybrid based on plant hybridization. ♪♪ George planned to earn a Ph.D. at Iowa State, and the school very much wanted to keep him on its faculty in what could have been a fulfilling lifetime of academic distinction. Then, in 1896, a letter arrived that would change everything. "I can't offer you money, position, or fame," he said. "The first two you have. The last, from the place you now occupy, you will undoubtedly achieve. These things I now ask you to renounce. I offer you instead work, hard work, hard work, the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty and waste to full maturity".
It was signed by Booker T. Washington, director of a teacher training and industrial institute for black students in Tuskegee, Alabama. Dr. Charlotte Morris: We talk about the Tuskegee experience around here and everyone, everyone talks about it, but no one can just come out and explain exactly what it is. We all know that there is something about that Tuskegee experience that keeps you here and keeps you wanting to do more. It may be the grounds of Booker T. Washington. It may be George Washington Carver. Because those were two great men to walk the grounds of Tuskegee, so it's an honor and a privilege to stand behind them and do something substantial for the university.
Booker T. Washington was determined to make Tuskegee a leading educational institution in the South, and his most pressing need was to establish a department of agriculture. But to establish such a department, Washington recognized that he needed a black man with an advanced degree in agriculture. And in the whole country there was only one such man, George Washington Carver. To lure Carver to Tuskegee, Washington offered him an annual salary of $1,000 plus housing. Despite Washington's warning about hard work, Carver fired back at him. "It has always been an ideal of my life to be the greatest good for the greatest possible number of my people.
And to this end I have been preparing myself during these many years, feeling that this line of education is the key." to open the golden door of freedom to our people." There he would remain until his death 47 years later. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Dyann Robinson: Booker T. and Carver believed that people should be taught not just how to live, but also how to live beautifully and live well and make beautiful things out of everything that was functional So I think that's important, that kind of contribution to learning that they gave and that legacy is what made two or three generations ago feel like they could do anything.
We had these brilliant doctors, brilliant academics on campus because they had a place to be genius, to show their genius in this little cocoon, a little protective sphere. And it started with Booker T. and this school. He made a place, a space for people to excel. Carver was part of that. Carver had never been to the Deep South. Almost all about Alabama's farming system, with its heavy reliance on cotton and its system of tenant farming called sharecropping, he horrified him. Shirley Baxter: When he first came on the train here to Tuskegee, he talked about looking at all the poor sharecroppers' houses and thinking, wow, they could do better, and he knew he could help them do better.
And he spent almost his entire career here doing work that was going to influence and help local farmers improve the quality of their lives. In addition to being administrator of the agriculture department and two experimental farms, Washington expected Carver to teach a large number of classes, serve on the institute's executive committee, oversee campus beautification, temporarily act as its veterinarian, and establish an outreach program for poor black farmers from the surrounding area. Dana Chandler: Washington had a vision for Carver, and Carver had another vision for himself. It was tumultuous at times, but I think and I know that they both respected each other.
Carver began teaching him in an old shack with no facilities. To set up some sort of laboratory, he had to scavenge through scrap heaps to find usable bottles and other items. Dr. Walter Hill: Why the hell did you come to Tuskegee? Where he got to where people were jealous of him, clearly the resources he got were less, he got to a hostile environment both politically and socially. Despite all that, why did he come? You look and read the story and it comes down, to serve my people. That's the most fundamental piece that I want to share from my point of view of 40 years here because taking on that task is the most daunting task.
Just a few years out of slavery, a decade or so out of slavery, and right in the heart of the beast. Now the only way you could do this is you have to be a warrior, you have to have courage, you have to be fearless. You have to be so mission oriented. And he had to suffer the indignities that a black had to suffer during that time and yet he went his way. That is the true power, that is the true spirit within. Edie Powell: I think after a while you can get really frustrated and do something else.
But he didn't and I think his very core never wavered from what his own commitment was from the start. When Carver came to the South, there were about five million black farmers there. Only about a fifth of them owned any land. Almost all of them shared a common problem, the over-reliance on cotton as the region's main cash crop, along with the sharecropping system used to produce it, which depleted the soil and kept tenant farmers in a state of permanent impoverishment. Improving the practice of southern agriculture and the lot of poor farmers became Carver's main concern. ♪♪ ♪♪ Gary Kremer: I think Carver was quick to recognize, whatever preconceptions he had about the South when he went there, he was quick to recognize the enormity of the challenges he faced.
So I think he came to the conclusion very quickly that he had to come up with some practical ways that would improve the lives of the majority of the tenants and sharecroppers who lived in the South. And he tried to impact their lives in tangible, specific ways that would help them on a day-to-day basis. Carver began urging farmers to rotate crops and use organic fertilizers. He preached the value of planting crops that restore soil, such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, black-eyed beans, and soybeans. Mark Hersey: he adapts it to the circumstances and develops a very different version of what scientific agriculture should be, one that emphasizes ecological thinking to a degree that very few, perhaps no other efforts of the progressive era ever did.
In the late 1930s, he looks back on his career and says: my job is conservation. And what did he mean by that? What would change in the way we understand America's conservation tradition if we took him seriously, if we viewed his work as part of that broader American conservation tradition? He issued newsletters that uneducated farmers could understand, explaining how these soil-restoring crops should be grown and what they can be used for. He devised a traveling demonstration car called the Jesup cart and rode along dusty roads to teach small groups of farmers how to improve their lives. "Start where you are with what you have," he said. "Make something with it.
Never be satisfied." Luther Williams: he Presciently demonstrated two great current problems, the need for sustainability and conservation. ♪♪ Wherever Carver went, he had this innate ability to connect with people of all faiths, cultures, and colors. He had an effect on those he met, just as they had an effect on him. They learned from each other. The Tuskegee community was no different. Frank Godden: He wanted to know everything about me, my background, my mother, my father, my sisters and brothers. And from that moment we became very good friends. Dyann Robinson: He liked the fat back and my dad liked it, that was his specialty.
And his friend, Mr. Parker, Felton Parker, was a baker but he was also a barber and he used to cut Carver's hair. And so Mr. Parker and my dad were proud to know Carver and to be able to do something for him. They respected him, oh yes. My dad was so proud that he returned the fat to Carver. Melonese Robinson: I had to have dinner at twelve. If he wasn't there, I wouldn't eat it. But one day a mother came with preeclampsia, she was pregnant. Well, that day she didn't have dinner at twelve noon. She received him at one.
I told him why I was late. I said, a mother came in with preeclampsia, she was in a coma and Dr. Mitchell called us into the operating room and because of that her dinner was late. "Well, I wouldn't be in the world if it hadn't been for a female, my mother." He ate his dinner. Sceiva Holland: She always said that Dr. Carver was such a gentle person, so kind, so loving. And I said, well mom, how do you figure that out? She said, well, he would stop, talk, take his time. ThousandsLetters from famous and unknown flooded Carver's modest office at the Tuskegee Institute.
Peter Burchard: People wrote to him about problems with their farms and their crops and just about anything. He seemed to be able to answer any question in the universe. He wrote over 25,000 letters in his lifetime. Well, he would get all these letters, six or eight or ten, and he would read them at night, he would go to sleep and believe that the problems were solved while he slept in his subconscious. And he seemed to work because his letters are full of insightful answers. Ken Quinn: When I visited Tuskegee University, I had the extraordinary opportunity to stay in George Washington Carver's suite.
And I realized how long he was there, half a century. And I think about how many students he interacted with and influenced and how many of those who were involved in outreach work throughout the South as part of reaching out to all black farm families. When you think about all those years, all those people, I don't know if that stands out as much as it should. ♪♪♪♪ Most agreed that Carver was a gifted teacher, whether in the classroom or on the field, instilling a sense of wonder and curiosity in his students. Gary Kramer: I interviewed several of his former students.
It is true that they were quite old. But they had great admiration for him as a teacher. I don't think he was a conventional teacher who stood in front of the class and gave a lecture. A former student of his described him to me as Socrates. He said that he would never tell you anything, that he would force you to find answers yourself. And I think that's why the students found it so challenging and interesting. And there is abundant evidence that he spent an enormous amount of time with the students and that even after the students left, he corresponded with them.
And many of these letters, and I've read many of them, are addressed to him as Dear Daddy, Dear Father, Dear Daddy. And he often signed these letters as Your Father. He never married and never had children. I think his students were his children substitutes for him in that sense. Melonese Robinson: Just a simple person, not hard to talk to, just as kind and nice. You'd think he would, being a genius, you'd think he'd be a little standoffish, a little selfish, not nice and not polite. He just acted like a real human being. Frank Godden: You have to get an education and you have to do this and you have to do that.
And it really affected my life a lot. In college administration and politics, Carver was less adept. Booker T. Washington, perhaps the most influential black man in the nation in the early years of the 20th century, was moving further and further away from campus. Carver became embroiled in bitter rivalries that would eventually cost him the chairmanship of the agriculture department. Gary Kremer: Carver expected full deference. He didn't expect anyone to question his decisions or his actions. And as a consequence of that I think they collided. Dana Chandler: Carver resigned from Tuskegee multiple times, he sent in his resignation.
He was never accepted. (Laughter) But Carver believed in Tuskegee's work to the point that, when he died, he left his entire fortune to Tuskegee. ♪♪ He stayed, in large part, because of his loyalty to his adopted region and its struggling farmers, and to the hundreds of earnest students, his "sons," who idolized him. As his tenure at Tuskegee approached two decades, George Washington Carver was well known and respected throughout the South and among farmers in other areas of the country. Then, late in 1915, an event took place that set Carver on the path to international stardom. Booker T. Washington died unexpectedly.
Peter Burchard: They had a new president. Washington had only called himself the Director. He had never said that he was the president. But the new person, Robert Russo Moton, called himself president. He was very good, but things changed a lot for Carver as soon as Moton took over. Carver was beginning to want to retreat a little further into his lab. And he practically told the new president that he was going to do that. He didn't really ask. And he accompanied him. Then suddenly Carver was able to control his own destiny. Within a year he had been elected to the board of the National Agricultural Society and became the first black man to be elected to the British Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts.
However, few of Carver's inventions found widespread use, and only three ideas were patented, two for paint produced from clays and one for cosmetics, leading some to question Carver's scientific legacy. Frank Godden: He had an inquiring mind to develop things and he didn't give a damn about money. The auditor was on him all the time to cash his checks. Dr. Walter Hill: One way to look at Carver's work is to just think of him as the integrator of research and extension and proposing the multiple uses of peanuts, ways to deal with boll weevil, crop rotation , which some people might say that's not science because it's not basic.
But it is real in terms of applying the sciences that are going to serve society. There is a real role for applied research. You don't have to justify yourself. Dana Chandler: It's always been a puzzle to me that people have claimed that Carver wasn't a good scientist or that he wasn't a scientist because they could never find any of his work to prove it. Well, we have those jobs. They dispel none of it. They are replete with any number of calculations, observations, use the scientific method over and over again. That alone should solve the problem. Edie Powell: I think in everything he did he said he was looking for the truth, that's what science is all about.
So I think he was true to himself and never doubted what he really believed. Carver rose to fame around 1920 for his work with peanuts, which eventually led to more than 300 peanut products. Peter Burchard: He said a woman once came and said, Mr. Carver, I planted all these peanuts and now what am I going to do with them? And he said, I had kind of a stupid look on my face and I said, well, I'll think about it. And he went back to his laboratory and that is the famous story of him when he sat in the forest and said: Mr.
Creator, he asked what he should do. And the Creator said, well, what do you want? And he said, I want to know everything about nature, something very broad. And the Creator said, that's too big a question for you little man, you must narrow it down, increase the intent and decrease the length. And Carver said, well, how about knowing about peanuts? And he said that the Creator said, well, that's a little more than your size, but it's still infinite. So Carver went to work and created hundreds of products out of peanuts and this was a demo, I mean look what you can do.
His peanut work intrigued people and became the main feature of his public personality. Sometimes his message of planting crops for soil construction was lost in all the attention he received in that phase of his work. ♪♪ And there were other factors working against the world hearing his message. Mark Hersey: Ultimately, it's the political economy of the South that makes Carver's campaign fail and that's because no matter how good his ideas were, and his ideas were very good, they were ecologically sound and could make a difference difference and I would. they argue that somehow they made a difference.
So there were maybe 150 black farmers owning their own land in Macon County in 1896 when Carver turns up. There are over 500 for World War I, which is basically when Carver's campaign, at least as a protracted effort, comes to a close. Now that's not all because of Carver's work, but Carver's campaign contributed to this growth. But ultimately, the deep-seated racism of the Jim Crow South meant that Carver's plan had little hope of working in the long term. ♪♪ During the 1920s and 1930s, Carver gained increasing fame. He was offered jobs by well-known people. The inventor, Thomas Edison, offered him a salary of $100,000 to come and work in his laboratory in New Jersey.
But he rejected it to stay among his people. He made friends with leaders from all over the world. In 1937, Carver met business magnate Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, at a meeting of pioneers of the chemical movement, a branch of applied chemistry concerned with preparing industrial products from agricultural raw materials. Over the next few years, Ford and Carver visited each other from time to time and kept in close contact. Peter Burchard: Henry Ford picked Carver's brain every chance he got. Ford had a large plantation in Ways, Georgia. In fact, he built a school on the property and named it the George Washington Carver School, he had Carver come and dedicate it and every time they would meet, they would walk around and Ford would keep feeding Carver questions one after another to try and find out. how to use certain crops.
Frank Godden: The last time Henry Ford visited, he was in Dorothy Hall and lived on the second floor. And it was difficult going up and down those stairs. And Henry Ford asked Montgomery to get an elevator company and put an elevator in Dorothy Hall from the first floor to the second floor for Dr. Carver. Henry Ford thought a lot about Dr. Carver. ♪♪ ♪♪ To African-Americans, Carver had become living proof of a black man who had overcome great odds and achieved greatness. Simon Estes: I have lived through a lot of discrimination that he lived through and I admired him for the obstacles that he faced.
And all this he did with grace, with determination, with courage, never with bitterness. So he was a great role model for me to try to model. Dyann Robinson: He was trying to get this whole group of people out of nowhere. ♪♪ To many white southerners, Carver displayed the brilliance and heart that wordlessly defied the sharp segregation system. For those who work for racial harmony, he exemplified his ideal. Carver subscribed to the views of Booker T. Washington, which held that blacks should gain an economic foothold before attempting to break down social and political barriers. They had their critics.
African-American scholar W.E.B. DuBois, the first black person to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University, condemned what he described as his unwillingness to challenge white racism. Gary Kremer: I think it's very complicated. Both men were born into slavery, DuBois was not. And I think they just tried to do the best they could with the understanding they had at the time. Carver has been criticized for being accommodative. One historian, Louis Harlan, in a book on Booker T., described Carver as "exceeding Booker." I think that's unfair to both men. I think Carver wrestled with this all of his life.
And we're still struggling with that today. Luther Williams: I think Carver's revolutionary disposition, if you want to call it that, was creativity, it was discovery, not activism in the social political context. Could he have done more in that regard? Yes. But I think it was done differently. ♪♪ In 1938, when Carver was 74, he was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and was hospitalized for nearly a year. As soon as he could, he returned to experiments in his laboratory, preparing his bequest at the Carver Museum in Tuskegee and establishing the George Washington Carver Foundation to continue his work with farmers in need. ♪♪ George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943 at around age 78 and is buried on the Tuskegee campus near Booker T.
Washington. "He might have added fortune to fame," says his epitaph, "but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in helping the world." ♪♪ Frank Godden: He was in the North African desert. Edward R. Murrow, the distinguished broadcaster, broadcasting from London. He said that Dr. George Washington Carver, America's distinguished scientist, died today. It was sad, it was very sad news for me. And so, that was the last of Dr. Carver. ♪♪ Seventy-five years after his death, the world still looks to Carver for inspiration. Students continue to report on his life, and thousands of people still visit places that honor him.
His is a legacy that defies time. ♪♪ Peter Burchard: In 1941 he opened all of his artwork to the public. He did a big show and there was nothing up to that point, all of his work from Simpson College and some of his since then. People were astonished that this great agricultural expert, chemist, botanist, etc., etc., was also an artist. A good friend of hers who was working, writing articles, asked her that question, Bess Walcott. She said, how have you been able to do so many things? And he said, would you be surprised if I told you that I've only been doing one thing?
And he said, Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, the English poet, was working the same job and he picked up a little plant, a little plant in his hand with the roots still in it and dirt clinging to the roots and he quoted Tennyson, "Flower in the cracked wall, I pluck you from the cracks. I have you here root and everything in my hand. Little flower, but if I could understand what you are root and everything and everything in everything, I would know what God and man is". And this really was the core of Carver's thinking. He said that Tennyson was looking for the truth.
That's what the artist is looking for, that's what the scientist is looking for, and that's what I've been doing all my life. ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Funding for George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life is brought to you by -- ♪♪ Wherever your operation takes you or who you share it with, we'll be where we've been with you from the beginning. ♪♪ The Wallace Genetics Foundation. ♪♪ The Alliant Energy Foundation. ♪♪ And by the Des Moines Community Playhouse. ♪♪

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