Monday, November 12, 2012

George Washington Carver National Monument

This monument lies south of Carthage outside of the small town of  Diamond, Missouri.  George W. Carver was born in this area in 1864 to a slave woman.  As I mentioned in my last posting, guerrilla warfare was rampant along the Kansas-Missouri border during the Civil War.  The infant child and his mother were caught up in this turmoil when they were kidnapped by outlaws.  Only George was later found in Arkansas and returned to his owner, Moses Carver and his wife Susan.  They raised George as their foster child.  The Carver Monument has the graveyard where that couple is buried, as well as the second home in which they lived.  By the time they lived in that home (pictured below) George was attending school in Kansas. He did return to this home at various times over the years to visit his foster parents.   I had expected to see a large plantation house, but Moses and his wife were farmers and Mary, the mother of George, was the only slave they owned.  The approximate area of the slave cabin in which George was born is noted in the park.
All I could remember about George W. Carver from my school days was that he found many uses for peanuts.  However, at the visitor center I discovered there was so much more to the man.  As a small boy he was frail and unable to be as active as other boys his age.  Consequently he learned sewing and cooking.  His time was also spent with music and painting.  As he became older he spent time in the woods collecting what he called his "floral beauties".  He soon gained a reputation as a plant doctor. The Boy Carver statue, pictured below, rests in a natural area of the park much like the area George loved to explore.  Another interesting story about George's childhood was that there was no colored Sunday school for him to attend.  He asked a friend how to pray, and that was the start of a life-long relationship with his Lord.
As there were no schools for the colored in the country, at about the age of 11 years it was necessary for George to leave home and board with a family in the nearby town of Neosho.  He was later rejected from college because of his race, but eventually found a college that accepted him in Iowa.  He earned a Bachelor Degree of  Agriculture and a Masters degree in 1896.  He did discover more than 300 uses for the peanut plant, but equally notable were his years of teaching African American farmers how to free themselves from the tyranny of king cotton at Tuskegee Institute, Ala.  George convinced Southern farmers to grow soil-enriching crops as peanuts and soybeans, in addition to cotton. His teaching embraced the notion that nature produced no waste, he was a consummate recycler.  He continued to paint and discovered that Alabama's clays produced beautiful pigments when mixed with starches,oils,and pastes. George patented a processing for creating over 500 colors.   He also was a great humanitarian and became a symbol of inter-racial cooperation.  It was impressive to me what that man did in his lifetime!   As the park's brochure noted: "it is not so much his specific achievements as the humane philosophy behind them that defines the man". 

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