George Washington Carver

photograph portrait of a man in a suit
George Washington Carver, circa 1910

Tuskegee University Archives/Museum

Quick Facts
Agricultural Scientist and Inventor
Place of Birth:
Diamond Grove, Newton, Missouri
Date of Birth:
12 July 1864
Place of Death:
Tuskegee, Macon, Alabama
Date of Death:
5 Jan 1943
Place of Burial:
Tuskegee, Macon, Alabama
Cemetery Name:
Tuskegee University Campus Cemetery

Over the course of his lifetime, Carver rose from slavery to become a renowned educator and research scientist. For over 40 years, he worked endlessly to find practical alternatives to improve the agricultural practices and thus the economic status of African Americans. He is regarded as one of the most prominent black scientists of the early 20th century.

Carver was born enslaved in Missouri near the end of the Civil War. From a young age, Carver’s intellectual curiosity was quickly recognized by those around him. By the age of thirteen, he was encouraged to go to Kansas where there were greater educational resources for black students. 

George lived briefly in several small towns before settling in Minneapolis, Kansas and enrolled in school there in September 1880. By 1883, George was celebrated as “…one of the most intelligent colored men of this part of the state…” (The Progressive Current, 22 Dec 1883). 

Carver was accepted into Highland College in 1885, but his admission was withdrawn when the college discovered he was black. He then found work with a family that was in the process of platting a new town in western Kansas and, in the summer of 1886, relocated to Ness County in search of land to homestead.

From 1886 to 1889 he homesteaded on a quarter section of land where he built a sod house and worked the land.  The following spring, George moved onto his land and began clearing it, ultimately taming 17 acres. He planted 800 forest trees, mulberries, plums, and apricots and, in the field, sowed corn, vegetables, and rice. He also built a conservatory that housed 500 plant specimens and a large geological collection. 

After several years of drought, he decided not to complete the homesteading process. Carver purchased it outright in December 1889 rather than complete the five-year residency requirement. Carver sold his homestead a year later to Fred Borthwick to fund his education.

In 1890, Carver started studying art and piano at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. His art teacher, Etta Budd, recognized Carver's talent for painting flowers and plants; she encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) in Ames. When he began there in 1891, he was the first black student at Iowa State. He continued his education at  Iowa State Agricultural College, earning a Master of Science degree in 1896.

He departed Iowa for a position at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he worked for 47 years. The Tuskegee Institute was a college established for black students by Booker T. Washington. He taught methods of crop rotation, introduced several alternative cash crops, and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency.

Carver made great strides in developing both agricultural and industrial products. He created 325 uses for peanuts, 108 applications for sweet potatoes and 75 products derived from pecans. Some of the products he created include chili sauce, meat tenderizer, instant coffee, shaving cream, and Worcestershire sauce.

George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943. That July, Congress authorized the creation of George Washington Carver National Monument to celebrate his life.


Sources and Additional Reading:

  • Find a Grave. "George Washignton Carver. George Washington Carver (1864-1943) - Find a Grave Memorial
  • Gart, Jason H. "He Shall Direct Thy Paths: The Early LIfe of George W. Carver" Historic Resource Study. National Park Service. 2014. Microsoft Word - Document2 (
  • General Land Office Records. Bureau of Land Management. U.S. Department of the Interior. Patent Details - BLM GLO Records
  • Toogood, Anna Coxe. Historic Resource Study and Administrative History George Washington Carver National Monument. National Park Service. July 1973. 472757 (
  •  "George Washington Carver". Dunn Library Archives & Special Collections. Simpson College. Archived from the original on October 16, 2008.
  • Report of Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis Messenger (Minneapolis, Kansas), 8 Oct 1880, p. 8.
  • The Progressive Current (Minneapolis, Kansas) 22 Dec 1883, p. 5, col. 4.
  • Highland University, The Kansas Chief (Troy, Kansas), 3 Dec 1885, pg. 3.
  • From Ness County, Kansas Chief (Troy, Kansas) 16 Aug 1886, p. 3.
  • Ness County News (Ness City, Kansas), 31 Mar 1888, p. 5.
  • Friends of Old Days in Kansas Saw Budding Genius of Negro Scientist, Kansas City Times, 9 Sep 1942, p. 16,
  • Kansas Marker Honors Famous Negro Scientist, The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) 17 Mar 1956, p. 28.
  • Detour in Scientist’s Life Led Him to a Ness County Sod House, The Salina Journal (Salina, Kansas), 22 May 1960, p. 25.

George Washington Carver National Monument, Homestead National Historical Park, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site

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28 minutes, 18 seconds

This 28-minute film explores the life of the George Washington Carver. The film features Altorro Prince Black as the adult George Washington Carver and Tyler Black as the young Carver, narration by Sheryl Lee Ralph, and music by Bobby Horton.

Last updated: February 8, 2023