CARVER, GEORGE WASHINGTON (c. 1865–1943), Alabama, scientist, agricultural researcher, educator, businessman.
The Tuskegee Institute scientist George Washington Carver was an advocate of the commercial development of commodities using farm products and native clays, which led to the formation of the Carver Penol Company, the Carver Products Company, and the Carvoline Company. In addition, Carver was a noted lecturer in numerous forums, including tours of white college campuses sponsored by the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. Born a slave, Carver never knew his father and lost his mother during the Civil War. He was raised by his mother’s former owners in southwest Missouri. Barred from the local school because of race, he left home early to seek an education. He encountered numerous obstacles but obtained a master’s degree in agriculture from Iowa State College in 1896.
The faculty members at Iowa, which included two future secretaries of agriculture, were impressed by Carver’s abilities—especially in plant hybridization and mycology, the study of fungi. Because of his talents, Carver took charge of the greenhouses and taught freshman botany while a postgraduate student. The first black instructor at Iowa, he was asked to become a permanent faculty member. Had Carver remained at Iowa State, he would probably have gotten his doctorate and engaged in hybridization or mycological research, but he believed he had a responsibility to help other African Americans. Consequently, Carver accepted an offer by Booker T. Washington* to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Macon County, Alabama, in 1896.