"Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?" - George Washington Carver.
George Washington Carver was born a slave during the Civil War, possibly around the date of JULY 12, 1865, but there are no records.
Within a few weeks, his father, who belonged to the next farm over, was killed in a log hauling accident.
Shortly after the Civil War, while still an infant, bushwhackers from the Democrat South kidnapped George, along with his mother and sister.
Moses Carver, a German immigrant, sent friends to track down the thieves and offer to trade his best horse to retrieve them.
Told to leave the horse and comeback later, the thieves only left baby George lying on the ground, sick with the whooping cough, an illness which permanently effected his physical constitution.
George never saw his mother and sister again.
Illness claimed the lives of his two other sisters and they were buried on the old Carver farm.
George and his older brother, Jim, were raised the farm in Diamond Grove, Missouri, by "Uncle" Moses and "Aunt" Sue Carver, who were childless.
Jim died of smallpox, and George suffered from poor health as a child.
He stayed near the house helping with chores, learning to cook, clean, sew, mend and wash laundry, skills that he would later use to support himself.
His recreation was to spend time in the woods.
The Carvers supported George's decision to leave home to attend school in Neosho, Missouri.
He paid his own tuition by doing odd jobs.
In the intervening years, George Carver worked his way through grade school and high school, cooking and doing laundry, drifting from Missouri to Kansas in 1878.
As a young man, George homesteaded in western Kansas in the 1880s.
He traveled to Iowa where he studied art at Simpson College.
One of his paintings received an honorable mention in the Chicago World's Fair in 1893.
He transferred to Iowa State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts where he earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree.
Iowa State them hired him as staff to be a teacher.
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In the Spring of 1896, George Washington Carver received an invitation to join the staff of the Tuskegee Institute.
Booker T. Washington sent the letter to Carver:
"Tuskegee Institute seeks to provide education -- a means for survival to those who attend.
Our students are poor, often starving. They travel miles of torn roads, across years of poverty.
We teach them to read and write, but words cannot fill stomachs. They need to learn how to plant and harvest crops ...
I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last, from the place you now occupy, you will no doubt achieve. These things I now ask you to give up.
I offer you in their place work -- hard, hard work -- the challenge of bringing people from degradation, poverty and waste to full manhood."
On May 16, 1896, George W. Carver responded to Booker T. Washington:
"My dear Sir, I am just in receipt of yours of the 13th inst., and hasten to reply.
I am looking forward to a very busy, pleasant and profitable time at your college and shall be glad to cooperate with you in doing all I can through Christ who strengtheneth me to better the condition of our people.
Some months ago I read your stirring address delivered at Chicago and I said amen to all you said, furthermore you have the correct solution to the 'race problem' ...
Providence permitting, I will be there in November. God bless you and your work, Geo. W. Carver."
Booker T. Washington's solution of the "race problem" was to gain respect through economic independence - the path taken by every new wave of immigrants, ie., German, Irish, Jewish, Polish, Italian, Asian, and others.
Immigrants arrived on the shores of America at the bottom of the social ladder, and were often met with racial discrimination.
They lived in poor neighborhoods, worked hard, got educated, started businesses, and pooled their resources.
As they gradually accumulated wealth and made positive contributions to society, they rose in public respect.
Booker T. Washington stated:
"At the bottom ... there must be for our race, as for all races ... economic prosperity, economic independence ...
Political independence disappears without economic independence."
He recommended they "... concentrate all their energies on industrial education, and accumulation of wealth, and the conciliation of the South."
In the fall of 1896, George Washington Carver surprised the staff by announcing his plans to give up his promising future there and join the staff of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
The staff at Iowa State showed Carver their appreciation by purchasing him a going away present -- a microscope, which he used extensively throughout his career.
At Tuskegee, George assembled an Agricultural Department.
He visited nearby farmers and would teach them farming techniques, such as crop rotation, fertilization, and erosion prevention.
He noticed that the soil was depleted due to years of repeated cotton growth and produced very poorly.
During this time, an insect called the boll weevil swept through the South, destroying cotton crops and leaving farmers devastated.
George showed the farmers the benefits of planting legumes, such as peanuts, which replenish the soil with nitrogen.
Farmers heeded Carver's advice but soon had more peanuts than the market wanted, as peanuts were primarily used as animal feed.
George determined to increase the market for peanuts by discovering and popularizing hundreds of uses for them, which helped to revolutionize the South's economy.
He did the same for the soybean, sweet potato, pecan, cowpea, wild plum, and okra.
A partial list of items derived from peanuts was compiled by the Carver Museum at Tuskegee:
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George credited Divine Inspiration for giving him ideas regarding how to perform experiments.
In the summer of 1920, the Young Men's Christian Association of Blue Ridge, North Carolina, invited Professor Carver to speak at their summer school for the southern states.
Dr. Willis D. Weatherford, President of Blue Ridge, introduced him as the speaker.
With his high voice surprising the audience, Dr. Carver exclaimed humorously:
"I always look forward to introductions as opportunities to learn something about myself ..."
"Years ago I went into my laboratory and said, 'Dear Mr. Creator, please tell me what the universe was made for?'
The Great Creator answered, 'You want to know too much for that little mind of yours. Ask for something more your size, little man.'
Then I asked, 'Please, Mr. Creator, tell me what man was made for.'
Again the Great Creator replied, 'You are still asking too much. Cut down on the extent and improve the intent.'
So then I asked, 'Please, Mr. Creator, will you tell me why the peanut was made?'
'That's better, but even then it's infinite. What do you want to know about the peanut?'
'Mr. Creator, can I make milk out of the peanut?'
'What kind of milk do you want? Good Jersey milk or just plain boarding house milk?'
'Good Jersey milk.'
And then the Great Creator taught me to take the peanut apart and put it together again. And out of the process have come forth all these products!"
Among the numerous products displayed was a bottle of good Jersey milk. Three and-a-half ounces of peanuts produced one pint of rich milk or one quart of raw "skim" milk, called boarding house "blue john" milk.
On January 21, 1921, Carver addressed the United States House Ways and Means Committee on behalf of the United Peanut Growers Association on the use of peanuts to improve Southern economy.
George expounded on the many potential uses of the peanut as a means to improve the Southern economy.
Initially given only ten minutes to speak, George Carver so enthralled the committee that the Chairman said, "Go ahead Brother. Your time is unlimited!"
He spoke for one hour and forty-five minutes, explaining the many food products that could be derived from peanuts:
"If you go to the first chapter of Genesis, we can interpret very clearly, I think, what God intended when he said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb that bears seed. To you it shall be meat.'
This is what He means about it. It shall be meat. There is everything there to strengthen and nourish and keep the body alive and healthy."
The Committee Chairman asked Carver:
"Dr. Carver, how did you learn all of these things?"
Carver answered, "From an old book."
"What book?" asked the Chairman.
Carver replied, "The Bible."
The Chairman inquired, "Does the Bible tell about peanuts?"
"No, Sir" Carver replied, "But it tells about the God who made the peanut. I asked Him to show me what to do with the peanut, and He did."
On November 19, 1924, Carver spoke to over 500 people at the Women's Board of Domestic Missions:
"God is going to reveal to us things He never revealed before if we put our hands in His. No books ever go into my laboratory.
The thing I am to do and the way are revealed to me the moment I am inspired to create something new.
Without God to draw aside the curtain, I would be helpless. Only alone can I draw close enough to God to discover His secrets."
The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:25-27:
"The mystery that was hidden for ages ... which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
On July 10, 1924, George Washington Carver wrote to James Hardwick:
"God cannot use you as He wishes until you come into the fullness of His Glory.
Do not get alarmed, my friend, when doubts creep in. That is old Satan. Pray, pray, pray.
Oh, my friend, I am praying that God will come in and rid you entirely of self so you can go out after souls right, or rather have souls seek the Christ in you.
This is my prayer for you always."
Though from a disadvantaged background, George did not let this pull him down into self-pity, bitterness, or yielding to a hateful victim-hood mentality.
Jesus taught the "Golden Rule" in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31):
"In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the prophets."
George Washington Carver wrote to Jack Boyd, a YMCA official in Denver, Colorado, March 1, 1927:
"My beloved friend, keep your hand in that of the Master, walk daily by His side, so that you may lead others into the realms of true happiness,
where a religion of hate, (which poisons both body and soul) will be unknown,
having in its place the 'Golden Rule' way, which is the 'Jesus Way' of life, will reign supreme ...
Then, we can walk and talk with Jesus momentarily, because we will be attuned to His will and wishes, thus making the Creation story of the world nondebatable as to its reality ..."
"God, my beloved friend, is infinite, the highest embodiment of love.
We are finite, surrounded and often filled with hate.
We can only understand the infinite as we loose the finite and take on the infinite.
My dear friend, my friendship to you cannot possibly mean what yours does to me ... You help me to see God through another angle ...
Most sincerely yours, G.W. Carver."
On March 24, 1925, Carver wrote to Robert Johnson, an employee of Chesley Enterprises of Ontario:
"Thank God I love humanity; complexion doesn't interest me one single bit."
Jesus taught in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
This was also the attitude of Booker T. Washington, who wrote in Up From Slavery (1901):
"It is now long ago that I learned this lesson from General Samuel Chapman Armstrong,
and resolved that I would permit no man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.
With God's help, I believe that I have completely rid myself of any ill feeling toward the Southern white man for any wrong that he may have inflicted upon my race.
I am made to feel just as happy now when I am rendering service to Southern white men as when the service is rendered to a member of my own race.
I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice."
In 1939, George Washington Carver was awarded the Roosevelt Medal, with the declaration:
"To a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of God and a liberator to men of the white race as well as the black."
In 1943, Senator Harry S Truman sponsored the bill to designate Carver's birthplace as a National Monument -- the first national monument dedicated to an African American.
In 1948 and 1998, the U.S. Post Office issued postage stamps honoring George W. Carver.
In 1951, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington had their image place on a half-dollar.
George Washington Carver addressed Congress and met with Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Roosevelt.
He was offered jobs by Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, and received correspondence from business and world leaders, including Harvey Kellogg, Gandhi and Stalin.
He died JANUARY 5, 1943.
In 1928, Dr. George Washington Carver stated:
"Human need is really a great spiritual vacuum which God seeks to fill ...
With one hand in the hand of a fellow man in need and the other in the hand of Christ, He could get across the vacuum ...
Then the passage, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,' came to have real meaning."
(Get the book George Washington Carver: His Life and Faith in His Own Words www.AmericanMinute.com)