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Spirituality        < Previous


Christian Heroes: George Washington Carver


Today's Snack: Carver did a lot of scientific work with sweet potatoes, one of the most nutritious food crops in the world. In his memory, for today's snack: wash a sweet potato and poke it with a fork to help steam escape during cooking. Microwave on high power for 8-10 minutes. Cut down the middle. Add brown sugar and butter. Eat with a knife and fork so you don't miss a lick. Mmmmm!





Additional sweet potato (besides the one for snack) for each student

Little bits of vegetables to use as face parts:

Round carrot disks, broccoli sprigs as bushy eyebrows or hair, red pepper curves for a smile, a tiny hot pepper for a nose, etc.




While you listen to your leader talk about George Washington Carver, use little bits of vegetables and toothpicks to make a face out of your extra sweet potato. You can take it home, enjoy it for a day or two, and then take the face apart and eat the sweet potato!!!


The American legend, George Washington Carver, was one of the best scientists the world has ever seen. What makes that amazing is that he was born a slave in the United States, more than 150 years ago, when there was still slavery in this country.



A lot of people think that what made the difference in his life was his strong Christian faith. He often said that it was only because of Jesus that he was able to think and get ideas for scientific advancements. Even though he was a world-famous scientist, he taught a Bible class on Sundays throughout his life, and he always gave all the glory to God for all his scientific discoveries.


George Washington Carver (January 1864 - January 5, 1943), was born into a family that was held in slavery in the state of Missouri, the year before the Civil War that ended slavery in the United States.


Families that were coming out of slavery 150 years ago were very poor, but somehow, he got enough education to become one of the greatest scientists who ever lived. He did a lot with botany - BOTT uh nee - the science of plants. But he also was an inventor, an educator, a painter and a good musician. He was a genius all the way around.


Some people thought his greatest contribution was finding other crops besides the No. 1 crop, cotton, that poor families in the South could grow, so that they could not only make money by selling their crops, but they could eat them, too. A farmer and his family can't exactly eat cotton!




Another problem that Carver helped solve is that, since cotton was the No. 1 crop in the South, everybody planted a lot of it. Year after year, they planted their fields with cotton. But after a while, if you plant the same crop in the same place year after year, the soil will get infested with bugs that like to eat that crop, and the soil also will lose a lot of the minerals and nutrition that the cotton plants absorbed. That is what happened in the South - the soil was literally sick and tired of cotton, and a bug called a "boll weevil" just about wiped out the cotton crop in the whole country because too much cotton had been planted. So Carver figured out what people could do with peanuts and sweet potatoes in order to switch up the crops for those fields and make them healthy and fertile again.


He did a lot of research into crops such as sweet potatoes, peanuts and soybeans, to show all the ways they could provide food, in order to inspire farmers to grow those crops.


In order to build up a better market for those crops, he used his laboratory to develop lots and lots of products that can be made from the crops he was promoting for the poor families. For example, out of peanuts alone, he figured out how to make cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline and even nitroglycerin.


How did he get such a good education, to be able to do all of his work in science? Well, in the first year of his life, he was a slave - he was "owned" by a rich white man, Moses Carver. He took his last name. But after the Civil War got rid of slavery, that white man decided to adopt George and his brother James, and raise them as his own children. His wife taught George how to read and write, and encouraged George's intellectual growth and curiosity. They sent him to a school, where he did well, and he got 17 acres of land to plant crops on to make enough money to go to college.


He became the first black student at what is now Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He studied botany and went on to get his college degree and also a master's degree there. Later, he became a professor there, and was the first black person to be a professor there.


In 1896, another famous black American, Booker T. Washington, invited Carver to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute, a black college in the South. Carver taught there for 47 years and became very famous for helping black farmers and everybody else improve their farming techniques.





Among his many inventions, Carver invented many types of adhesives, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, inks, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, shaving cream, shoe polish, talcum powder, wood stain, and many more products.


Out of sweet potatoes alone, he invented these products: 73 dyes, 17 wood fillers, 14 candies, 5 library pastes, 5 breakfast foods, 4 starches, 4 flours, and 3 types of molasses.


Where did his strong faith come from? He became a Christian when he was 10. When he was a young boy, he was not expected to live past his 21st birthday due to health concerns. Of course, he lived past 21 - he lived to be 77 - and so his belief in God deepened out of gratitude.


As a lifelong teacher, he was as concerned with his students' character development as he was with their intellectual development. He compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to strive toward:


         Be clean both inside and out.

         Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.

         Lose, if need be, without squealing.

         Win without bragging.

         Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.

         Be too brave to lie.

         Be too generous to cheat.

         Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.



By Susan Darst Williams Spirituality 13 2011

Spirituality        < Previous
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