If you ask the average person what he or she knows about George Washington Carver, you will probably hear about peanuts. While it’s true that George Washington Carver advocated that southern farmers raise peanuts, peanuts were only one interest of this gifted professor, scientist, artist, speaker, humanitarian, and, more important than anything else, follower of Jesus.
George Washington Carver graduated from Iowa State Agricultural College in 1896. With a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and graduate study in botany, he received many offers for teaching positions. Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama told him that the school was willing to do anything within reason to enable him to come there. Carver accepted the school’s offer, saying that he would cooperate with Washington in doing all he could through Christ to make the conditions of African Americans better.
Carver’s list of responsibilities was long. He was to teach science, agriculture, and art, as well as run a laboratory.
Carver loved God’s Creation. He began his day in the woods, collecting specimens. He always a wore a bit of greenery or a flower in his lapel.
The Bible was very important to Carver. A couple he had known when he was young gave him a Bible one year for Christmas. He read from it every day for the rest of his life. Carver was popular with his students. When students asked him to start a Bible class, he began one that lasted for 30 years. Carver taught his students that since God pronounced all of the millions of things He made to be very good, we should seek to do good also.
And God saw all that He had made,
and behold, it was very good.
And there was evening and there was morning,
the sixth day.
In addition to teaching and conducting research at Tuskegee, Carver looked beyond the college to the poor African American and white farmers who lived in the area. He noticed that they were depleting their soils by growing only cotton. He realized that cotton was a valuable crop for them to grow, but he encouraged them to try other crops, especially sweet potatoes and peanuts. He believed that they were two of the greatest products God had ever given to them. He believed sweet potatoes and peanuts would make southern diets more nutritious. He knew that growing peanuts could help the farmers in two ways. Peanuts grow at a different time of year than cotton, so the farmers could use the same field for both crops. Peanuts also produce their own fertilizer. That would help both the peanuts and the soil.
Carver came up with innovative ways to use both sweet potatoes and peanuts. When people asked him how he did that, he said that he didn’t make these discoveries. He said that God had worked through him to reveal some of His wonderful providence to His children.
In 1921 Carver spoke to the Committee on Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives. He wanted the committee to understand that the peanut could help the economy of the southern United States. After Carver’s remarks, the chairman of the committee asked Carver how he learned all the things he had shared. Carver replied that he had learned them from an old book. When asked what book he meant, Carver said it was the Bible. When the chairman asked if the Bible talked about peanuts, Carver replied that it did not talk about peanuts, but that it did tell about the God Who made them. He then explained that he asked God to show him what to do with the peanut, and He did.
Carver traveled widely as a speaker. In 1924 he spoke to a crowd of 500 at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Carver said that without God to “draw aside the curtain” he was helpless. A writer for the New York Times criticized the famous scientist because Carver had not sounded scientific. The title of the reporter’s article was “Men of Science Never Talk That Way.” Carver told a minister that the writer’s comment did not bother him for his own sake, but that it did bother him that the writer had criticized the religion of Jesus Christ. Carver told the minister that he was not interested in science or anything else that left out God.
In a 1930 letter, Carver wrote that the things in nature are little windows through which he saw much of God’s glory, majesty, and power. He said that he liked to think of nature as broadcasting stations that God uses.
Thank you for homeschooling. By homeschooling your children don’t have to study anything that leaves God out.
Every day you and your children can pray what Carver prayed each morning when he arrived at his laboratory after exploring God’s creations:
Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your Law.
All photos courtesy of the National Park Service.