George Washington Carver was born enslaved in 1864, yet he rose to prominence as an agricultural scientist, inventor and educator. Carver identified nearly 300 practical uses for the peanut and is often known as “the Peanut Man” to schoolchildren.
The George Washington Carver National Monument at his birthplace on the Moses and Susan Carver farmstead n Diamond, Missouri, honors his achievements. Orphaned as an infant, Carver was named after the white owners of the farm, who raised him. Today, the site looks much as it did when Carver spent hours exploring the woods. He left at age 11 to pursue his education, which culminated in a master’s in agricultural science from what is now Iowa State University.
Visitors to the historic site stroll a three-quarter-mile path through the sylvan setting that so intrigued Carver. Its abundance of wildflowers, including ox-eye daisy, prairie mountain mint and purple passionflower, inspired him to pursue a career in agriculture. A statue of a young Carver overlooks a meandering stream where, he recalled, he “spent day after day in the woods alone to collect my floral beauties and put them in a little garden I had hidden in the brush.” A circa 1881 home, built after Carver left, is also on the property and open for guided tours daily.
Interactive exhibits at the Visitors Center relay the story of Carver’s remarkable life, most notably his tenure as the Agriculture Director of Tuskegee Institute for nearly 50 years. On select days, visitors learn about his scientific endeavors in an on-site science classroom. During our visit, Park Ranger Diane Eilenstein taught a group of elementary school students how to make peanut milk. (Check the online calendar for more details (https://www.nps.gov/gwca/planyourvisit/calendar.htm).
Following Carver’s death in 1943, Congress designated the George Washington Carver National Monument. It was the first National Monument honoring the birthplace of an African American, a scientist, an agricultural figure, an educator and a non-president.
What an impressive accomplishment for a man who worked “for peanuts.”
George Washington Carver National Monument is in the southwest Missouri town of Diamond, 10 miles southeast of Joplin and 15 miles east of the Oklahoma state line. nps.gov/gwca.