Brother George Washington Carver was one of many children born to Mary and Giles, an enslaved couple owned by Moses Carver. He was born during the Civil War years, most likely in 1864. A week after his birth, George was kidnapped along with his sister and mother from the Carver farm by raiders from the neighboring state of Arkansas. The three were sold in Kentucky, and among them only the infant George was located by an agent of Moses Carver and returned to Missouri.
The conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 brought the end of slavery in Missouri. Moses Carver and his wife, Susan, decided to keep George and his brother James at their home after that time, raising and educating the two boys. Susan Carver taught George to read and write, since no local school would accept black students at the time.
The search for knowledge would remain a driving force for the rest of George’s life. As a young man, he left the Carver home to travel to a school for black children 10 miles away. It was at this point that the boy, who had always identified himself as “Carver’s George” first came to be known as “George Carver.” Carver attended a series of schools before receiving his diploma at Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.
Accepted to Highland College in Highland, Kansas, Carver was denied admittance once college administrators learned of his race. Instead of attending classes, he homesteaded a claim, where he conducted biological experiments and compiled a geological collection. While interested in science, Carver was also interested in the arts. In 1890, he began studying art and music at Simpson College in Iowa, developing his painting and drawing skills through sketches of botanical samples. His obvious aptitude for drawing the natural world prompted a teacher to suggest that Carver enroll in the botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College. Carver moved to Ames and began his botanical studies the following year as the first black student at Iowa State.
George Washington Carver excelled in his studies. Upon completion of his Bachelor of Science degree, Carver’s professors Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel persuaded him to stay on for a master’s degree. His graduate studies included intensive work in plant pathology at the Iowa Experiment Station. In these years, Carver established his reputation as a brilliant botanist and began the work that he would pursue for the remainder of his career.
"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting system, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."
– George Washington Carver