Dr. George Washington Carver, the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century, had it tough nearly all through his life, but as he noted, no one has the right to pass through the world without leaving a mark and he did exactly so.
He was by the time he departed this earthly plane in January 1943, acclaimed as a scientist, educator and humanitarian.
When he won the $1000 Humanitarian Award in 1941, he noted “I am not sure that I am worthy of this splendid citation but I wish to say also that I thank you from the depths of my heart.”
Carver loved nature. He was born in Diamond Grove, Missouri close to the civil war outbreak at basic structure on the farm of Mr. Moses Carver, the owner of his mother, Mary. Mary birthed two boys George and James.
He was thus born enslaved into a place and time plagued by guerilla warfare and outlaw gangs.
“My mother and I were klu klucked and sold in Arkansas. I was nearly dead with the whopping cough, frail and sick. Mr. Carver sent a horse valued at $300 to purchase us back. Every effort was made to find my mother but to no avail. Destiny so fixed it that I should know neither father nor mother,” he observed.
Becoming an orphan, sickly and an outcast, he under the care of Moses and Susan Carver decided to seek education as no school in Missouri would take him in. He would move to Kansas, Iowa and then Alabama in search of knowledge.
Possessing a profound faith in God and nature, Carver observed specimen keenly noting nature was ever ready to teach. Facing segregation and rejection every turn of his journey, he would land at Neosho, Denver where for the first time he had black teachers.
When Booker T. Washington recruited Carver to the Tuskegee University in 1896 to be Agriculture Director, it afforded him the opportunity to do something for his ‘people’ on a large scale.
Despite rising to the apogee of his craft earning global fame and respect, Carver shied away from publicity or being filmed. Here’s a rare film of him shot in 1937 by Dr. C. Allen Alexander, an African-American surgeon from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Carver’s assistant and closest associate Dr. Austin W. Curtis persuaded him to avail himself.
The film was made just at the time the Kodak Co. released color film for amateur photographers. The original film scenes were sent to Kodak Co. for treatment for preservation. Dr. Carver is seen exiting an elevator that was installed as a gift from his friend Henry Ford.
The film also shows “the red clay of Alabama, the bales of cotton, the saw mill with great piles of saw dust.” Also included are shots of a Tuskegee Institute football game, along with a show put on by the school’s marching band and majorettes, sporting satin uniforms of crimson and gold.
In December 2019, Dr. Alexander’s film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, under the title George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute.