The Story of the Peanut Man

Continually curious and ever-determined, this scientist’s life achievements are no small peanuts. A renowned educator and promoter of sustainable farming, George Washington Carver persevered in the face of adversity to become one of the most impactful African American scientists of the 20th Century. 

Born enslaved in 1864, George and his brother lost their mother to a kidnapping at a young age, never to hear from her again. Raised and educated by his former owners (also giving him their last name) after the end of the American Civil War, the impressionable man would leave their homestead in Missouri to pursue higher levels of education. A fast learner and passionate student, Carver would become the first Black American to attend Iowa State University – an institution already well known at the time for agricultural advancements. With a great interest in botany, floral art, and farming, George was encouraged by faculty to go even further with his education, and he received his Master’s degree from the university in 1896. Already beginning to achieve some fame for his achievements (one of his paintings was even featured at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago), Carver caught the eye of Booker T. Washington, who would change the scientist’s life forever. 

Helming a new Black college in Alabama, the Tuskegee Institute, Washington was searching for the brightest minds to lead a new generation of African American students. Carver was persuaded to join the faculty at Tuskegee, where he would live and research for the rest of his life. Brought on to run Tuskegee’s agricultural school, Carver would be a beloved presence on campus for 47 years. It was during his tenure at the Institute that Carver would achieve his most prolific contributions, and become famous as “The Peanut Man” around the United States. 

Understanding that growing cotton year after was destroying soil in the American South, Carver was an early pioneer of crop rotation and encouraged farmers to grow a variety of produce to keep their practice sustainable. It was out of this pursuit that Carver became attached to peanuts and sweet potatoes, discovering a variety of uses and recipes for products he was encouraging farmers to grow. The genius professor discovered 325 different applications for peanuts – including shaving cream, massage oil, and a nut-based Worcestershire sauce. After testifying in front of Congress to incentivize peanut production on U.S. soil, Carver became nationally recognized for his agricultural findings. 

While he may not have invented peanut butter, Carver continues to be hailed as a trailblazer in agricultural and botanical sciences. In 1953, his birthplace was named a U.S. National Monument, the first of its kind ever bestowed to a Black American. Even many decades after his passing, Carver’s sustainable farming methods are still in practice today, and he left an indelible mark on American agricultural practices. Needless to say, we’re still quite nuts about him.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

Log in

Need an account? Sign up

Sign up

Already have an account? Log In

Enter your email to reset your password

Enter your new password