George Washington Carver left his laboratory for some fresh air outside the front door of Tuskegee Institute’s Agriculture Hall. Standing under the monumental square brick portico overshadowing the entrance, he watched a group of visitors to the Institute rushing up the six stone steps to the portico, under one of the high arches supporting it, and towards him. They were saying, “Where is he? Where is Dr. Carver? We want to see what he looks like!”
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The paragraphs on this page begin the almost-finished biography George Washington Carver For Us Now. To continue the story both in words and video, click the arrow to the right of the screen above. The video above introduces Carver using film footage of him from the collection of For Us Now author Peter Burchard.





Excerpt continued from George Washington Carver For Us Now

Carver’s saggy lab apron, self-sewn from a cotton flour sack, caused many to dismiss him as a poor, common man. For his noisy visitors, he accentuated the impression the apron made by putting on a lost and bewildered facial expression. The visitors, hardly seeing the ragged figure partly in their path, charged past him, “in their rush,” as Carver’s young friend Lucy Crisp told it, “almost capsizing the old man who somewhat impeded their progress.” Crisp recalled Carver telling her this story “with great gusto and much delight.”


In another way, people familiar with Carver’s appearance missed who he was. One person who noticed this, Bob Barry of Tom’s Toasted Peanuts in Columbus, Georgia, told an audience of Tuskegee staff and students, “If you live beside a mountain and see it every day, it does not seem high to you; but someone who does not see it often knows that it is high… Make use of this great opportunity you have to learn from one who knows… There are things of the soul, of the character, of the heart, and of the mind that cannot be expressed in any language and are not printed in any books. This man has these great traits that he can transmit to you by contact with him, if you will but keep the doors open to your better self.”


George Washington Carver was a pretty visible figure in U.S. history, described in phrases like “the humble Negro scientist who made more than 300 products from the lowly peanut.” The irony in Carver’s iconic stature was that it made it possible for people to miss him in plain sight, just as they did in person. The general public’s knowledge of Carver, for the most part, was like a puzzle piece with a picture of a peanut on it.


Carver’s longtime Tuskegee friend Bess Walcott pointed out the irony “that it might be a curious fact that the person who was once a slave might be the means of freeing the entire South.” She could have gone further, since Carver’s vision was not limited to any one region. Carver hinted at his freeing vision when he said four years before his death in 1943, “We are in a pitiful condition today, when it would be so easy to make this a heaven on earth.”


For a suggestion of what Carver’s heaven looked like, consider that if humanity had been privy to the fullness of his vision and taken it to heart, we would have no climate change crisis, no overpopulation, and no war. Disease would be the exception; the earth would be clean, its soils producing food and fuel abundantly and sustainably. Greedy men could never have found their way to lord themselves over us.


It requires a space as big as this book to explain this. To have done so in a smaller space would have been to lose the impact necessary to give humanity what is beginning to look like our last chance to get it right.


Carver’s invisibility in plain view and his role as the freeing former slave were only two of many ironies his life was steeped in. Another was his speaking of his deep, resonant vision in a voice reed-thin and as high as a soprano clarinet. Still another was his unmarred unity of character despite his severe scarring by savage experiences.



This is a slide-show Table of Contents. Leave it on and watch Carver’s life flash before your eyes.




Any help goes to getting out the big biography For Us Now, with the goal of a release date by Carver’s 150th. Cover design and style planning will begin upon receipt of funds.




Listen to Audiobook Samples
Selected to highlight the main points of Carver’s teachings.


One way of contributing is to put down $10.00 for the audiobook of Peter’s first book, Carver: A Great Soul.




You may want to check out:


Peter Burchard’s 200-page study on Carver for the National Park Service


A bit of the History Channel’s Modern Marvel show “George Washington Carver Tech,” including a clip of Peter Burchard.


Peter telling of his odyssey with Carver’s legacy (video)


Way more about Peter’s Carver work than you want or need to know


A slide show of the background images on this site and their sources


Peter Burchard’s thanks to donors to the website


Stevie Wonder singing of George Washington Carver, a verse from the song “Same Old Story”


James Brown learning about and speaking of George Washington Carver on James’ own TV show



©Peter D. Burchard 2014