By Ryan Richardson
DIAMOND, Mo. —
George Washington Carver’s legacy and achievements were celebrated Saturday as over 1,000 area residents attended the 70th annual Carver Day Celebration at George Washington Carver National Monument.
The National Park Service event, near Diamond, draws on guest speakers, storytellers and local groups in addition to musical entertainment to expand on the monument’s permanent displays for the daylong celebration. National Park Service spokesman Curtis Gregory said that the event has grown into a celebration of Carver’s life and his legacy.
“Carver Day celebrates the establishment of the national monument and Carver’s impact on everything above and beyond what he is known for,” Gregory said. “We try and bring that all together here, and it is something that has really struck a chord with people and that is why it keeps growing.”
Gregory said the event generally draws over 1,000 people to the 240-acre park, which is near Carver’s birthplace.
Keynote speaker and Carver biographer Linda Edwards said that much of his legacy is wrapped in how he lived his life.
“Carver was a dreamer, an idealist and he believe in the opportunity for people doing the right thing for the greater good,” Edwards said during her keynote address. “There were hundreds of people that he taught firsthand and not just in science. Because of him, sharecroppers learned that they could sustain and thrive. ... He inspired people, both black and white, to change the world.”
Some of the performers found Saturday’s celebration an inspirational opportunity and a learning experience. Kansas East State Sunshine Band musical coordinator Cecily Henderson said that in the weeks leading up to their performance, her 40-piece choir consisting of 3- to 13-year-olds took time to learn about Carver.
“This is one of the few times that we get to be somewhere that we can learn about someone firsthand that was so important to the African-American community,” Henderson said. “We turned this into a teaching experience because we want them to know Carver was someone you can really look up to because of where he came from and what he was able to accomplish.”
That kind of learning experience is also what attracted San Antonio, Texas, resident Teresa Roberts to Saturday’s event.
“Carver was a modern renaissance man, and today is exactly the kind of thing that he would have loved,” Roberts said. “You have people talking plants over here and then we have the arts and performers there. If Carver was here today, he probably would have shared cuttings from some of these native plants before going to enjoy the music. Today is his legacy.”
George Washington Carver was born July 12, 1864, in Diamond Grove. He is best known for developing crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovering hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut. Carver’s scientific discoveries included more than 300 products derived from the peanut, some 100 from sweet potatoes and about 75 from pecans.