When researching ancestors, we genealogists soon discover that daily life for many was horrid. Among the plights they faced were: epidemics, hunger, lack of education, medical problems, sexism, racism and injustice.

As you compile your family history, include details about the hardships and the ways in which your ancestors coped with the bad circumstances. What inspired them and gave them strength to not give up? What actions did they take to improve their lives?

Few people had a more difficult childhood than George Washington Carver, who was born a slave on a farm located between Joplin and Diamond. In spite of horrible circumstances, he followed his dreams, helped thousands of people and became famous among leaders worldwide.

As a baby, George and his mother and sister were kidnapped and taken to Kentucky. Although he was recovered, they were not.

George could have become bitter over the loss of his mother and sister. Instead, he became a thoughtful person who believed in the power of prayer.

He desired education but was not able to attend the local school, which was only for white children. Undeterred, he walked 10 miles to Neosho and boarded there so he could attend a Black school.

Desiring further education, he travelled at age 13 to Fort Scott, Kansas, to attend an academy. After he saw a white mob hang a Black man, he left and ended up at Minneapolis, Kansas, where he graduated from high school. He then applied to a university at Highland, Kansas, and was accepted. When he arrived and they learned he was Black, he was denied admittance.

For the following two years, he homesteaded 17 acres and worked as a ranch hand. He then obtained a loan to attend college. By 1891, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Iowa State University.

Although his voice was high and difficult to hear, he became an esteemed professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama and did research on food crops, most notably peanuts.

He developed new varieties of crops, developed new farming techniques, created new products for crops and developed a horse-drawn classroom that he used to teach farmers.

He lived frugally, strove to improve the lives of others and chose not to apply for patents. He felt that his work should be free to those who needed it.

Each time I visit George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, I am drawn to the path that meanders through the prairie and woods and passes by a small pond before continuing north to the site where he lived and helped tend a garden and crops. I imagine the young boy who was gifted with a scientific mind and artistic talent as he observed the beauty and complexity of wildflowers, native fruit, crops, birds, butterflies, bees and aquatic life.

During this pandemic, the trail is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, although the visitor’s center is closed.

Comments or Suggestions? Contact Frankie Meyer: frankiemeyer@yahoo.com.

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