DIAMOND, Mo. — An upcoming celebration at Carver National Monument will commemorate the 76th anniversary of George Washington Carver's death and the subsequent establishment of the first national park to honor an African American on July 14, 1943.
With free educational activities and entertainment, park ranger Curtis Gregory said there will be something for everyone who walks through the gate for Carver Day.
"If you're interested in history, you can hear the story of George Washington Carver's life and about Missouri history," he said. "But we have a lot of visitors who come every year because they're interested in the music or in the storytelling or just the normal daily activities here."
Guest speakers include Dana Chandler, archivist and associate professor at Tuskegee University and the co-author of "To Raise Up the Man Farthest Down: Tuskegee University’s Advancement in Human Health, 1881-1987." He will share information about the Carver archival collection at the university, including some rare items that provide insight into Carver’s work.
Another speaker, Lucy Phelps, an adjunct history instructor at Fort Scott Community College, will examine the experience of enslaved women through the lens of motherhood. Phelps will discuss aspects of enslaved mothers' lives, including the labor they performed, the care they provided their children and the devastating effects of forced separation.
When young Carver lived on the local farm with his mother, both were abducted and eventually separated, Gregory said. Because Carver's mother was never found and the pair were never reunited, Gregory expects the reception of Phelps' research about enslaved motherhood to be especially poignant.
The former executive director of the Carver Birthplace Association, Paxton Williams, will reprise his role as George Washington Carver in his original one-person show, "Listening to the Still, Small Voice." Like Carver, Paxton is a graduate of Iowa State University; he has performed as Carver hundreds of times.
Musical performers this year will include Clarence “King Clarentz” Brewer, a Springfield musician who will play a rare solo set of roots classics from the likes of Son House, Bukka White and Duke Ellington, and provide background into the music. Also sharing the music stage will be multi-instrumentalist and gospel vocalist Arlecia Elkamil, gospel group Sensational Wonders, and local band InCourage. Local choirs will also perform.
Attendees will be treated to a day filled with exhibitors, musical performances, guided tours, educational programs, children’s activities, a Junior Ranger station and more. The Diamond Lions Club will provide concessions as an annual fundraiser.
"I hope they come away having had a wonderful day of education and gained an awareness of the park and of the legacy of George Washington Carver," Gregory said. "This park has been here for 76 years, and we tell this story daily, and we want to share it with everyone."
Want to go?
The Carver Day celebration is planned from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Carver National Monument.