George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life

Resources to Support the Teaching of George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life

Oct 27, 2020

“When you do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

George Washington Carver

 

George Washington Carver was a complex man who had many gifts — a Renaissance man. He was a scientist, teacher, humanitarian, environmentalist and an artist. He was a spiritual man, and a man of quiet perseverance. Born enslaved, Carver defied the odds. 

Carver rose to become one of the best-known and widely respected men in the world. He devoted his life to helping Black farmers suffering the oppression of racism, poverty and ignorance.

These segments from Iowa PBS’s documentary George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life tell the story of Carver’s life through footage and interviews from people who knew or were influenced by him. Interviews took place at Iowa State University, Simpson College and Tuskegee University.

The clips and questions below can be found in the Iowa PBS LearningMedia collection for George Washington Carver: An Uncommon Life. The collection contains a background essay with additional information from Iowa Pathways and Tuskegee University, as well as clip- and collection-wide discussion questions and activities.


George Washington Carver's Impact and Inspiration

black and white image of George Washington Carver

Q: Who in your life would you consider to be like Carver?

Carver: “It’s Service That Measures Success”

black and white image of George Washington Carver working with students at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee Alabama

Q: How do the words of “Service That Measures Success” describe the life that George Washington Carver led? How do you think the poem represented Carver’s life?

George Washington Carver's Childhood

black and white image of George Washington Carver at an all  black school in Missouri

Q: Explain what it meant to be educated during segregation. As a Black man, what rules and laws were in place for George Washington Carver to follow?

Faith as Inspiration for George Washington Carver

black and white image of George Washington Carver sitting in front of a fire place with a book in his lap.

Q: Nature was a strong influence for George Washington Carver. Describe how his understanding of nature and plant structures influenced his work later in life.

George Washington Carver’s Struggle for an Education

black and white image of a young George Washington Carver in his lab working on a scientific experiment

Q: What effects did segregated education have on George Washington Carver? Is public education segregated today? Explain.

George Washington Carver Attends College in Iowa

colored image of the gates of Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa

Q: George Washington Carver studied art at Grand View University. Explain how his love of art and nature influenced his work as a botanist and agriculturalist.

Carver Earns Advanced Degree at Iowa State

historical image of the farm at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa

Q: Higher education in 1890 was prohibited or illegal for most Black Americans. Describe the progression of civil rights in Iowa from territorial government to 1890.

Booker T. Washington Invites Carver to Tuskegee

color image of the gates of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama

Q: Who is Booker T. Washington? State one of his many accomplishments. How is this accomplishment still relevant today?

George Washington Carver’s Experience at Tuskegee

black and white image of George Washington Carver's first laboratory at Tuskegee University

Q: What was George Washington Carver’s legacy at Tuskegee University?

Carver Improved Agricultural Practices

black and white image of George Washington Carver in the research fields at Tuskegee University with other professors and farmers of the time

Q: What outside influences allowed George Washington Carver to succeed in bringing change to the Southern farmer?

Carver Remembered as Teacher and Mentor

black and white image of George Washington Carver working with a student in his laboratory at Tuskegee University

Q: Famous quotes from history can be used to motivate the listener. George Washington Carver once said, “Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

Carver Overcomes Challenges Achieve Acclaim

black and white image of George Washington Carver in a faculty picture with other faculty from Tuskegee University

Q: What makes a scientific legacy? Was Carver’s work significant enough to support the claim that he was one of the top scientists of his day? Explain.

Carver Finds World Applications for Science

image of the George Washington Carver exhibit at Tuskegee University

Q: Very few scientific inventions of George Washington Carver ever made it to patent, causing some to question his scientific legacy. Why might his research not have been patented?

George Washington Carver’s Legacy for Black Americans

image of a magazine article about George Washington Carver with images of Carver and his work

Q: Later in his life, Carver was asked to be a spokesman of interracial cooperation. Explain how the experiences in George Washington Carver’s life made him a good representative for this initiative.

Carver Finds Fame and Befriends Henry Ford

black and white image of George Washington Carver standing with Henry Ford

Q: Was Carver’s work significant enough to support the claim that he was one of the top scientists of his day? Explain.

George Washington Carver’s Legacy

color image of the George Washington Carver Museum with a statue of George Washington Carver in front on the campus of Tuskegee University

Q: How do the words of “Flower in the Crannied Wall” by Alfred Lord Tennyson describe the life that George Washington Carver led?