As a professor of agriculture in Tuskegee, Alabama, George Washington Carver saw how hard life was for Black farmers. Most grew cotton, which takes more nutrients out of the soil than other crops. Each year, the soil produced less cotton.
So Carver encouraged farmers to grow cotton one year, and then the next year plant peanuts or soybeans, which put nutrients back into the soil. This is called crop rotation, and it revolutionized farming in the southern United States by liberating famers from their dependency on cotton.
Carver also invented more than 300 products from peanuts (including pickles, shampoo and fruit punch) and 125 from sweet potatoes (such as flour, ink and glue) to ensure a need for the crops. (Most people assume Carver created peanut butter, but it was invented in 1884 by Canadian doctor Marcellus Gilmore Edson.)
In 1920, Carver was a guest speaker for the United Peanut Associations of America. To get to the meeting, he had to take the freight elevator — the regular one was for White people only. Despite this racial insult, Carver dazzled the audience. He helped southern peanut farmers again the next year when he gave an incredible presentation to a group of politicians. They were so fascinated by Carver’s work that they passed a law to help the farmers.