This Day in Black History: May 7, 1943

A liberty ship named after George Washington Carver is launched.

Posted: 05/07/2013 08:30 AM EDT
USS George Washington Carver

(Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

George Washington Carver is best known as a pioneering scientist and inventor. He also is the namesake for the SS George Washington Carver, launched at the Richmond Shipyard No. 1 in California on May 7, 1943, to honor an "outstanding Negro."

"I christen thee George Washington Carver," said actress and singer Lena Horne, a sponsor of the ship, before swinging a champagne bottle.

A submarine, the USS George Washington Carver, also was commissioned in his honor on June 15, 1966.

The exact date of Carver's birth is unknown, but he is believed to have been born during the Civil War in 1864 in Diamond, Missouri, to Mary and Giles, a couple enslaved by Moses Carver. A week later, Carver, his mother and a sister were kidnapped and sold in Kentucky, but Carver was later returned to Missouri.

At the end of the war, Carver and a brother, James, continued to live with and were educated by Moses Carver and his wife, Susan. After earning a high school diploma from Minneapolis High School in Kansas and a stint studying art and music at Simpson College in Iowa, Carver became the first Black student to enroll at Iowa State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree, and established a reputation as an extraordinarily talented botanist.

In 1896, Carver became head of the agriculture department at Tuskegee Institute. He not only developed a renowned curriculum and faculty, but also gained national prominence for his research in plant biology. President Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi sought his advice on agricultural issues and in 1916 he received the rare honor, for an American, of becoming a member of the British Royal Society of Arts.

Carver, whose birthplace was made a national monument in 1953, died on Jan. 5, 1943.


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