Since he was 13 or so, Missouri-born George had been on his own. He did laundry to earn his keep while he lived in different families’ spare rooms and went to any school that would accept a brilliant, curious, black boy. Such schools were hard to find in the early 1880s. He applied to and got accepted to one Kansas college only to be turned away when the professors saw his dark skin. So he used his savings to buy some chickens and a half-mile square of land (160 acres) out near the tiny town of Beeler, KS, in the spring of 1886.
His chickens were probably very happy with all the wiggly critters that appeared as 22-year-old George started sodbusting with tools he borrowed from his prairie neighbors. By that I mean he cut and dug up blocks of sod, topsoil plus grass roots. He lined up and stacked these heavy, earthen building blocks until he had his own soddy, a thick-walled sod cabin, 14 feet square. Out on the prairies, there weren’t many trees for wooden houses, but thin willows grew along the creeks. With willow poles, dry grass, and sod slabs, George could make a roof.
He planted little trees plus corn and other vegetables and on Sundays, he went to church and sang hymns with his neighbors. George was very musical, with a fine, high tenor voice.
With their thick walls, soddies were cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but nobody was prepared for the winter that began in 1887. On January 12, 1888, the weather was balmy, but then the temperature dropped like an anvil and a truly epic blizzard began. When the snow quit falling and the winds quit howling, nearly 500 people and thousands of cattle were frozen and dead out on America’s Great Plains! George survived in his little cabin, but that was enough prairie life for him. He headed east, away from the frontier, and, at last, got what he’d wanted all along, a proper education. George Washington Carver became the very first black graduate of the college known these days as Iowa State University.
The multitalented hand of Cheryl Harness creates another winning combination of history, biography, and illustration: the inspiring story of a man who rose from slavery to worldwide fame as America’s Plant Doctor. Cheryl Harness’ lively narrative follows Carver’s rise to international fame: our hero dines at the White House, works with Henry Ford, and testifies to Congress. The book’s vivid illustrations are an invitation to step back in time and become an active participant in this compelling story. For more information, click here.
Rumor had it that the Brooklyn Bridge might not be safe and people were hurt and killed in the ensuing panic. But P. T. Barnum, the famous circus man, had an idea to prove the bridge's safety and, of course, get himself a bit of publicity. Jan Adkins will fill in the details tomorrow.