George Washington Carver is best remembered for his research into the commercial uses for the peanut. He was born 153 years ago this month, in Diamond, a small town in southwestern Missouri. Today, you can visit George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, the first unit of the National Park Service dedicated to an African American and the site where young George was born enslaved on the Carver farm and spent his childhood.
Nicknamed “The Plant Doctor,” Carver’s work with the peanut began in about 1903, and was aimed at freeing African-American farmers and the South from the tyranny of king cotton. With innovative farming methods, he convinced Southern farmers to grow such soil-enriching crops as soybeans and peanuts in addition to cotton.
George Washington Carver National Monument features the rustic Carver Nature Trail, a .75-mile self-guided loop that leads visitors into woodlands, across streams and along a tallgrass prairie restoration area. The trail also features a canopy of different native Missouri trees with lush ground cover, the Boy Carver statue, the 1881 Moses Carver House, and the pre-Civil War Carver Family Cemetery. (Carver is buried at Tuskegee University in Alabama.) The park’s many educational programs focus on Carver’s interests such as painting, exploring nature, tending to his “secret garden” and conducting science experiments. Visitors may also enjoy the park’s new film, “Struggle and Triumph: The Legacy of George Washington Carver,” and kids may become a Junior Ranger by completing the Junior Ranger program.
Being one of six national parks in Missouri, George Washington National Monument is part of the Missouri National Parks Passport Challenge, a program that challenges the public to visit every national park in Missouri by December 31, 2017. Those who do so are eligible for rewards, including the Grand Slam Grand Prize of four tickets to a home St. Louis or Kansas City home baseball game, plus a one-night hotel stay.
You can find out more about the Passport Challenge by visiting www.monationalparks.com. We hope to see you at Missouri’s national parks in 2017!