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Iowa celebrates inaugural George Washington Carver Day on Feb. 1

In June 2022, Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation marking Feb. 1 of every following year as George Washington Carver Day in Iowa.

IOWA, USA — February is Black History Month, and on its first day, Iowa will take time to remember a trailblazing scientist with Iowa ties, Dr. George Washington Carver.

In June of 2022, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation marking Feb. 1 of every following year as George Washington Carver Day in Iowa.

The legislation encourages "all governmental entities, civic organizations, schools, and institutions of higher education in the state to observe the day", which Iowa will do for the first time in 2023.

Carver is only the third person to be recognized by the state with a day of recognition; the other two are Herbert Hoover and agronomist Norman Borlaug.

Carver, who was born into slavery in rural Missouri in 1864, spent about 18 months in Iowa's Madison County, according to historian Linda Smith. 

"He came to Madison County first after he was rejected at a college in northeastern Kansas," Smith said. "He connected with a couple here called the Milhollands."

"And they realized that he was dejected about his college time, and so they helped him get enrolled in Simpson [College]," Smith added.

Carver studied art and piano at Simpson College in Warren County. His art teacher then encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College — now Iowa State University — in Ames. 

Credit: ISU Digital Collection
1894 undergraduate photo of George Washington Carver.

Smith said Carver's experiences in Madison and Warren counties shaped his future.

"Both places got him to where he could really excel and make a difference," Smith said. "So, we're just part of his long, interesting journey."

According to Iowa State University, Carver was Iowa State's first Black student and faculty before leaving for a career at the Tuskegee Institute, now Tuskegee University.

Washington studied and taught at Tuskegee until his death in 1943. He led its Agricultural Experiment Station. According to the Science History Institute, Carver conducted research in southeastern Alabama, to help impoverished farmers. Through soil studies, he found the soil there was ideal for growing peanuts and sweet potatoes.

In honor of the first George Carver Washington Day, Simpson College and Iowa State University are hosting programs to commemorate him on Feb. 1.

Iowa State University is hosting a George Washington Carver program starting at 5 p.m.. More information on how to take part is available here.

Simpson College is hosting a day of recognition, with the first event starting at 9 a.m. More information on other events to honor Carver is available here.

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