The George Washington Carver Museum seeks to give visitors a wide-ranging history and view of early African-American inventors, explorers and scientists, as well as noting the contributions of African–Americans to social change and to the military. The museum in Dothan, Alabama, was named after an agronomist and agricultural chemist who was born into slavery in 1861 and went on to become the director of agricultural research at the Tuskegee Normal Institute in 1896.
Several exhibits at the George Washington Carver Museum focus on the man who inspired the museum, plus other black inventors and scientists. The exhibits include one installation on the early years of black invention in the Southern United States, when inventions pertained to the South’s industry. A second exhibit focuses on explorations. A third exhibit showcases scientific contributions and discoveries, many of which helped the South’s agriculture to prosper.
Numerous inventors who were descended from the Caribbean and Africa have invented items that are taken for granted today, in fields as varied as medicine, industry and physics. These inventions include the blood bank, the lawn mower, the refrigerator, the clothes dryer, the electric trolley, the pencil sharpener and the dust pan, to name a few. Featured inventors at the George Washington Carver Museum include the inventor of the x-ray, George Alcorn; the inventor of the potato chip, George Crum; the blood bank inventor, Charles Drew; the inventor of 3-D glasses, Kenneth Dunkley; the gas mask inventor, Garrett Morgan; and the inventor of home security measures, Marie van Brittan Brown, among others.
George Washington Carver, as the museum’s namesake, is also showcased as the inventor of hundreds of peanut products, including peanut chocolate fudge and peanut mayonnaise. Other applications with peanuts are related to coffee, milk, flour, cheese, medicinal oils, soap, ink, and wood stains. He developed uses for sweet potatoes, pecans and soybeans, with sweet potato applications numbering more than 100, including the glue used on postage stamps, ink, vinegar, flour and molasses. He came up with a process of turning soybeans into paint products, and also developed new dyes.
Despite George Washington Carver’s inventions and discoveries that revolutionized agriculture, he only received three patents. His work showed that peanuts could be a viable and valuable crop, something that had not been known before. Peanuts, plus his method of crop rotation, improved the flagging agriculture of the south. The George Washington Carver Museum seeks to give him and other black inventors and pioneers their due.