A Word from Your Crossroads Team: You’re reading the sixth post in a series of blogs we are writing on the topic of Celebrating Black History Month. During our series in February, you’ll enjoy posts from Dr. Park, Dr. Ware, Dr. Badal, Dr. Kellemen, Professor Baxter, Dean Schrader, and our Registrar—Dountonia Batts. This series, like everything we do at Crossroads Bible College is designed to glorify God by training Christian leaders to reach a multiethnic urban world for Christ.
For our first post, by Dr. Park, visit The God-Created Worth of All People. For our second post, by President Ware, visit Color Me Love. For our third post by VP Kellemen, visit 4 Portraits of Gospel-Centered Black Church History. For our fourth post by Professor Baxter, visit Black History as American History. For our fifth post by Dr. Joel Badal, visit The House that Buck Built.
A Beautiful Mind
Some of you might have seen or are aware of the movie A Beautiful Mind that was released in 2001 starring Russell Crowe. This movie was based on the life of John Forbes Nash Jr. (1923-2015), a brilliant, award winning mathematician who made fundamental contributions to game theory, differential geometry and partial differential equations. His theories were used in so many different fields such as military theory, economics, artificial intelligence, and computer science just to name a few. He is considered one of the greatest minds in the 20th Century and in 1994 while working at Princeton University as a Senior Research Mathematician he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Before his death in 2015, he also won the Abel prize for his work on nonlinear partial differential equations.
When I finished watching this movie, over a decade ago, I remember thinking to myself a few things. My first thought was, “Man, I wish I had a mind like he has.” Another thought that came to my mind was, “If a mere human can be this intelligent, then how awesome and intelligent must God be.”
George Washington Carver
However, I had another thought that came to my head some 14-15 years ago that relates to Black History month and to the topic of my blog. As I was thinking of men of high intelligence, important discoveries, and fundamental contributions to society, George Washington Carver came to my mind and I began to think about what God can do with person with genius-like ability and a highly creative, highly intelligent “Beautiful Mind.”
One might ask, “Why did the name of George Washington Carver come to you mind after watching a move about one of the smartest men of the 20th Century?” To discover the answer to this question one would have to go back about 30 years. In the early 1980’s, my parents made the decision to educate me at home. A well-rounded education was very important for them and one aspect of that was their insistence that I read about godly men and women from different ethnic groups that God used to make important contributions, not only to people around them in their immediate context, but also to society at large. Men and women, who lived for a higher purpose, had a higher calling, and used their gifts and abilities for others. I read about Clara Barton, Witness Lee, Martin Luther, Booker T. Washington, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr., Watchman Nee, and of course, George Washington Carver.
The African American and former slave from Missouri became an instant hero in my mind! As an eleven-year-old boy, I thought of him as one of the smartest men who had ever lived. What he was able to do with a peanut (keep reading to find out more…) made me think of Jesus Christ Himself and what He did with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread (Luke 9:16; Mark 6:41.) It was miraculous and blessed by God! I read the small book at least 5-6 times that year and had most of his life and accomplishments engrained in my head—which has lasted to this day. He was and still is one of my heroes and I never thought once of his ethnicity other than the clear truth that my mother enforced in my mind:
“God created all men equal, all men have value, and the color of ones skin does not change any of that. Black men are just as smart at white men and brown men, because we are all the same and the same God that created my mind, created all men’s mind.”
This was a lesson I embraced, believed, and one that has informed my worldview and permeated my thinking all these years.
Here’s a brief summary of the life of George Washington Carver—one of my heroes who God created with a darker skin color than me and by far a more intelligent and brilliant mind than I. George Washington Carver was born in 1864 or 1865 in Diamond, Missouri (records were not always made in regards to births of slaves) and died January 5, 1943. He has been called the Father of Modern Agriculture and has been noted as one of the most prominent scientists and inventors of his time.
He was born during the Civil War to Mary and Giles—an enslaved couple owned by Moses and Susan Carver. After the Civil War was over the Carver’s chose to raise George and his brother James in their home as their own children. Susan Carver taught George how to read and write since no local schools would accept black children in their area. He loved education and became the first black student to be accepted at Iowa State Agriculture College where he studied Botany.
He later became the first black faculty member at the college now known as Iowa State University. I feel a strong connection with George as I too was educated by a strong, smart woman and I have a connection with Iowa as well (where my wife was born and raised). That is where my similarities end, as George begins to be the first African American to do so many things and within years his incredibly brilliant mind begins to shine for all to see.
In 1896, after graduating from Iowa State, Booker T. Washington, who was over Tuskegee Institute (an African American College) hired George to oversee the school’s Agricultural Department. This began a career of research, teaching, invention, and accomplishments. Under Carver’s leadership, his Institution began to achieve national recognition. According to Christine Dao in the article, Man of Science, Man of God:
“Carver revolutionized agricultural science with his cultivation of soil-enriching crops, such as peanuts and soybeans, to revive earth that had been depleted of nutrients from cotton farming. He discovered over 100 uses for the sweet potato and 300 uses for the peanut, including beverages, cosmetics, dyes and paints, medicines, and food products. He conducted numerous research projects that also contributed to medicine and other fields, and used his influence to champion the relief of racial tensions.”
Rise to Prominence and Death
During his distinguished lifetime he was one of the most famous African Americans and one of the best intellectuals of his time. He was known internationally and politically and even President Theodore Roosevelt sought his advice many times in regards to agricultural issues in America. As previously noted, he discovered over 100 uses for the sweet potato, over 300 uses for the peanut, and completed many research projects that helped in many fields outside of agriculture including medicine and even racial tensions of his day.
He was known for being frugal, for rejecting financial gain, and for his acknowledgement of his Creator. He acknowledged God was the inspiration behind his work and his studies convinced him of God’s existence and benevolence to mankind. At the age of 78, he died and was is buried next to another African America hero—Booker T. Washington—on the grounds of the famous Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. The epitaph on George Washington Carver’s grave stone clearly demonstrates what his life was given to and for:
“He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.”
George Washington Carver, a former slave, a inventor, scientist, teacher, intellectual giant, Christian, hero, and one of the most Beautiful Minds this world has ever known.