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One man’s bold push for recognition

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture under James Wilson was setting up scientific research stations all over the country.

George Washington Carver, already known for his scientific work with peanuts, put in a bid for a black research station, as African-Americans were unlikely to use or benefit from the white Alabama Polytechnic University in his state.

He submitted to the legislature a detailed plan for a branch experiment station, “a colored station, to be located at Tuskegee.”

Thanks to Wilson’s influence, the Tuskegee Experiment Station was approved and Carver named director. Scoring an agricultural research station was a high honor for a white college; for a black college it was a remarkable feat, which came to Tuskegee in 1897 solely because of Carver’s expertise, hard work and connections.

But that was not all. The same year, Carver traveled to Washington, D.C., and persuaded Wilson to visit Tuskegee for the opening of a new building. Four months of intense preparation ensued, and the visit was so wildly successful that President William McKinley brought his wife and almost his entire Cabinet to visit Tuskegee the following year, which opened a floodgate of presidential visits and funding to the now-legendary Tuskegee Institute.

— Adapted from George Washington Carver: A Life, Christina Vella, Louisiana State University Press.

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