Memories of George Washington Carver
Oral History Interviews
Interview with Austin W. Curtis, Assistant to
Dr. Carver, 1935-1943
Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 1979
Conducted by Toby Fishbein
TF: Did he always wear some living thing
in his lapel? We have many pictures...
AWC: Yes, there was always a flower or a piece of evergreen, depending
on the season of the year. But it was never anything artificial. It
might be just some berries or a twig of evergreen. But when flowers were
available, it was always a flower.
AWC: He was not one to say, "Well, this is not my
field." So many of us are prone to do that. He recognized the
fact that there was an important job to be done because of the distressing
poverty that existed for people who were depending on cotton as their sole cash
crop and they were without. So he had to develop a plan that would enable
people to do these things for themselves, where there wasn't any expenditure of
money. That was one of the things that caused him to start teaching the
people how to dehydrate the plants, the wild fruits, and the native
vegetation. You couldn't talk with them about canning. Where were
they going to get the money to buy jars and caps and the rubbers for them?
Interview with Alfred Zissler, Lecture Trip Driver for Dr.
Carver, c. 1933
Ames, Iowa, 1968
Conducted by Dorothy Kehlenbeck
DK: What kind of things did Dr. Carver lecture about? Was it
about the products he had made?
AZ: Yes, mostly the products--he would start out telling a little of
his background and how he happened to be do what he was doing, then he had these
samples, he was promoting diversity. People, of course, asked him a lot of
questions. He had a question and answer period. I think his biggest
contribution was his humanitarian--well--himself, you know. He was quite
religious, quite scientific, but was really quite a putterer. One of the
letters I told you I liked was when--this was before I met him, was one of the
first letters I had received. He was telling me what a beautiful day it
was, one of his own creations had opened up. It was a white amaryllis you
know--this was another thing he did--he developed plants and besides painting
and cooking and sewing his own clothes, I guess his biggest contribution was
helping students, helping people.