Date of this Version
Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,
Born a slave, George Washington Carver (1864-1943) is one of the most historically prominent African American scientists. Carver was a pioneer as an agriculturalist and botanist by introducing methods of soil conservation for farmers, inventing hundreds of by-products from peanuts, pecans, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, and practicing “zero waste” sustainability. Scholars have recognized Carver’s talent as a painter and his ability to develop paints and dyes from various natural sources; however, there is very little scholarship documenting his work as a textile artist. Holdings at the G.W. Carver National Monument and Tuskegee Institute National Historic indicate that Carver was proficient in textile techniques such as embroidery, weaving, crocheting, knitting and basketry. According to a document written by the National Park Service Carver created, “embroideries on burlap, ornaments made of chicken feathers, seed and colored peanut necklaces, woven textiles” (p. 24) and that “He was an honorary member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England” (p. 30). Carver’s textile work has not been documented in a scholarly manner or widely disseminated. The guiding purpose for this research was to systematically catalog images and extant pieces of George Washington Carver’s textile work located at the G.W. Carver National Monument and Tuskegee Institute National Historic to develop an overview of the fibers, textiles, techniques, and sustainable practices/processes he used. In this paper the researchers will provide an overview of fibers, textiles, possible dyes, and sustainable processes used by Carver to create his textile works. The presentation will also include how the textiles created by Carver related to his scientific work in the areas of agriculture and botany. The hope is that examining the works of this historical figure will inspire current textile artists to explore new directions of sustainable textile arts. National Park Service. George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond Missouri.