Monday, Jul 25, 2011
George Washington Carver National Monument celebrated its 68th annual Carver Day on July 9th. Carver Day commemorates the life and legacy of the scientist, educator, and humanitarian and also celebrates the national monument established in his honor on July 14, 1943. It was the first national park dedicated to an African American.
Despite temperatures topping 100 degrees, over 700 visitors enjoyed a full day of lectures, poetry readings, storytelling, music, and family activities. The Carver Birthplace Association provided free transportation and meals to Joplin families who were impacted by the deadly EF5 tornado in May so that they could enjoy a day of healing at the park. CBA also raised funds to benefit Joplin schools.
This year’s keynote speaker, poet Marilyn Nelson, enthralled a packed house with readings from her National Book Award nominated book Carver: A Life in Poems. She also signed her book for eager fans. Nelson conducted research at the park when writing her book, so it was a very welcome return for her.
Archivist Dana Chandler from Tuskegee University presented Carver as a pioneer in the green science movement, proving how Carver’s work remains relevant today. He also shared rare Carver treasures from the museum collection at Tuskegee. The two speakers successfully connected the audience to Carver both emotionally and intellectually.
The music tent swayed with gospel, blues and folk all day. Reverend John Wilkins, the son of a famous blues artist, dedicated “Through the Storm” for Joplin. Joe Becton, a former Independence NHP park ranger, provided a history of African American music spanning Carver’s lifetime, and also joined Wilkins and band on harmonica for an impromptu jam. Area favorites The Sensational Wonders, the Joyful Noise Choir and newcomer Mike Reed all gave inspired performances. The day also featured storyteller (and former NPS park ranger) Carole Shelton, exhibitors, guided tours, peanut milk demonstrations and other engaging activities. A special exhibit “Expressions of the Soul” included Carver’s artwork on loan from Tuskegee National Historic Site.