George Washington Carver: An American Biography Critical Essays

Rackham Holt


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Holt wrote her biography with the encouragement and participation of Carver himself. This work, the first published book-length study of Carver, was not exclusively aimed at a youthful audience. Nevertheless, the vocabulary, sentence structure, and easy-to-follow narrative are entirely suitable for young adult readers.

Carver is accurately presented as an extremely unusual individual; his creativity, intellectual ability, religious faith, and relationships with people are all characterized by a kind of extra dimension. This special nature of Carver’s life is the primary emphasis of Holt’s book. At the same time, however, the author is able to keep the reader aware of the fact that Carver’s African-American heritage is an essential component of his life story that cannot and should not be forgotten.

A reader must keep in mind the nature of the era that is covered by this story. Even when Holt was writing the book, Jim Crow laws and racial segregation were still legal. The general attitude of discrimination against African Americans was written into laws in the South and generally practiced throughout the nation. Knowledge of these conditions will help a reader of any age to understand Holt’s emphasis upon Carver’s achievements as unusual. Nevertheless, his intellect, and his practical application of that intellect in highly creative ways, would be unusual for any person of any race in any era. Very early in his life, for example, Carver was known to have a curiosity and a special way with plants; even when he was a child, people turned to him for advice about plants and asked him to nurse their sick plants back to health. Holt carefully works this aspect of Carver’s talent into her treatment of his youth as the basis for the professional career that was to make him famous as an adult.


(The entire section is 751 words.)