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Posts tagged: African-American History

Jan 23 2017

Wolf Tales Receives 2016-2017 Diversity Mini-Grant

We’re happy to announce that the SCRC’s mobile oral history program, Wolf Tales, has received a 2016-2017 Diversity Mini-Grant from the NCSU Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED). As described in this announcement from NCSU Libraries, the grant will support focused outreach to campus groups to document the voices of historically underrepresented students at NC State.

Shima Idries and Shamms DiarBakerli, Wolf Tales recording, 5 May 2016

Shima Idries and Shamms DiarBakerli, Wolf Tales recording, 5 May 2016

In its first year Wolf Tales has captured 41 recordings with a diverse range of voices, from current students to alumni of the class of 1943. The Wolf Tales video recordings and transcripts are archived and shared online through the Libraries’ Rare & Unique Digital Collections site. The Libraries has brought Wolf Tales recording stations to events ranging from annual reunions of the NCSU Alumni Association to “open days” in the Libraries where participants are invited to sit down individually or in groups of 2-3 people to make a 10-20 minute recording.

Student and alumni participants in the first year of Wolf Tales recordings.

Student and alumni participants in the first year of Wolf Tales recordings.

Having partnered with the African American Cultural Center to record student and alumni voices at Harambee! 2016, Wolf Tales will work with other campus organizations that support current and former students whose experiences have not been fully represented in written documentation, including in African American, LGBT, military veteran, Muslim, Latinx, and Native American communities.

Elwood and Diane Hill Becton, at the African American Cultural Center's Harambee 2016, 8 September 2016

Elwood and Diane Hill Becton, at the African American Cultural Center's Harambee 2016, 8 September 2016

Cynthia M. Sharpe, Destinie Statum, and Jakini Kauba at Harambee! 2016, 8 September 2016

Cynthia M. Sharpe, Destinie Statum, and Jakini Kauba at Harambee! 2016, 8 September 2016

Plans are currently underway to bring Wolf Tales to the GLBT Center’s Lavender Graduation in April 2017 to gather stories of the experiences of GLBT students and their allies. Wolf Tales plans to extend this framework to other underrepresented voices through partnerships with other OIED units and student groups to create a more diverse, inclusive record and to prevent future silences in the archives.

If you’re interested in making a recording or discussing a possible partnership with Wolf Tales, please contact, and visit the Wolf Tales website for more information. We are actively seeking partners and would love to hear from you!

Sep 26 2016

From the Collections of John D. Wray and S. B. Simmons

Bio and Portrait of S. B. Simmons

Better Living In North Carolina is a collaborative digital project between the NCSU Libraries and the Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University that is designed to reveal how agricultural practices transformed the state of North Carolina over the course of the last century. This can not be done without also uncovering new revelations about the men and women who worked as part of the NC Cooperative Extension Service and our state’s vocational education programs. We are proud to announce the availability of resources from the collection of two very significant men from the Archives and Special Collections of NC A&T State University and the state’s vocational education history.

S. B. (Sidney Britton) Simmons (1894-1957) was the state supervisor of vocational agriculture for African-American schools in North Carolina for over 30 years beginning in 1924. He was a nationally recognized champion of vocational agriculture and a graduate and post graduate of multiple colleges, including A&T College and the University of Illinois.

Photo (New Farmers of America North Carolina young male group)

He was one of the founders of the National Association of New Farmers of America (NFA), a vocational agriculture organization for African American youth. Simmons brought this organization to the Tarheel State as the North Carolina Association of NFA. The NFA and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) would merge together in the mid-1960s. As state director and through the North Carolina NFA, Simmons impacted the education of thousands of African American youth via school programs, camps, conferences, broadcasts, and competitions. Highlights from the Simmons collection include several photographs of young African American men and women at various camps, demonstrations, and conferences learning different agricultural practices, from curing tobacco to herding livestock.

Photo of a Girl Curing Turkish Tobacco

View the S. B. Simmons Collection, Archives and Special Collections, F. D. Bluford Library, North Carolina A&T State University

John D. Wray (1877 – 1937) was the state’s first African-American club (later 4-H) agent, or “Negro Club Leader,” beginning in 1915. He organized the first agricultural clubs in counties that up to that time did not have African American extension agents. The first clubs for homemakers, crop rotation, peanuts, and cotton were started during his 10 years as an extension agent. His office was located on the campus of NC A&T.

"Negro boys and girls attend short course at A and T College", article by John D. Wray. Wray contributed numerous farming articles to regional and national newspapers.

Like Simmons, Wray also previously worked for the Tuskegee Institute before coming to North Carolina. His writings of proper farming techniques were circulated to state and national newspapers. Like Neil Alexander Bailey, the state’s first African American extension agent, Wray specialized in the research of corn production, and his thesis on this topic is now available online. He later became an instructor of vocational agriculture at the Laurinburg Institute, and a professor at Florida A&M University.

View the John. D. Wray Collection, Archives and Special Collections, F. D. Bluford Library, North Carolina A&T State University

More on the life and work of John D. Wray can be found at John D. Wray and the Fight for Black Farmers – NC EATS.

The resources currently available in the Better Living collection continue to grow, and there will be many more to come on the life of John D. Wray, S. B. Simmons. and others who helped to advance the agricultural practices of North Carolina.

If you would like to learn more about the Special Collections Research Center and our digitized materials, please visit NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and text materials documenting extension history and other topics.

Feb 02 2016

Celebrating African American History Month: An Interview with Irwin Holmes

In 1956, four African American undergraduate students enrolled at North Carolina State University (or NC State College, as it was named at the time), marking the first early steps in desegregating the campus. Irwin Holmes, Walter Holmes, Ed Carson, and Manuel Crockett began their time as students here that fall, and in 1960 Irwin Holmes became the first African American undergraduate student to receive a degree from NC State, with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

Irwin Holmes, first African American athlete and undergraduate student to receive a degree from NC State.

Irwin Holmes, first African American athlete and undergraduate student to receive a degree from NC State.

As a student, Irwin Holmes made history by joining the tennis team, making his team the first integrated athletic team in NC State history. Holmes’ teammates also elected him co-captain of the tennis team his senior year, making him the first African American athletics team captain at NC State.

Mr. Holmes sat down with us to record an oral history interview in the fall of 2014. The interview is now online in our digital collections, where researchers can watch the full video interview and read the interview transcript to learn more about Mr. Holmes’ life and his experiences as a student at NC State.

Irwin Holmes' oral history interview in the SCRC's digital collections.

Irwin Holmes' oral history interview in the SCRC's digital collections.

In the interview, Mr. Holmes describes growing up in a vibrant African American community in Durham, where he says, “I grew up seeing that black people can do whatever they want to.” He describes then coming to NC State where he was the only African American student in all of his courses, with professors who in some cases refused to teach him because of the color of his skin. He also describes his tennis coach, Coach Kenfield, as an ally and mentor to him during his time as a student, and tells the story of his teammates walking out of a Chapel Hill restaurant that refused to serve him.

Mr. Holmes generously shared these stories and many others with us, helping to fill some of the gaps and silences about the experience of African Americans in the official records of the university during the early years of desegregation. Thanks to Mr. Holmes’ contribution to our ongoing efforts to document university history, researchers can better understand what it was like to be in the shoes of the first African American students on a previously all-white campus.

Learn more about Irwin Holmes and the history of African American students at NC State by exploring our digitized collections, Historical State Timeline, and Mr. Holmes’ interview online.

Jan 19 2016

In recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the NC State community returns to campus after the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day holiday, let us take time to remember the legacy of the influential civil rights leader and beloved icon.

NCSU Libraries’ Special Collections and Research Center has archived issues of The Technician available online, which includes an article “Dr. King Urges Passive Resistance for Negroes,” from the February 13, 1958 edition of the newspaper. The article summarizes Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Raleigh, where he spoke on the subject of “Non-Violence and Racial Justice,”  a key component of his philosophy. The digitized Technician collection also features a January 20, 1986 article on NC State’s first celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, as well as many discoverable items on NC State’s relationship to Dr. King’s life, teachings, and legacy.

The Libraries and African American Culture Center’s Red, White, & Black multimedia project is another resource to explore while honoring Dr. King, and also in anticipation of next month’s Black History Month. It is a mobile-based tour of African-American history at NC State, made with location-aware software to provide a walking tour through our campus, providing text, audio, and images. The Special Collections and Research Center hosts the copies of the recordings in our Rare and Unique Digital Collections, and they can be found and listened to here.

In addition, please visit these past SCRC posts on Dr. King:
1958 Martin Luther King Visit
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassination and NCSU’s Reaction

If you would like to learn more about the Special Collections Research Center and our digitized materials, please visit NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics.

Dec 11 2015

Life of An Extension Agent : John W. Mitchell

The Cooperative Extension reports being digitized as part of the “Better Living in North Carolina” project include the statistical and evaluative work of many individuals.  For a moment we would like to shed light on the life of an extension agent who can be seen in the 1938 annual extension report (especially on p.32).

John W. Mitchell* (1886-1955) was a pioneering African-American extension agent and educator who became one of the most well known Cooperative Extension agents in the nation. A native of Morehead City, North Carolina, Mitchell graduated from the State Colored Normal School (now Fayetteville State University), earned a B.S. in agriculture from the Agricultural and Mechanical College for The Colored Race (now North Carolina A&T State University) in 1908 and studied sociology in graduate school at Indiana Central University in Indianapolis (now the University of Indianapolis).

After serving as an assistant and lead principal at two high schools, he became an extension agent in 1917. At first he served the North Carolina counties of Bladen, Columbus and Pasquotank, commuting from county to county by horse or bicycle. In 1922 Mitchell was appointed to the newly created extension service district office at the A&T campus in Greensboro where he would direct the extension activities for 15 counties.  During this time he is said to have built one of the largest Negro 4-H Clubs in the nation. In 1940, following the death of C. R. Hudson, who was responsible for extension and 4-H club work for the entire state, Mitchell became the “State Agent for Negro Work” or the state extension agent for African-Americans.

Mitchell’s house in Greensboro, North Carolina, shortly after he was appointed State Negro Agent, April 1940

In the A&T position John W. Mitchell was well known for his financial and innovative leadership in the lives of the state’s African-American farmers. He was also active in academic and community efforts between Whites and Blacks. He participated in the North Carolina Commission on Inter-Racial Cooperation to advocate for state and national anti-lynching laws, and he spoke at churches for Race Relation Sunday services.

In 1943 Mitchell moved to Virginia after he was appointed the field agent for the United States Extension Service to represent 17 southeastern states or the “Upper South’s Field Agent in Negro Extension Work.” His office was based at the Hampton Institute in Virginia. During the Second World War and postwar era, 4-H membership soared, and Mitchell served as Director of Regional 4-H Club camps for Negro boys and girls in addition to multiple roles as chair director or secretary for national and regional agricultural conferences.

By 1950 Mitchell was renowned as one of the top agricultural experts in the nation. That same year Livingston College awarded him an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities for his work in improving the rural life of farmers in the South. Three years later, United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson appointed him to the specially created post of National Extension Leader on the staff of the Division of the Department of Cooperative Extension Work, the highest rank ever given up to that time to a person of color within the national extension organization. Mitchell was still serving in this position when on he passed away in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 7, 1955, at the age of 69.

Mitchell at his desk, 1940

In his memory the J. W. Mitchell 4-H Camp was dedicated in June 1956 in Onslow County, North Carolina, and a building was named for him at Fayetteville State University in 1955. Mitchell’s legacy has continued for decades. He was inducted into the N. C. A&T School of Agriculture Hall of Fame in 1996.  At a 2014 centennial celebration he was remembered as one of five key pioneers of the A&T Cooperative Extension program.

*The extension agent John W. Mitchell should not be confused with Dr. John W. Mitchell (b. 1905), the principal physiologist of the USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering in Beltsville, Maryland.


Research for this blog post yielded scores of newspaper and peer-reviewed journal articles, history books, and archival finding aids on the life and work of John W. Mitchell. His tasks, accomplishments and honors are too numerous to list here.

Clark, J. W. (1984). Clover all over: North Carolina 4-H in action. Raleigh: NCSU, 4-H & Youth. Also available online:

Clark, J. W. (2011). Clover all over: North Carolina’s first 4-H century, 1909-2009. Raleigh, N.C: Published by the North Carolina 4-H Development Fund, in cooperation with Ivy House Pub. Group.

Cooperative Extension commemorates 100th anniversary of landmark legislation. (2014, October 1). On The Move (newsletter), 2-2.

Hall of Fame Inductions Planned. (1996, March 26). Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved October 21, 2105.

Race Farmers Will Fare Well In 1950, Experts Say. (1950, January 14). Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved October 21, 2015.

Untitled article. (1950, June 24). The Carolina Times. p. 4. Retrieved December 10, 2015

Urges State Anti-lynch Law. (1937, May 5). Greensboro Record (Greensboro News and Record), p. 7. Retrieved October 21, 2015.

Nov 11 2015

Welcome to “Better Living In North Carolina”

Rebuilding a Fairland: Report of Agricultural Extension in North Carolina for the Year 1936

Rebuilding a Fairland: Report of Agricultural Extension in North Carolina for the Year 1936

“Better Living In North Carolina: Bringing Science and Technology to the People” is the latest digital collection coming to NCSU Libraries. “Better Living” is a two-year partnership between the NCSU Libraries and the F. D. Bluford Library at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University designed to increase access and discover-ability of primary source materials from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

There will be up to 511,631 digital objects scanned and made available online which will include reports, correspondence, pamphlets, photographs, scrapbooks, and other media. This project will promote the historical resources of two universities with a proud history in agricultural innovation. To date project staff has uploaded 863 pages of the Cooperative Extension Service Annual Reports from 45 reports.

Annual Report of the Agricultural Extension Service of North Carolina State College for 1940

Annual Report of the Agricultural Extension Service of North Carolina State College for 1940

A glimpse into these annual reports, published between 1933 and 1970, gives a fascinating look into the lives of North Carolina rural farmers from this era.  Radio is seen as the latest educational tool to reach the masses. Young children are encouraged to grow food and work during the second world war. Segregation is evident in the earlier bulletins as the activities of Black farmers are discussed in separate sections within the reports (which may make it easier for today’s researchers to extract information about the history of Black agricultural life in NC). One can also see the need for technological innovation through the extension. Using the 1939 annual report, for example, it is hard to believe at one time only 25 percent of rural NC farms had electricity. The photographs and text reveal the personal life of the agricultural family and role of the state college in disseminating information.

North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service Annual Report 1943 - You Have Met The Challenge

North Carolina Agricultural Extension Service Annual Report 1943 - You Have Met The Challenge

Please return to this collection often as we will upload many, many more historical images from NCSU Libraries and the F. D. Bluford Library. To see these and other extension-related resources, please visit NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of images, video, audio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics.

Jan 20 2015

1958 Martin Luther King Visit

The 13 Feb. 1958 Technician reported on a visit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to Raleigh on Feb. 10 of that year.  This may be the earliest date in which NC State’s student newspaper published an in-depth article about Dr. King, who was speaking at a local church’s Institute of Religion event.  Before an audience of 1700 people in Broughton High School, King discussed non-violent resistance to segregation.  The most significant part of the speech for the Technician reporter was King’s statement that “integration will never be a reality until such a time comes that all men understand and trust each other.”  Viewers can now read the full article online.

This online Technician archives has recently been made available by the NCSU Libraries as part of our mandate to preserve the history of North Carolina State University and distribute that history widely to scholars, alumni, and the public.  The Technician, the university’s student newspaper, is now available online in a format that is easy to browse and search.     Approximately4000 issues from 1920 through 1990 that are digitized and indexed in the NCSU Libraries’ online collection.  More recent issues will be added in the upcoming year.  More information can be found at the NCSU Libraries News.

Aug 15 2012

Spotlight on Student Leaders: Eric Moore

Contributed by Kelly Murray

Recently, staff members from the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center sat down with former Student Senate President Eric Moore to talk about his experiences at NC State.

Eric Moore, 2012.

Eric Moore, 2012.

During his interview, Moore recalled what life was like for African-American students at NC State in the late 1960s. Discussing his freshman dorm experience, he remembered: “Whenever you walked out of the elevator to go to class you would look up, because back then water balloons were known to come straight down off of the balcony.” He noted that despite the frequency of such events, the perpetrators often remained anonymous. With no avenue for recourse, Moore recalled, “You tended to toughen up and realize, okay, yeah; it’s going to be like that but we’re going to continue to do whatever we have to do to get our degree and move on.”

Moore also described his election as the first Student Senate president in the spring of 1969. Because there was a fear that Moore, who ran unopposed, would not be elected if students knew he was an African-American, Technician editor George Patton left Moore’s photograph out of the student newspaper. Moore explained, “We knew if my picture showed up before the election that there would be an anti-Eric Moore [movement].” Moore later won the election and became the first African-American student to serve in student government.

Chancellor John T. Caldwell posing with NC State University student government officials at Memorial Bell Tower

Chancellor John T. Caldwell posing with NC State University student government officials at Memorial Bell Tower

Moore also touched on his relationship with NC State Chancellor John Caldwell. He described their relationship as “very good,” noting, “It’s not very often that a student can have that close a relationship [with the chancellor].” He recalled that Dr. Caldwell was very accessible for students, stating, “You could actually go and talk to him without having a whole bunch of people get his attention.”

To learn more about Eric Moore or other NC State student leaders, please visit Historical State or stop by the NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center. To learn more about the Student Leadership Oral History Initiative contact Genya O’Gara.

Feb 29 2012

State College’s Response to the Greensboro Sit-ins

Contributed by Samantha Rich

On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC and politely asked for service. After employees refused to meet their requests, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance ignited a student-led movement across the South challenging racial inequalities.

Stokely Carmichael

Activist Stokely Carmichael speaks on NC State's campus in the 1960s. The civil rights movement was slow to take hold at NC State.

While articles describing the events of that February day appeared in newspapers across the state, NC State College’s Technician remained silent on the protest and subsequent sit-ins until March 10, when it picked up a story describing the arrest of student protesters in Nashville, TN. This total lack of discussion may have stemmed from the poor integration policies at NC State during this time; NC State had begun admitting African American students to its undergraduate programs only four years earlier (1956). Irwin Holmes, one of the first four African American students enrolled at State, would graduate from the electrical engineering program later that year.

Campus silence broke again on March 21, following the annual North Carolina Student Legislative Assembly meeting at the state Capitol days earlier. In an article entitled “Student Legislature Passes Lunch Counter Legislation,” the Technician reported that students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College (A&T), a historically black college, proposed legislation that declared “all establishments offering service to the general public be hereafter and forever forbidden to refuse service to anyone on a basis of creed, color, or ethnic origin.” The bill passed 51 to 17, however the article noted, “It might be pointed out at this point that about half of the assembly was made up of Negro students.” While this suggests that the author believed the bill would not have passed had African American students not been present, the actions of the State College Student Government that followed indicated that students at A&T presented a persuasive argument in support of the bill and anti-discrimination laws.

Two-weeks after the Student Legislative Assembly, State College Student Government passed a Civil Rights Declaration that stated that North Carolina businesses should not refuse to serve any member of the public based on their appearance. It is important to note, however, that NC State student legislators utilized the word “appearance” not “race” or “color” within the declaration. Further, Student Government declared that the bill reflected “no particular concern for the rights of any race or minority group,” only “each and every citizen of the State of North Carolina in general.” This emphasis on vocabulary may have been meant to ease the minds of more conservative senators who would not discuss discrimination in terms of race. The bill went on to state that any discrimination based on appearance could “[set] the precedent that [placed] the rights of every other citizen in jeopardy.”

It would be three years before Hillsborough Street businesses integrated and more than ten years before NC State began implementing serious integration and African American recruitment programs. However, the discourse surrounding anti-discrimination laws during the sit-in movement did prompt a previously silent campus to develop a response to contemporary segregation practices.

To learn more about African American history at NC State, please visit Historical State or check out the Red, White & Black mobile walking tour.

Sources: Technician (10 March 1960, 21 March 1960, 11 April 1960); Smithsonian National Museum of American History, “Sitting for Justice: Woolworth’s Lunch Counter,” Separate is not Equal: Brown v. Board of Education, available from, accessed 17 February 2012; “Media/Headlines,” Greensboro Sit-ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement, available from, accessed 17 February 2012.

Feb 20 2012

“Totally, truthfully, and faithfully”: The Founding of NC State’s African American Newspaper

Contributed by Samantha Rich

Since 1921, Technician has served as NC State’s primary student newspaper. Although other student publications have attempted to supplement or compete with Technician, such as the State Sentinel (published between 1973 and 1974), none have influenced the NC State community as much as the Nubian Message, described as the “sentinel of the N.C. State African-American community.” The paper has published news, opinion, and entertainment articles dedicated to African American history, culture, and current events weekly since 1996.

Tony Williamson, first editor of the Nubian Message

Tony Williamson, first editor of the Nubian Message

Tony Williamson, an NC State student, founded the paper following allegations from the NC State African American community that Technician was racially biased. Students declared that Technician did not adequately cover news and events for African American students. In September 1992, more than two-hundred students gathered in the Brickyard to burn copies of the campus newspaper. The protest resulted in students’ calls for an African American run student paper, a request that Williamson and his staff fulfilled two months later.

On November 30, 1992, Williamson described the Nubian Message in its inaugural issue as the “media voice” for African Americans at NC State. He also stated his intention to “totally, truthfully, and faithfully . . . cover every aspect of African American life at NCSU” and his hope that the Nubian Message would become “a publication where people can learn about different aspects of [African American] culture, as well as find useful information about State’s campus.”

Initially, the Nubian Message received no university funding and Nubian staff were prohibited from utilizing NCSU Student Media equipment. Due to the lack of university support, Williamson turned to North Carolina Central University for assistance. He credited NC Central’s Campus Echo staff for helping to publish the first issue, “It was a real pain to have to go all the way to Durham to work, but the people at Central were very helpful and understanding. We owe them a lot. If it wasn’t for their newspaper staff, we probably would never have had a first issue.”

Cover of the November 30, 1992 edition of the Nubian Message

Cover of the November 30, 1992 edition of the Nubian Message

Students released the first edition of the Nubian Message on December 2, 1992 in front of approximately seventy-five students in Talley Student Center. The first issue featured articles outlining the history of the NC State African American Cultural Center and the importance of an “Afrocentric Christmas.” Noting the success of the first issue, the University allowed Nubian staff to utilize campus media equipment to publish the paper’s bimonthly issues. On March 9, 1994, the Student Media Authority voted 7-0 to make the Nubian Message a permanent NCSU newspaper.

For more information about the Nubian Message or to view archived copies of the newspaper, please visit the NCSU Libraries Special Collection Research Center. To learn more about African American history at NC State, check out the Red, White & Black app and take a self-guided walking tour of campus.

Sources: Technician (25 September 1992, 4 December 1992, 26 August 1996); Nubian Message (30 November 1992, 10 March 1992)