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Posts tagged: North Carolina A&T State University History

Nov 21 2016

New Items and Cross-Referencing Materials Within “Better Living”

Southern Farm Management Extension Publications, no. 5 - Inheritance Your Farm And Family

One goal of “Better Living in North Carolina” is to digitize the Cooperative Extension Service Annual Reports, print copies of which are held by NCSU Libraries Special Collections Research Center. A year into the project, nearly all of these reports have been digitized and are now available online. Project staff has shifted its focus to the publications of the Cooperative Extension, like 4-H newsletters, Home Economics bulletins, and even TV schedules for Extension programs.

Another purpose of “Better Living” is the digitization of hundreds of Cooperative Extension Annual Reports that exist only on microfilm. Right now, 467 reports from 1909 to 1917 digitized from four reels of microfilm are online. While icrofilm is still widely available at many libraries, it is an obsolete technology. Even when it is used, microfilm presents many limitations to copying and searching. Digitized microfilm images are by far easier to access and search.

Cover from a 1917 county agent report by John W. Mitchell. Digitized from microfilm.

These reports and publications are more than year by year documentation and products of the agricultural extension. They are also artifacts of the hard work of the men and women who developed the agricultural extension in its early history. The very first annual report (above) submitted by A&T agent John W. Mitchell, can now be seen. Some of the first club reports by Jane McKimmon are also online. It is now possible to research the first county agents of Mecklenburg, Chatham and Guilford Counties and then check for related information in other materials within our “Rare and Unique Special Collections“.

Photo of Campers Getting Ready to Start Camp Improvement Project. All 80 Photographs in "Better Living in NC" are from the S. B. Simmons Collection, Archives & Special Collections, North Carolina A&T State University.

The boon to today’s researchers is being able to quickly cross reference materials of multiple formats from the agricultural history of North Carolina. One can start with any item like an annual report, then narrow that search for a particular agent, county, region, or extension program, and also search for a conference brochure for names, related reports, and images within our “Rare and Unique Special Collections” and “Historical State“.  Agent John Mitchell is one of a few cases were biographical essays are also available. By focusing on these resources, “Better Living” complements the previous NCSU Libraries LSTA-funded digitization projects, “Cultivating A Revolution” and “Green and Growing.” The three work together to expose scores of resources documenting the impact of agricultural innovation in NC across the last century.

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 text materials documenting extension history and other topics.

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.

May 02 2016

4-H Plans of Work in the “Better Living” Digital Collection

District map from the 1961 4-H Plan of Work

To date the “Better Living In North Carolina” project has posted over 300 Cooperative Extension Annual Reports and Plans of Work online. Researchers can explore historic qualitative and quantitative data about home demonstration, animal husbandry, plant pathology and other divisions of the extension service. For this post we will highlight the 4-H Youth Development Plans of Work, ranging in date from 1929 to 1981.

A page of upcoming goals in the 1940 4-H Plan of Work

The plan of work was a statement of intended goals and objectives for the coming year. The plans display the fascinating work that went into organizing annual camps, club weeks, radio broadcast, and new camp locations, and demonstrate the research of extension leaders and staff working at NC State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The remainder of this post introduces several of these documents and some of the men and women who put them together up until the early 1960s.

It was a little over 90 years ago when, on January 1st, 1926, L. R. (Lera Rhinehart) Harrill (1897-1978) became the first State 4-H Club Leader, a position he would hold until 1963. Harrill was an outstanding 4-H leader and a pioneer in agricultural education and youth development far beyond North Carolina. His devotion to the 4-H rural and urban youth of North Carolina and abroad earned him the title “Mr. 4-H.”

A fun image of (left to right) L. R. Harrill (biting the watermelon), Frances MacGregor and Ruth Current, State Leader of Home Demonstration at a 4-H Club Week event in 1939.

Some of the statewide 4-H reports are co-authored by Frances MacGregor Wall (1909-1949), a home demonstration agent who served as Assistant State Leader of 4-H from 1937 to 1946. Following MacGregor, contributors to the Plans of Work included assistant club leaders and district agents Jesse James, Eleanor Barber, Mary Sue Moser, Ruby Pearsons, and O. H. Philips.

Sample of Plans of Work from the N. C. State Extension Office by L. R. Harrill and various Assistant State Club Leaders.

While Harrill and MacGregor were the state leaders, the services for African-Americans in 4-H were directed out of the N.C A&T Extension Office beginning in the mid 1930s and until the program was integrated in the mid 1960s. During this time, information about African-Americans in 4-H was included in the statewide reports from NC State as well as the Plan of Work or Annual Reports for Negroes in 4-H.

Robert Earle (R. E.) Jones (1908-1991) became State 4-H specialist for African-Americans 80 years ago in 1936, overseeing 28 counties and 10,000 children. In this role he completed the State Plan of Work for Negroes beginning in 1937.

Map from the 1950 Negro 4-H Plan of Work, W. C. Cooper and Idell Jones.

William C. Cooper was the state 4-H leader of the A&T extension office, beginning in 1947. Cooper was previously an extension agent in Anson County, NC. Assisting Cooper for several years as Assistant State Agent was Mrs. Idell Jones Randall.

Idell Jones Randell, State Assistant of 4-H for African Americans, July 6, 1950.

Sample Annual Reports and Plans of Work from North Carolina A&T Extension Office by Jones and Cooper.

For more about the history of 4-H in North Carolina search Historical State and our previous Extension-related digital project “Green ‘N’ Growing: The History of Home Demonstration and 4-H Youth Development in North Carolina”. The 4-H Youth Development Annual Reports were digitized under this project.

North Carolina delegates attending the National 4-H Club conference in Washington, D.C. Assistant State Club Leader Jesse James on the right.

Mar 23 2016

Special Collections Celebrates Agricultural Awareness Week 2016

In honor of Agricultural Awareness Week at NC State, the NCSU Libraries is presenting an exhibit in the Ask Us lobby area of the D. H. Hill Library to give a glimpse into the past of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service (previously named the Agricultural Extension Service).

Our Agricultural Heritage: A Look Back Into the Past of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service” will showcase extraordinary figures and scenes from different departments from the last 100 years of the Extension Service. This exhibit will be up until Friday, March 25.

All patrons are welcome to rediscover the lives of Ruth Current, former state home demonstration agent; John W. Mitchell, N.C. A&T extension agent and eventual National Extension Leader; L. R. Harrill, “Mr. 4-H”; Dazelle Foster Lowe, one of the first African-American Home Demonstration leaders, Frank H. Jeter, director of agricultural publications; and R. W. Graeber an early pioneer of our state’s farm forestry program.

A look into the exhibit case will also show farmers, students, professors and extension agents at work in 4-H clubs, test farms, and many other Cooperative extension settings throughout NC.

Students and faculty browse materials from Special Collections before the screening of "The Last Barn Dance".

On Tuesday March 15, National Agricultural Day, the D. H. Hill Library held a screening of The Last Barn Dance, a 30 minute documentary which chronicles dairy farmer Randy Lewis’ fight to save his business within an economy that decimated most other family farms in Alamance County. Outside of the auditorium prior to the film screening a selection of materials from the Special Collections Research Center highlighting small farming and agricultural extension in North Carolina were on display. Many faculty, staff, students and guest enjoyed browsing these rare items on NC agriculture before the film.

The Special Collections Research Center has far more to offer on the history of NC agriculture and the NC Cooperative Extension Service. Please browse through our Rare and Unique Digital Collections and the Historical State search portal. Also visit the landing pages for our past digital collections on Cooperative Extension history: Green and Growing, Cultivating A Revolution, and Living Off The Land.

The current SCRC digital project is “Better Living In North Carolina” a joint venture between the NCSU Libraries and the F. D. Bluford Library at North Carolina A&T State University. In “Better Living” hundreds of Cooperative Extension materials will be made available online to show the impact of economic change and technology on NC agriculture. The project is still growing with 148 reports online to date.

SCRC news articles from previous Ag Awareness Week events.

Growth from the Grassroots : Agricultural Awareness Week

100 years of extension – Celebrating the Past, Looking To The Future.

Looking to the Future – Farm Machinery Research

Filming the Agriculture Experience

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.