Rediscovering Agricultural History on the Campus of North Carolina A&T State University

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A Photograph of Unidentified NFA Student Members Holding a NFA Banner


This post was contributed by James R. Stewart Jr., Archives and Special Collections Librarian, North Carolina A&T State University.

Better Living In North Carolina is a collaborative digitization 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. Materials from NCA&T that are now online and are being digitized present a wealth of information on the history of the NC Cooperative Extension Service and vocational education for African Americans. The majority of materials currently online from A&T are from the John D. Wray Collection and the S. B. Simmons Collection. This blog entry is about the three additional collections our materials originate from and their value to researchers.

The New Farmers of America Collection contains programs, banners, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, and so much more about the early national vocational education group for young African-American men in the nation and the state of North Carolina. These items provide more insights into the lives of S. B. Simmons, John C. McLaughlin and many other people who served in the NFA, NCA&T’s School of Agriculture, the extension service and many other regional or national educational groups.

Materials from the North Carolina A&T State University Cooperative Extension Service Archives Collection features a wealth of information not only about the role of the A&T extension service, but also about vocational agricultural education throughout the nation.

Images from the Pearsall Photographs Collection are also being digitized. Many vintage photos in this collection from 4-H camps, farm shows, cattle shows, and home demonstration meetings will complement the more than 200 photographs from the S. B. Simmons collection that are currently online.

RFD Piedmont was an agricultural program broadcast from WFMY-TV in Greensboro, NC during the 1950s & 1960s. This film is a fascinating time capsule of 4-H and the lives of extension agents R. E. Jones, Minnie Miller Brown, and Bessie B. Ramseur.

A unique contribution of these collections is that a majority of the non-text materials currently in the “Better Living” project originate from A&T. The collections of S. B. Simmons, the NFA and our extension office include a vast amount of audio-visuals of agricultural history. In collaboration with A/V Geeks and Post Pro, both of Raleigh N.C., 12 radio and musical recordings of the NFA and one broadcast of the Greensboro agriculture television program RFD Piedmont were digitized for future generations. It is incredible to see and hear many legends of North Carolina extension and vocational education like Robert E. Jones, Bessie B. Ramseur, James L. Moffitt, Minnie Miller Brown, T. E. Browne, and S. B. Simmons, as well as former NC governors R. Gregg Cherry and J. Melville Broughton.

As the project continues more reports, papers, photographs, educational aids, posters, scrapbooks, and even awards are being digitized from A&T’s collections. The rediscovered materials at both NCA&T and NC State University complement each other for a full multimedia history resource of our state’s agricultural development.

To see these and other resources related to the Better Living project and Community and Extension, visit the NCSU Libraries’ Rare and Unique Digital Collections, which provides access to thousands of imagesvideoaudio recordings, and textual materials documenting NC State history and other topics. While you’re at it, check out NCSU Libraries’ Historical State timeline on the Cooperative Extension Service.