Wonderful 100: First African-American Women in NC Cooperative Extension

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Early Extension canning work with African American women, 1920s

One hundred years ago the first African American women were hired by North Carolina Cooperative Extension (then called the Agricultural Extension Service).  The weekly publication Extension Farm-News reported the following on 2 February 1918:

"The Agricultural Extension Service, in cooperation with the Department of Education, is arranging to place colored women as assistants to county Home Demonstration Agents in twenty or more counties of the State.  Mrs. Jane S. McKimmon, Chief of the Division of Home Demonstration, states that these women are to instruct the colored people of the county in gardening, canning, and the preparation of foods, and will start work in the spring under the direct supervision of the County Home Demonstration Agent, under a cooperative arrangement with Mr. N. C. Newbold of the Department of Education.

"The colored people of the State have shown great interest in all methods of producing and saving food, and it is hoped that eventually each county will have its colored assistant to the County Home Demonstration Agent.  Last summer gardens sprung up in many humble little backyards, and during this hard winter there have been many tables supplied with wholesome canned vegetables that otherwise would have been bare.

"The record coming out from the Department of Education of 643,624 cans put up by colored people in thirty-three counties last summer makes it seem very advisable to use special efforts in developing this field."

The article went on to list the women who were initially assigned to work in selected North Carolina counties.  A summary of that first year of African American home demonstration work can be found in the NC Agricultural Extension Service annual report for 1917-1918.  Also, information on the early Extension work of African American women exists in annual reports of some of the counties.

In celebration of Black History Month, please explore our Historical State timeline to learn about other accomplishments of African Americans at NC State.