4-H Short Course, State Club Week, and State Congress

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The first district Short Course was an assemblage of a half dozen white corn club champions from Granville County that met in Raleigh at North Carolina College of Agricultural and Mechanic Arts for several days in 1912. The first statewide Short Course for the white agricultural clubs was held three years later in 1915 with 222 boys and one girl attending.

In the late 1910s and 1920s agricultural clubs, Home Demonstration clubs, and (later) 4-H gradually established the standard activities and traditions for the Short Courses for their respective groups. In 1919 a "Song and Yell Leader" was appointed and "Play and Recreation" time was included for the first time. That same year the white Home Demonstration clubs held their first Short Course for girls at the North Carolina College for Women and offered programs in sewing, cooking, and personal hygiene, as well as recreation, games, and songs and yells. Both the Home Demonstration club and agricultural club Short Courses relied on club leaders and college instructors to lead programs and activities. Other traditions established during this time were the election of club leaders in 1920 (agricultural clubs) and the state Dress Revue in 1924 (Home Demonstration clubs). A white cotton uniform for white girls was established at their Short Course in 1925 and then taken back to local clubs. In 1929 the traditional candlelight service was added to the white 4-H Short Course, as was the Health Pageant the following year with the crowning of the first king and queen of health. In 1929 the white 4-H Short Course published its first issue of the Tar Heel Club News (later Clover Leaves). In 1931 the state Dress Revue was revived, and the first meeting of the 4-H Honor Club was held.

The year 1924 had been the first time white Short Courses for boys' agricultural clubs and girls' Home Demonstration clubs were held simultaneously. Assemblies were held jointly and classes were separated, with boys building hog houses and brooder coops and girls learning clothing, bread making, food preservation, and poultry. The first Short Course that included both boys and girls under the 4-H banner occurred in 1929.

Not until 1924 were the first district Short Courses for African Americans held in Greensboro and Winton. Activities for both boys and girls included poultry, health, group games, and movies. The first statewide Short Course for African Americans was held two years later in 1926 in Greensboro at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College. The girls followed the schedule created for the white Home Demonstration club Short Course and the boys focused on carpentry and harness construction.

Throughout the history of 4-H in North Carolina, Short Courses have undergone many different changes. They were canceled in 1933 as a result of the Great Depression, in 1935 and 1948 due to polio outbreaks, and in 1942-45 during World War II. The name "Short Course" also underwent changes; in 1946 it became "State 4-H Club Week" and in 1968 "State 4-H Congress."

Readers may also be interested in our essays on the history of 4-H in North Carolina and the Home Demonstration Short Course.


Clark, James W. Clover All Over: North Carolina 4-H in Action. Raleigh, NC: Office of 4-H and Youth, North Carolina State University, 1984.

Harrill, L. R. Memories of 4-H. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University Print Shop, 1967.

McKimmon, Jane Simpson. When We're Green We Grow. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1945.

Wessel, Thomas, and Marilyn Wessel. 4-H: An American Idea 1900–1980. Maryland: National 4-H Council, 1982.

[author: Amy Manor]

Woman pouring water in a wash tub, preparing to do laundry Hazel Carris of Pitt County at her 4-H exhibit, "Drink Your Way to Health" L. R. Harrill and others launching the U.S.S. Tyrrell on July 10th, 1944 in Wilmington, N.C. L. R. Harrill revealing the plaque placed on an ambulance donated to the United States Army Medical Department in honor of former 4-H club members now serving in the armed forces
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