National FFA Grant to help N.C. A&T delve into historic New Farmers of America collection

02/24/2022 Library, College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 24, 2022) — North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has been awarded a new grant to digitize its unique collection of materials belonging to a former national youth organization that helped train generations of Black farmers and leaders.

The project will digitize an estimated 150,000 pieces of memorabilia from New Farmers of America. The project also will offer online access to the materials so students, scholars and the public can learn more about an organization that played a vital role during segregation.

The three-year grant of $324,422 came from the National FFA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the National FFA Organization.

Vicki Coleman, dean of library services at A&T’s F.D. Bluford Library, said the New Farmers of America History and Legacy Collection held by the library will add important pieces to the historical record because agriculture employed so many people throughout the South and the nation during NFA’s existence.

“This collection has that history for African Americans,” Coleman said. “It also tells the history of the engagement of historically Black colleges and universities with these communities in the South. It’s going to tell a big part of the history of the South.”

NFA was founded in 1935 to promote vocational agriculture education in public schools throughout the South and teach farming skills and leadership and citizenship values to young Black males. NFA’s first national headquarters was at A&T, and S.B. Simmons, an A&T faculty member in agricultural education, served as a senior NFA leader for two decades. Similar in purpose and structure to Future Farmers of America, NFA had more than 58,000 members in 1,000 chapters when it merged with FFA in 1965, a year after the federal Civil Rights Act banned racial segregation.

A&T has what it believes to be the largest collection of NFA materials to be found anywhere — documents, records, correspondence, banners, medals, photographs and many other items. Much of it has never been seen publicly.

Netta S. Cox, a university librarian and associate professor of library services, is the principal investigator on the grant. Cox serves as head of serials and government documents at F.D. Bluford Library and is the library’s agricultural liaison. The co-principal investigator is Antoine J. Alston, Ph.D., a professor of agricultural education and associate dean of academic studies in A&T’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

The grant will be used primarily to hire a full-time digital librarian and A&T students to organize, describe and digitize these primary source materials.

“We must address the tough topics of our past to help our organization create an accessible and inclusive future,” James Woodard, national FFA advisor and chair of the National FFA Board of Directors, recently told FFA New Horizons magazine. “FFA is made up of more than 700,000 members, each with their own unique history, heritage, interests and vision for the future. We honor and respect the differences among us that make us stronger.”

Founded in 1928, the National FFA Organization develops leadership, personal growth and career success of youth through agricultural education. FFA has more than 735,000 student members in grades 7-12 in more than 8,800 local chapters in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Media Contact Information: jmhowse@ncat.edu

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