The New Farmers of America (NFA)

Document created by Gary E Moore on Feb 8, 2019
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February is Black History Month. So, the Friday Footnotes for this month will acknowledge that fact. Last week’s Footnote from Breanna Holbert was the perfect kick-off. This week we will test your knowledge of the NFA. In future Footnotes this month we will thoroughly examine the “merger” of the FFA and NFA, learn about the “The Forty Long Years” monograph (a must read) and learn more about Booker T. Washington and his connection to agricultural and extension education.

The Footnote for this week is in the form of a quiz. I will pose 20 questions about the NFA and then provide the answers. You can grade your own quiz: but be honest. Each question is worth 5 points unless indicated otherwise. Here are the questions (most but not all can be answered from these digitized copies of the 1946 NFA Guide or the 1963 NFA Guide).

  1. What do the initials NFA stand for?
  2. Why was it necessary for the NFA to exist?
  3. What Supreme Court ruling in 1896 led to segregated schools?
  4. Which state association was the model for the NFA?
  5. In what year was the NFA established?
  6. Which two individuals are recognized as the founders of the NFA? (2 1/2 points for each)
  7. What were the NFA colors?
  8. How did the NFA emblem differ from the FFA emblem?
  9. Where was the NFA treasurer stationed (2 ½ points)? The secretary (2 ½ points)?
  10. Instead of a sentinel, the NFA had what (2 ½ points)? What was the station emblem for this officer (2 ½ points)?
  11. How many NFA degrees could be earned by a member (1 point)? Name them (4 points).
  12. How many paragraphs were in the NFA creed (2 ½ points)? What words did each paragraph start with (2 ½ points)?
  13. What was the northernmost state with a NFA Chapter?
  14. When was NFA week celebrated?
  15. In the first 14 years of the NFA, where were the conventions held (2 ½ points)? In the later years where were the conventions held (2 ½ points)?
  16. The NFA was organized into how many sections or regions (2 points)? What were their names (3 points)?
  17. After the NFA convention ended in 1965, what did the NFA members do?
  18. A significant NFA award was titled the H.O. Sargent Award. What achievement did it signify?
  19. Part of the governance of the NFA consisted of an Administrative Advisor and an Advisor and an Administrative Executive Secretary and an Executive Secretary. Why?
  20. In what year did the FFA and NFA Merge.

Bonus Question (5 points): What was the driving force behind the FFA-NFA merger?


So how did you do? Here are the answers.

  1. What do the initials NFA stand for?

New Farmers of America. The NFA was a school-based organization for black students who were enrolled in vocational agriculture classes in the southern United States. Some people incorrectly think NFA stood for Negro Farmers of America.

  1. Why was it necessary for the NFA to exist?

In the south, schools were segregated – black students went to black schools and white students went to white schools. Since the students in these schools were separated according to race, there was a need for two organizations for agriculture students. This led to the establishment of the FFA and the NFA.

It should be noted that black students were in the FFA in states where segregation did not exist. For example, there were two black state FFA Presidents in California during the NFA era. They were Leo W. Clark, 1952-53 (Haywood) and Dan Chatman, 1963-64 (Madera).

  1. What Supreme Court ruling in 1896 led to segregated schools?

The Plessy vs. Ferguson Supreme Court case provided the legal basis for segregation. This court case was about separate railroad cars for whites and blacks. The ruling was that if the cars were equal, it was OK to have separate railroad cars for each race.  This ruling led to separate schools and other divisions in society.

  1. Which state association was the model for the NFA?

In 1927 an organization known as the New Farmers of Virginia held a statewide meeting. In 1927 there were 18 local chapters in Virginia with 400+ members. This organization served as the model for other states.

  1. In what year was the NFA established?

1935. A meeting of 13 states with NFA organizations was held in August at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to create the New Farmers of America. Prior to this, there had been regional meetings involving several states.

6. Which two individuals are recognized as the founders of the NFA? (2 1/2 points each)

George Washington Owens, a professor at Virginia State College and H. O. Sargent, Federal Agent for Special Populations (Negro, Hispanic, Native Americans) provided the leadership for establishing the NFA. Owens was Black and Sargent was white.

Owens was the first black person to graduate from Kansas State University. His personal and professional papers are in the KSU library archives. Sargent was a graduate of Auburn University. He was killed in a car accident in 1936 in Louisiana. (Photos from the FFA Archives)

  1. What were the NFA colors?

Black and Old Gold.

  1. How did the NFA emblem differ from the FFA emblem?

Instead of having a cross section of an ear of corn, the outline of a boll of cotton was used. And the colors were black and gold. The letters NFA appeared on the emblem.

 9. Where was the NFA treasurer stationed (2 1/2 points)? The secretary (2 1/2 points)?

The NFA treasurer was stationed by the picture of Booker T. Washington (a future Footnote will tell more about Washington). The secretary was stationed by the boll of cotton. The reporter was stationed at the American and NFA flag. The advisor was at the owl and the picture of H. O. Sargent.

  1. Instead of a sentinel, the NFA had what (2 1/2 points)? What was the station emblem for this officer (2 1/2 points)?

The NFA had a watchman. The station marker was a straight stick of native wood about four feet long.  The watchman was an “optional” officer and wasn’t included in the opening ceremony but had a role in all the degree ceremonies.

  1. How many NFA degrees could be earned by a member (1 point)? Name them (4 points).

There were four degrees. They were Farm Hand, Improved Farmer, Modern Farmer, and Superior Farmer. The homemade degree teaching aid here came from an NFA chapter in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the plow was broken before I received it (this is one of the plows given to NFA chapters by John Deere).  A superior farmer key is also shown.

  1. How many paragraphs were in the NFA creed (2 ½ points)? What words did each paragraph start with (2 ½ points)?

There were six paragraphs and each began with the words “I believe…” The NFA creed stated:

  • I believe in the dignity of farm work and that I shall prosper in proportion as I learn to put knowledge and skill into the occupation of farming.
  • I believe that the farm boy who learns to produce better crops and better livestock; who learns to improve and beautify his home surroundings will find joy and success in meeting the challenging situations as they arise in his daily living.
  • I believe that rural organizations should develop their leaders from within; that the boys in the rural communities should look forward to positions of leadership in the civic, social and public life surrounding them.
  • I believe that the life of service is the life that counts; that happiness endures to mankind when it comes from having helped lift the burdens of others.
  • I believe in the practice of co-operation in agriculture; that it will aid in bringing to the man lowest down a wealth of giving as well as receiving.
  • I believe that each farm boy bears the responsibility for finding and developing his talents to the end that the life of his people may thereby be enriched so that happiness and contentment will come to all.
  1. What was the northernmost state with a NFA Chapter?

New Jersey

  1. When was the National NFA day celebrated?

April 5. This was the birthday for Booker T. Washington.

  1. The NFA was organized into how many sections or regions (2 points)? What were their names (3 points)?

There were three sections:

  • Booker T. Washington Section – Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • H. O. Sargent Section – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee (originally known as the Gulf Section)
  • Almmot Section – Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas (originally known as the A-L-Tex-O Section, then Almot; with the addition of Missouri the name was changed to Almmot)
  1. In the first 14 years of the NFA, where were the conventions held (2 ½ points)? In the later years where were the conventions held (2 ½ points)?

The plan was to rotate the convention between the three regions meeting on campuses of the black land-grant colleges. The first 14 conventions followed this design with one exception. The 1939 convention was held in New Jersey at the Bordentown Manual Training and Industrial School for Colored Youth (this was originally a private school started by a Methodist minister – it was not a black land-grant college). The school was situated on 400 acres which were farmed, there were 30 buildings built by students and staff, an auto shop, a seamstress department, and other vocational programs as well as college preparatory programs. It was known as the Tuskegee of the North.

In 1949 the convention was held in Atlanta and met there annually through 1965. The Atlanta convention utilized the YMCA and municipal auditorium.

  1. After the NFA convention ended in 1965, what did the NFA members do?

When the NFA convention ended in Atlanta a number of the NFA members and adult leaders boarded a train to Kansas City to attend the FFA convention. The NFA choir performed at the FFA convention. The choir was apprehensive about singing at such a big convention but the fears were allayed when they received a standing ovation after singing NFA Boys are We.

  1. A significant NFA award was titled the H.O. Sargent Award. What achievement did it signify?

The award recognized a former NFA member who was established in farming. The person had to have graduated from high school for at least three years but no more than 10 years. When the FFA and NFA merged, this award (as was true of all NFA awards) was discontinued.

This award was brought back but with a different goal by the FFA in 1995. The goal was to recognize FFA members and adults who were engaged in activities to promote diversity. It was also to recognize the existence of the NFA. The award was last given in 2008. I don’t know why it was discontinued. There is no mention of it being discontinued in the FFA Board of Directors minutes for 2007, 2008 or 2009. Perhaps someone reading this Footnote knows why.

  1. Part of the governance of the NFA consisted of an Administrative Advisor and a National Advisor and an Administrative Executive Secretary and an Executive Secretary. Why?

When the NFA was established, it was primarily because of the initiative of the black teachers and teacher educators. Even though H.O. Sargent was involved, the NFA operated outside of the governance of the vocational education officials in Washington. The advisor was a teacher trainer from one of the states and the executive treasurer-secretary was from another state.

However, in 1941 the NFA leaders were “commanded” to attend a meeting prior to the seventh NFA convention in Florida by the Chief of the Agricultural Education Branch of the U.S. Office of Education. At this meeting, the NFA leaders were told the NFA had to be “legalized” by being brought under the guidance and control of the Office of Education. They were told to agree to this, or federal funds would be cut for travel expenses involving the NFA.

After the meeting, the “official” leadership was the Administrative Advisor and Administrative Executive Secretary in the U.S. Office of Education (white folks). However, the real work of operating the NFA resided in the hands of the National Advisor, Executive Secretary, and Executive Treasurer who were black teacher trainers. If you needed to charter an NFA chapter, you didn’t contact Washington, you contacted Dr. Norris at Prairie View A&M. The following graphic is from the 1959 NFA Convention Proceedings.  Look at the “Adult Officers” section. Basically, the first two were figureheads while the next three were the true adult leaders of the NFA.

 

  1. In what year did the FFA and NFA Merge.

1965. The Friday Footnote for next week will look at the “merger”. Stay tuned.

** Bonus Question (5 points): What was the driving force behind the FFA-NFA merger?

Pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Office of Education (to meet the provisions contained in civil rights legislation and court cases). More next week.

So what was your NFA-IQ?

Teaching Ideas:

Typically, when an agriculture teacher teaches the FFA Unit, perhaps a minute is spent talking about the NFA. Following are some suggestions for giving the NFA the attention it deserves.

  • Have your students go the NFA Image archive and select one photo of an NFA activity and download it. They are to share this image with the class and explain what is depicted and then classify that activity as being like or different than an FFA activity. This exercise should show that NFA and FFA were very similar.
  • Use this PowerPoint to teach your students about the NFA.  However, you need to decide if you want to hide or move some of the slides. I use this presentation with adults and have some slides dealing with slavery, segregation and the civil rights movement.  So, if you want to give your students the “Disney” version of the presentation, you might hide slides number 4-11.
  • If you live in a state where the NFA existed, have students identify former members of the NFA and interview them. They might want to record these interviews and share them with the class. As time goes by, there are fewer and fewer former NFA members. This should be a high priority.
  • Copy the questions from this footnote and have your students search the Internet for the answers or get them from the PowerPoint presentation as you present it. Allow them to use this digitized 1946 NFA Guide or 1963 NFA Guide to find most of the answers.

Other Teaching Resources:

The following web site has some NFA history and numerous scanned or original NFA documents. https://ncffa.org/about-us/history/new-farmers-of-america-nfa1/.

There are two videos about the NFA you could show:

In the early 2000s, Dexter Wakefield interviewed former NFA members to record their impressions of the NFA. An article “A HISTORICAL NARRATIVE ON THE IMPACT OF THE NEW FARMERS OF AMERICA (NFA) ON SELECTED PAST MEMBERS authored by Wakefield and Allen Talbert can be read at http://jae-online.org/attachments/article/347/44-01-95.pdf. The full dissertation can be accessed at https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/dissertations/AAI3037657/.

Strickland, Cecil (1995). New Farmers of America in Retrospect: The Formative Years, 1935-1965 . Prairie View A&M University. Printed by Joyco Printing in Homestead, TX. (this book is hard to find)

Tenney, A.W. (1977). The FFA at 50: A golden past a brighter future. Alexandria, VA: FFA Supply Service.

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