YMCA. April, 1918

Material Information

YMCA. April, 1918
Series Title:
Writings and Speeches 1891-1920
Rolfs, Peter Henry
Publication Date:
Physical Location:
Articles, Speeches and Other Writings
8. YMCA. April, 1918


Subjects / Keywords:
Agricultural extension work -- Florida.
Agriculture -- Florida
Agricultural Experiment Station.
University of Florida.
Rolfs, Peter Henry


Address by P. H. Rolfs to the Y. M. C. A regarding the Negro and agriculture--a reprise of a talk given in 1917

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida Archives
Rights Management:
Copyright Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier:

UFDC Membership

Peter Henry Rolfs
University Archives

Full Text


Intro auction

Gentlemen of the Young Men's Christian Association, I am very

glad to be with you this afternoon. It is always a pleasure for

me to be with you ani hbep yu take part in the studies you are pur-

suing in connection with your organization. As I look back on my

college course I rejrard the work done in connection with the relig-

ious organizations among my most pleasant recollections. In those

days the Y. M. C. A. had not entered very strongly into college work,

i4 has c.dRy. As a matter of fact the Y. M. C. A. work in the

United States was quite in its beginning and practically unknown.

There was howeverr a feeling among the college students that some sqm

d~eonu.naILj.,,Tti r non-demominational student organization should take

S care of the religious work connected with the institutions. Es-

epcially was thi. true with the .tate-supported colleges and univer-

sities. In those days it was quite a common accusation from secta-

rian institutions that all state institutions, and agricultural col-

leges in particular, were atheistic. Even after the Christian As

sociation became quite strong in my home college it was not an un-

common thing to be accused of being non-religious, although we had a

larger .percentage of our students in the Christian organizations

than occurred in some of the denominational schools.

I have been requested to speak upon the question of the Negro

and Agziculture. The negro question is one of the most important

that can come before this body. We may theorize about what would be

the condition if the negro were not present and what would be done, .A.-

.. .... ... a


under other conditions. We are, ho ever, right up against the fact

that we have some eight or ten million negroes in the South, and they

are a factor that must be reckoned with in all of our economic deal-

ings. The question of the social status df the negro has been defi-

nitely and permanently settled, so whatever is said tolay has no ref-

erence to that side of the question. The part of the question I am

dealing with is one of economics. We have the negro here and he is

here to stay. It is the white man's burden 'o make the negro as near-

ly self supporting and of as little hindrance as possible to the prop-

er development A~ ...-'o of the South. For the last half

century the negro has been a burden rather than a help to the devel-

opment. He has been a subservient pawn in the hands of the unscrup-

ulous. This side of the question, however, has been ably handled

by speakers on the negro question who have appeared before you from

time to time. Dr. Farr has given you a rather clear state ent, and

his position on the commission which 2an study he negro question,

ie him. unusual opportunities of understanding this problem. Dr.

Sims and Prof. Ault have taken up other phases of this whole big

question. My part of the discussion has to do with the negro on the

farm and what is being done to make him self sustaining and self"

supporting. Never in the history of the United States has this been

forced upon us as during the last year, when the war has called for

the most strenuous efforts toward producing all the food and forage

possible. No element in this whole great work h.s been over looked,

even going to the extent of marshalling the labor power of school girls.


It is quite natural, therefore, that stress should be laid upon

our principal labor element, the negro population.


The education of the negro began of course at the time when

the first slaves were brought into contact with a superior race.

While education generally is looked upon as synonymous with book teach-

ing this is really not the correct view. If the members of the

Y. M. C. A. got no training or education aside from that obtained

in the class rooms of the University *6 would e very meagre indeed.

Fully one-half of the educational advantages to students on our cam-

pus is the development that comes from mingling with their fellow

students and mingling with people of affairs. The development de-

rived from seeing and hearing the speeches of national and inter-

national figures I count as being worth more than any one course of

study pursued in the class rooms. This is an unconscious element

for education that enters into your development while at the Uni-

versity of Florida.

The negro being taken from his surroundings in Africa, among

savages, and forcibly thrust into a much higher civilization, this

was in itself an education to him. Ordinarily we think of education

as consisting solely of institutions and curricula. When we speak

of the education of the nerro, therefore, it usually refers to op-

portunities afforded by the elementary ad secondary schools, by

*&lleges -en institutions of higher Icarning.

This phase of the negro problem was doubtless taken up by

Dr. Cox, and therefore would come outside of the I waO=eO

present to you today. When we come to stddy the question somewhat

closely we find there are fairly good elementary schools for the

negroes. They are better than the elementary schools were fifty

years ago in the rural portions of the United States. -.any of our

national figures got their early training in log school houses and

under conditions not as favorable as the rural schools for negroes

in the State of Florida at the present time. Secondary schools are
maintained in *a of the larger centers and these are doing fair

work, better indeed than many of the secondary schools of twenty-

five or thirty years ago. There are a considerable number of schools

where the negroes can secure higher education in the State of Florida.

Most of the.e are denominational schools. There are in the State of

Florida twenty-six private and higher schools for negroes. This in-

cludes the Agricultural and Mechanical College at Tallahassee, which

is supported by the State and Federal governments. The total value

of the property owned by these different schools amounts to something

over a half million dollars. These schools do not, however, con-

tribute perceptibly to the agricultural production of the state;with

the exception of the Agricultural and Muchanical College very little

work is done in the direction of better agriculture by these schools.
fifty percent of our agricultural population are negroes although
the t otal negro ur population of the state is only about 42. There
the total negro population of the state is only about 42,. There

are only three of the private schools that give instruction in gar-

dening. This is a notable defect in thet training of negroes in the

State. Seventy-one per cent of the negroes being classed as rural

it would seem that agricultural training would be the most important

thing to emphasize in connection with these schools. We must not

judge, the system harshly, since it has been only a short, time that

agriculture has been recognized as an educational factor. E'en as

late as twenty-five years ago some of the State universities regard-

ed agriculture as not being quite worthy of recognition as education-

al training. I have visited the Agricultural and Mechanical College
for Negroes, at Tallahassee, frequently during the last *- years.

The progress made in the direction of agriculture is very satisfac-

tory indeed. They have a very creditable farm, reasonably good

barns, fairly good class rooms and are giving a large amount of at-

tention and encouraging general agriculture and dairying.

It would be very interesting and profitable to use the entire

time allowed Am-thLas *ee+on in a discussion of the various funds and

denominations that are entering into the education of the negro in

Florida. oMIn apparently it as no 0earng onb subject i t
'ct e c.... oi. -ad e ,elome, tof hi;l-- .,
.till a very important and pn influence on tF ganaral tr4nJ Lf

.a-gr o-ad~iio.tion ~n h tat. All of t-he ctivitir, nf the nogro

ax P Iaainig fnr behind the bzot praetioeaof our civiliztion. the

"I tre ii adtallu .as well aicn piille. While the framers

of our commonwealth, washington and Jefferson,.both insisted on the

teaching of agriculture, and development of this line of industry

in the educational institutions of the United States, it took the

mass of the population a long time to become conscious of the fact

that it was a mine of undeveloped wealth that had not been opened.

I have saan you that the general trend of appropriations from both

individual and denominational sources for the education of the negro

is in the direction of classic or academic education rather than

industrial and agricultural. It is not to be wondered at therefore,

that a large percentage of the negro race look upon education as a

means -wi s.u_-w, -a -nu; toward civilization. khr-a ian -un-

Us-a-l p ons- t'."t. If you will take time to study the motive for

setting aside these large amounts of money that have been given'for

the education of the negroes in Floridayou will find that it was al-

truistic and had for its object the es'etema of the negro race.

The donors of the funris, however, did not have the clear vision of

how 4save1opamt -a 11 i Wat .ng ..i A .f.ff. had.

I think with one exception, the Jeans Fund,the donors empha -

sized the importance of academic education. The Jeans Fund, however,

permittoa a considerable amount of money to be used for what is es-

sentially the same work as is being done through the cooperative dem-

onstration work.

I have now placed before you a very brief, but somewhat clear

outline of the academic educational situation among the negroes in


Extension Work

I have already mentioned the Jeans Fund as doing extension
work. The worker or workers under this fund are independent of

existing institutions, their report being made directly to the Jeans

Fund Corporation. The work, however, is not out of harmony with

that being done either locally or in the State. For instance, one

of the agents is located in Jackson County and gives instructions

to the rural negroes in gardening, canning, sewing, and other work
of that kind.

The principal agricultural ext .nsion work done in the State
of Florida is through the Extension Division of the Agricultural

College. The basis for its support is the Smith-Lever Fund,oi
the Department of Agriculture Fund and the Emergency Fund.

Detailed discussion of this work is unnecessary. Briefly
stated, by agreement between the University of Florida and the

U. 8. Department of Agriculture cooperative forces carry on the
extension work in agriculture in the State of Florida in a coop-
erative way. The two agencies have pooled their funds and agreed
that all work of ,demonstration nature will be carried on after be-

ing agreed upon by the two agencies, and that neither party will

undertake lines of demonstration work, or carry on demonstration

work not agreed to by the other party. The pooling of these funds
gives us something like $100,000 between the two agencies. This

is the basis of our work in Cooperative Demonstration and Home Eco-

nomics in the State. Outside of the field of demonstration there

lies considerable agricultural territory.On the one habd we have the

regulatory which is carried on in two principal directions in the

State, the Plant Board, cooperating with the Bureau of Plant Indus-

try, and the Live Stock Sanitary Board, cooperating with the Bureau

of Animal Industry. This regulatory work is a separate organiza-

tion from the demonstration work. The investigational work, pop-

ularly spoken of as the Experiment Station work lies on the other

side of the Demonstration work. If you can define clearly just

where-the line of demarcation is between the demonstration and regu-

latory work on the one hand, and between the demonstration and inves-

tigational work on the other hand, you will have in mind clearly

what the demonstration work is.

Negro Demonstration Work

The University of Florida has a cooperative arrangement with

the Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes at Tallahassee,

whereby agricultural and home economics demonstration work in the

State is carried on. The importance of this Wk will be apparent

when it is remembered that Whatever academic instruction in agricul-

ture and home economics is given the negro race comes mainly, or

nearly altogether from the Agricultural and Mechanical College for

Negroes at Tallahassee. t very important in this demonstration

work that whatever is taught shall be in accordance with the princi-



; */



pies laid down at the technical institutions, in other words, the

negroes in the field should be taught in accordance with the best

lines of teaching at the Agricultural and Mechanical College.

When this cooperative arrangement went into effect, Pres.

N. B. Young, of the Negro college was instructed to find a suita-

ble man for heading this line of work in the State. Thd under-

s-anding with that institution is that this agent shall be retained

only so long as he is mutually satisfactory to both, the University

of Florida and the Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.

A. A. Turner, _iof &_"koeoTs was employed; he wre-alnO

a graduate of the Ohio State University, and had had considerable

experience in agricultural work before attending college. During

the first year he was instructed to visit various counties and

became familiar with the negroes in those counties, forming farm

and home makers' clubs among the negro youth. These would be

directly connected with the rural schools in the various counties.

His activities were limited to seven counties in order that he

might have an opportunity to visit these at frequent intervals

and give instruction by demonstration or lectures, and otherwise

come into direct contact with the negro youth. During the next

year Turner confined his attention to the.counties in which the

negro population was heaviest and yet near enough to Tallahassee

not to consume too great an amount of his time in getting to these

counties. In the spring of the year an advance was made in the

,r 4

handling of this work by appointing local agents for six 4a*ifi-

-1t counties. These were assistants to Turner and were working

under his direction and instruction. For appointment it was re-

quired that the local man should be acceptable to the County Superin-

tendent and that he should have taught school' The first require-

ment was made to ensure that there would be no friction between the

County Superintendent and the colored county leader. The second re-

quirement eliminated a large number of local negro agitators. The

plan worked admirably and gave us splendid results.

In 1917 an enlargement of the work was made by adding demon-
strators in Home Economics. The selection of these women was a

rather difficult task since so many f-fev'em elements entered into

the question. It was finally decided that these women agents should

be recommended and act as assistants to the County Home Demonstra-

tion Agents. In the men's work you will remember the agents were

appointed on recommendation of the County Superintendent and a

lumber of white residents of the County, but they were not hach-

nically made assistants to the County Demonstration Agents.

ith thl outbreak of the war crop production was so necessary

that the work was broadened out not only to include the youth but to

give special attention to crop production. Congress appropriated

an emergency fund for crop production. This enabled us to place

additional workers in the field. Ano-her step forward was taken by

employing a number of negro women for carrying out canning, drying,

and general crop conservation programs. It is very gratifying indeed

to know that there are a:nn:mn the negro population many earnest work-

ers who have a real zeal for the betterment of the race. In most

cases the compensation attached to the office was a minor consid-

eration, while the doing of the work was the principal 'motive.for en-

gaging in the enterprise. The handling of the work conducted by

the negro women is a very difficult problem. Nowhere in the State

could an adequate number of women be found who had been trained

in home economies and naturally every nearess who had a fair knowl-

edge of English considered herself competent to instruct her race

in this line of work.

We nww have every County in the State ;veredA by a County

flmenstration Aget -and n H mp tDemonr-trtin -Agenkt. In some coun-

ties the agent is working only.part time, while in a few instances

the agent works his entire time and gives his attention to two or

more counties.

In the negro work we have negro agents for the rural agricul-

tural work in the following Counties

Alachua Hillsboro Leon

Columbia Hamilton Madison

Duval Jackson Marion

Gadsden Jefferson Putnam


and in the following counties we have negro women agents, -

Alachua Jackson Orange

Columbia Jefferson Putnam

Escambia Leon Suwannee

Gadsden Madison Volusia

Hillsboro Marion Washington

In both cases, the men and women, the nesro agents give their time

to instructing the people of their own race.

The foregoing I hope has given you a tangible idea of what

we are doing for the education of the negro to make him a better

economic individual. This of course relates to our work solely as

it is carried out for the negro race and by the negro race. It

does not include the large but intangible amount of work we are doing

for the negro race directly and indirectly. The de-monstration work

carried on by the white agents is as potent a factor in the develop-

ment of hegro race as it is for the whites. The negroes consult the

white county agent freely and are given a large amount of attention.

That, however, is work that is not directly segregated and is dif-

ficult of bringing forward in statistical form. There is practically

no County or Home Demonstration Agent in the State but has lectured

and demonstrated before negro' audiences and I am told by leaders of

the negroes themselves, that they prefer a white lecturer to one

of their own race. Bulletins, printed matter, posters, and all other

material moes as freely to the negro farmer as to anyone else.


The following summary of the work done last year among the negroes

will give you a comprehensive idea ff what has been accomplished.

The work among negroes has been conducted along the same
lines as last year. There is one regularly appointed negro county
agent, in Leon County, who works four days a week in the field
and two days at the A. & M. College, Tallahassee. The farm and
home makers' club work among negroes has been conducted with
the usual crops in six counties.
The names "farm maker" and "home maker" are applied to
negro clubs organized under the supervision of the Extension Di-
vision, University of Florida, as provided for in the Smith-Lever
Act. While the agricultural club agent has direct supervision of
this extension work among negroes the activities are supervised
by A. A. Turner, agent for farm and home makers' clubs, who has
headquarters at the Florida A. & M. College for negroes, Talla-
hassee. The purpose of this extension work is to increase produc-
tion from the farms operated by negroes in the state. So far it has
been undertaken only where the work would count for the most
and where such work seemed most feasible.
The project has been directed toward agricultural training for
colored youth, inducing them to raise food crops on a better plan
than is generally followed by negro farmers in the state. The main
crops undertaken have been corn, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. The
agent for farm and home makers' clubs reports that 175 negro
members each raised one-half acre of corn, one-fourth acre peanuts
and one-fourth acre sweet potatoes. The yield from 871/2 acres of
corn showed a higher average than that for the state. After de-
ducting the cost of production from the value of the crop a profit of
more than $2,500, or a little more than $14 an acre was left.
There were 43 acres planted to peanuts which produced an
average yield of about 48 bushels. This crop netted an average
profit of $6.50 for the quarter acre.
For the sweet potatoes planted, the yield was estimated at about
90 bushels to the acre which is considerably above the average for
the state.
Comparing this report with last year's it shows an increase of
four bushels to the acre in corn. No comparison can be made with
the peanut and sweet-potato yields as these crops were not grown
_the previous year by club members.


More than 2,000 negro farmers attended public meetings ar-
ranged by the negro club agent and assistants. There were ar-
ranged at convenient places and times and the subjects discussed
were mainly on increased food production with special emphasis
placed on better cultural methods. At each one of these places
the essentials of hog cholera control were made plain to the negro
farmers. This is especially important as these club workers have
been instrumental in saving many hogs from cholera by having
them vaccinated, and, what was more important, to emphasize
that outbreaks of hog cholera are often started by allowing the
negro's sick hogs to mingle with his neighbor's healthy ones.
Aside from the work undertaken in the counties planned for,
additional counties carried on voluntary work induced by the de-
mand for food conservation. The following counties had the

services of an assistant home-makers' club agent for four months:
Washington, Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson, Alachua, and Marion, with '
assistant agents employed in each.
Following is a report of seven other counties that volunteered to
organize clubs last season, in which considerable food conservation
was accomplished.
Duval County, 12 clubs organized, 1165 cans of fruit and vegetables put up.
Hillsboro, 4 clubs organized, 550 cans put up.
Volusia, Daytona Industrial School, 2750 cans put up.
Putnam, instructor employed by county,. 1165 cans put up.
Madison, 2 clubs organized, 450 cans put up.
Suwannee, 2 clubs organized, 275 cans put up.
Columbia, 3 clubs organized, 650 cans put up.
Total number of clubs organized, 23; cans put up, 7,840.
Arrangements were made with the Department whereby the
-negro club agent was able to give-seme assistance.
The reports of the negro club agent made during the year to the
state agent show the following:
Days worked in office.. 60
Days worked in field.... ------------250
Total days worked 310
T o ta l d a y s w o r k e d ...........................................-------- .......-- -- -- ..
Total number of letters written .....4,125
Bulletins sent out ..-1.-- .......... -- ,
Individual visits made: -........ 7,718
To club m embers ............ ...-.... ........... .. 368
To Farmers -- 296
M meetings held .. ........................................
Total attendance, or number of people reached -..... .. -8,990
Miles traveled by rail 9,331
Miles traveled by auto and other conveyances .3...--- -3,773
Total miles traveled 13,104
... ... .. ... ... .. ... ... .. ... ... .. ... .. ... ... .. ... ... .. ... ... .. ... .. 1 3 ,1 0 4


To summarize off*'' what I have .emp. o 0 proop'ee in

the foregoing paper, I would say:

(1) The elementary education of the negro in the State today

is very inadequate when viewed from the standpoint of

what it might be, but is not so bad when viewed from the

standpoint of what education in a general way was in the

United States fifty years ago, In nearly all communi-

ties it is possible for the individual seeking earnestly

for an elementary education to secure it.

(2) The secondary and hiigher education for negroes in the State

of Florida emphasizes strongly the academic rather than the

vocational studies, thus giving the negro in general an

erroneous impression of what education really is.

(5) The Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes at Talla-
hassee is giving a reasonably good course of instruction

and has moderately good facilities for carrying out its work

along agricultural lines. Ita equipment and opportunities

for instructing the negro race are better than occurred in

many agricultural collesJ twenty-five years ago.


(4) The largest and most important single factor for extending

and inculcating correct agricultural knowledge and agricul-

tural practices in the State of Florida is the wvrk done through

the Extension Division of the University. Statistical records

show that many thousands of negroes are reached through this


(5) In conclusion, though this is not brought out in the paper

itself, the local communities, cities and counties are

recognizing the value of this work by giving financial aid

to the extension work among the negroes.

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