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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles D. Thompson, October 15, 1990. Interview K-0810. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Interest in agricultural education

Thompson describes his interest in agricultural education. He chose to attend a historically black school because he thought he might learn more about racial issues. He entered the field, but soon learned—as did his employer—that farmers did not need to learn new agricultural techniques. Rather, they needed to learn to adapt to a changing society.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles D. Thompson, October 15, 1990. Interview K-0810. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

After I worked with adults in agricultural education, I felt that I wanted to be an agricultural educator. So I went back to school and got a great deal. A&T was a traditionally African-American University together with other three university in the state that when segregated. Although they are not officially segregated now, they continued their tradition. There is one in Durham, Greensboro, and one in Winston-Salem. They still very much serve the African-American communities. SO they are much more large black students, this is my guess, than UNC has white students. So they have had harder time to integrate their schools then UNC than some of the traditional white schools. Partly because their funds are so low that they are not attractive to white students. I went there because it was a great deal, fanatically. They almost paid me to go there. I worked on the farm in the university. And I managed for a sheep project.
JUN WANG:
How old were you at that time?
CHARLES D. THOMPSON:
I was about 22. I was still a volunteer and working in the Graham center when I was a students. So you can really say that I did two one-year project at the same time. So when I decided to go to graduate school. It was a real big jump from religious study to agriculture. I saw the connections. As I did my early career in religious and sociology, I invented my own major. I think that everybody should pursue education like these. You can't fit into a mold that they can only give you a guidelines and that's always.
JUN WANG:
Isn't their agriculture in the earlier colleges? So you can only through graduate school to study agriculture?
CHARLES D. THOMPSON:
There are two, i.e. NC Sate in Raleigh and K& T in Greensboro traditionally white, to teach agricultural skills, like the black schools. I chose the black one partly because it's cheaper to go there. There are two more reasons, after I worked with black farmers I really want to learn more from them. And it is a really good education in terms of racial issues, to learn a really different culture. And it was really, everybody, in administration, the secretary, the farm are predominantly African-American. SO very different from other institutes you see in the State. The other reason is because they provide small agriculture education, while the NC State has gone to commercial big scale agricultural research. But I wanted to small-scale farm research. So I was dating a woman whom I met in the Graham center and continued after I went to A&T. She lived in Chatham county. She continued to work in the center, the overall organization of the center was called the Rural Advancement Foundation. And its offspring still exist in Chatham County. So along about 82 moved it's headquarter from west Salem to Chatham where the center was. And they closed the (Graham) center down after it ran just a short reason. It was because that people worked there realized that farmers know how to farm, and our demonstrations doesn't change the social structures. So it was more important to work on changing society than work on teaching farmers how to farm. Because there were large forces that were pushing farmers out of farm. Not because they were less of knowledge. Farmers are very knowledgeable people, as you know. With or without education, they learned the skills from farming, like me. Not from school. As farmers always say: you can't learn this by going to school.