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