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History of Extension

History of the Cooperative Extension Service

The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the formal Extension System in the United States; however, outreach activities in some historically black colleges and universities predated this establishment by nearly forty years.

In 1875, Alabama A&M University began publishing a newsletter as a means of facilitating technology transfer to farmers. As early as 1881, Tuskegee University started outreach activities, organized an Extension department in 1889, and conducted its first conference for farmers in 1892. This annual activity continues today. In 1890, Dr. George Washington Carver implemented the legendary “result and method demonstrations” using a covered wagon to take information on new agriculture techniques to local farmers. This “moveable school,” the first in the nation, spread rapidly within the United States and continued abroad.

In 1906, T.M. Campbell was employed by Tuskegee as the first Negro outreach educator in the country. A month later, John B. Pierce of Hampton University filled a similar position in Virginia. Both worked as coordinators within the Negro Extension Program. In 1916, Otis S. O’Neal, a Negro county agent at Fort Valley State College, implemented the “Ham and Egg Show,” a demonstration project on producing and processing swine and poultry, which continued annually for more than 50 years. Other educational efforts included summer day camps, judging contests, and talent shows for Negro boys and girls. Negro Extension programs (as they were called at that time) were developed under the Smith-Lever Act by the 1890 institutions in some southern states. By 1921, there were 237 black farm and home demonstration agents employed in 15 of the 16 southern and border states. Only Missouri had no Negro Extension agents.

The 1862 institutions provided supervision and administration of these programs, a practice that would continue until 1972. The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 made no provisions for the sharing of federal funds with these 1890 institutions. Federal funds were given to the states that designated which institutions would receive Extension funds and manage programs. While the number of Negro Extension agents was growing, little or no public funds were made available to the 1890 institutions to support Extension programs, with most states choosing not to share those dollars with black land-grant institutions. By 1928, under this arrangement, only four1890 institutions received Extension funds. This Negro Extension System operated until the Civil Rights era when it was terminated with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It was not until 1972, after several amendments to the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 and the initiation of the formula funding, that 1890 institutions began receiving federal funds for Extension work. The funding that year was $4 million for Extension. Tuskegee Institute, a private institution, was included in the funding in recognition of its historic role in developing outreach educational programs.

The Indirect Funding Period under Public Law 89-106 lasted from 1972 to 1977, when all federal Extension funds earmarked for 1890 institutions were channeled through the 1862 land grant institutions. Although with Public Law 89-106, day-to-day administration of 1890 Extension programs became the responsibility of coordinators at the 1890 institutions, the supervision (decision to employ, terminate or promote personnel, decisions related to travel, equipment and supplies) remained with the 1862 directors. Funds appropriated to conduct 1890 Extension programs were sent directly to the 1862 institutions.

The Direct Funding Period began with the enactment of Public Law 95-13 in 1977. Under this provision, 1890 institutions gained administrative control of their funds and Extension programs, receiving Extension funds directly from the federal government. Guidelines required continued cooperation between 1890 institutions and 1862 colleges and universities to maintain a single unified Extension program.