History of the PAWC

Booker T. Washington

The Professional Agricultural Workers Conference (PAWC) was initiated by Booker T. Washington in 1894. It actually evolved out of Washington’s reaction to the success and excitement of the first Farmers Conference in 1892. Dr. Booker T. Washington was so pleased with the success of the first Farmers Conference that he established it as an annual activity of the institution. According to Allen W. Jones, “the second conference in February, 1893 was attended by some 800 persons representing almost every section of Alabama and the South. In 1894 and 1895 the attendance increased to over 1000 and by 1898 the attendance exceeded 2000. Because of growing attendance, Washington held a two day conference in 1894. The first day was the Farmers Conference and the second day was the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference that was composed of teachers from Negro institutions of higher education in the south.”

Over the years since 1894, expansion of the conference, changes in institutional priorities and dynamics of socio-economics of rural people and agriculture, have caused a variety of changes in the second day portion of the annual conference. Some of these changes included: (1) Women’s Conference, (2) Farm and Home Short Courses, (3) Fat Cattle Show and Sales, (4) other specialty activities for the benefit of rural people. One other major activity in the evolution of the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference occurred in 1941 when the professional agricultural workers who were attending the Tuskegee Negro Farmers and Workers Conference scheduled a special session designed to deal more fundamentally with the causes and solution to rural people and farm problems. This then represents the renewal of the Professional Agricultural Workers Conference under the guidance of Mr. L. A Potts, Dean of the School of Agriculture, Nr. L. J. Washington of USDA which continues to function as a major out-reach activity of the University.

The Professional Agricultural Workers Conference began in 1942 mainly with Tuskegee University and local and state support and participation. It is now national in scope including representatives from the national land grant community, and from the state, federal, and private sectors.

From: The Role of Tuskegee University in the Origin, Growth, and Development of the Negro Cooperative Extension System: 1881-1990. B.D. Mayberry (1989), Tuskegee University, AL, pp. 139-140.