The almost-forgotten North Carolina Colored State Fair (1879 – 1930) received a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker in April 2018. The marker’s dedication was held at Shaw University’s historic 1873 Estey Hall in Raleigh. The Chowan Discovery Group, the nominator, the NC State Office of Archives and History – the marker’s provider – and North Carolina A&T State University participated in the program.
In 1879, African American leaders in Raleigh, including Charles N. Hunter, founded the North Carolina Industrial Association (NCIA) to “encourage and promote the development of the industrial and educational resources of the colored people of North Carolina, and to gather statistics respecting their progress in the various pursuits and customs peculiar to civilized and enlightened Nations, to hold annually an exhibition of the progress of the industry and education…”. The main annual event of the NCIA was the North Carolina State Colored Fair that ran from 1879 to 1930. The fair’s objective was “to place before the world every evidence of our progress as a race which it is possible to secure.”
It didn’t take long for the fair to gain popularity. Various educational, social, business, fraternal, religious, professional, military and political organizations scheduled their annual gatherings to coincide with the fair. Also, during the same 1897 fair there was parade, an Education Day with representatives from all of the North Carolina colleges and universities, a Mechanics and Farmer’s Day, a Women’s Day, a Press and Author’s Association meeting and a grand ball.
Among the famous leaders who appeared at the fair were Frederick Douglass, P.B.S. Pinchback and Booker T. Washington. Other local fairs for African Americans followed the example of the NCCSF such the fairs of Wake and Johnson Counties and the Atlantic District Fair of the Roanoke-Chowan area in northeastern North Carolina.
The last fair was in 1930. The North Carolina Colored State Fair represented efforts to promote the industrial, business, educational, agricultural, and community ideals of people of color – significant to the advancement of a state and a nation. The marker is located on the 2600 block of Hillsborough Street near Pogue Street in Raleigh. Chowan Discovery executive director, Marvin T. Jones who is a member of the Central Maryland Chapter of AAGHS, wrote the nomination. This is Chowan Discovery’s seventh highway historical marker.