North Carolina Colored State Fair historical marker

Jim Crow-Era Fair for African Americans

On November 18, 1879, the first North Carolina Colored State Fair opened in Raleigh. Born out of the desire by men of the Colored Industrial Association of North Carolina to showcase the progress made by African Americans after Emancipation, the fair was based on the successful model of the State Fair held by the State Agricultural Society since the 1850s.

Usually held in November, the fair combined agricultural and industrial displays with contests for exhibitors. Parades and speeches featuring politicians and other prominent people took place throughout the days of the fair. One of the founders of the association was Charles N. Hunter, a former slave and politically-prominent black educator in Raleigh. He remained the guiding force of the fair until it ceased.

Held on the original grounds of the Agricultural Society’s fair, the Negro State Fair was similar in format but on a smaller scale. It quickly became a social occasion for African Americans and received a small legislative appropriation. Hunter fought to keep the fair viable, though it was never a large moneymaker, and by 1931 the state’s racial politics had dealt it a fatal blow.

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