N.C. Colored State Fair historical marker

N.C. Colored State Fair (H-124)

Operated 1879-1930 by N.C. Industrial Assoc. to accommodate the state's black citizens. Was held, 1891-1925, fifty yds. N.

Location: 2600 block of Hillsborough Street in Raleigh
County: Wake
Original Date Cast: 2017

Founded by brothers Charles Hunter and Osborne Hunter and a few associates in early 1879, the North Carolina Industrial Association (NCIA) sought to “encourage and promote the development of the industrial and educational resources of the colored people of North Carolina ...” Their initiatives toward this end included an annual exhibition—the Negro State Fair— “to place before the world every evidence of our progress as a race which it is possible to secure.” The NCIA’s founders called upon black professionals from every walk of life—farmers, mechanics, artisans, and educators, to name a few—to attend the fair and place on exhibit “their best productions.”

Over the course of its fifty-one-year history, the fair welcomed notable and influential speakers and guests from across the nation, including Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, John Mercer Langston, and Maggie L. Walker. Toward the end of the fair’s run, the NCIA encountered difficulties in obtaining use of the state fairgrounds from white leadership. No fair was held in 1926, 1927, and 1929 due to the association’s inability to secure an alternate site, and as a result, state appropriations were withdrawn. The state, however, assisted in the acquisition and funding of a permanent fair for white citizens about this same time.

The Colored State Fair was convened in 1930, but the General Assembly’s refusal to reinstate the annual appropriations and the death of the fair’s chief supporter, Charles Hunter, in 1931 brought about its permanent demise. Despite the loss of their fair, black North Carolinians remained barred from attending the regular state fair for another eighteen years.

Melton A. McLaurin, The North Carolina State Fair: The First 150 Years (2003)
John N. Haley, Charles N. Hunter and Race Relations in North Carolina (1987)
Robert C. Kenzer, Enterprising Southerners: Black Economic Success in North Carolina, 1865-1915 (1997)

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