George Washington Owens papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk P1988.18

Level of description



George Washington Owens papers


  • 1875-1950 (Creation)


2.00 Linear Feet, 1.00 Box

Post-Fire Oversize Extent:
Box 1 (20.5x24.5); 509: 20/25/5

Name of creator


Biographical history

George Washington Owens was the first Black man to graduate from Kansas State. The son of former slaves who had migrated to Kansas, Owens attended K-State from 1896 until his graduation in 1899. In 1900, Owens accepted a position as head of the dairy herd and creamery at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, administered by Booker T. Washington. In 1908, Owens was hired by Virginia Normal and Industrial School (later named Virginia State College) in Petersburg, Virginia to establish the school’s agricultural program. Owens also spent time from 1918 to 1919 establishing the first five black departments of vocational agriculture at county vocational training schools in Virginia. He was officially designated as a teacher-trainer for Virginia State in 1925, and in recognition of 25 years of service to the school, the agricultural building was named Owens Hall in 1932. Owens also wrote the constitution and by-laws for an organization called New Farmers of Virginia, part of a national organization called New Farmers of America, which would eventually become part of Future Farmers of America in 1965. Owens retired from his role as chairman of the Department of Agriculture at Virginia State in 1945, and he died in 1950 at the age of 75.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

The Owens Papers (1890-1946) contain ten items consisting of a scrapbook, two diplomas, two certificates, and five photographs. They were donated to the University Archives by his daughter, Ana Elnora Owens. The scrapbook contains a handwritten autobiography (20 pages) and a "History of Agricultural Instruction in Virginia" (14 pages), both written in 1945-1946. Owens' autobiography describes his childhood in Kansas (near Alma in Wabaunsee County) and his experience at Kansas State Agricultural College as the first Black person to graduate from the institution in 1899. It provides a description of his employment at Tuskegee Institute after graduation where he worked under Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. He left Tuskegee in 1908 to take a position at the Virginia Normal and Industrial School (Virginia State College) in Petersburg where he had a very successful career.
His writings describe the agricultural program at the school and his work in Virginia as the leader in vocational agriculture, including his organizational efforts for the New Farmers of Virginia that became the New Farmers of America. He provides an extensive list of others who were involved in vocational agriculture throughout the state. The two diplomas were awarded at the time of his graduation from high school in Wabaunsee County, Kansas in 1890, and Kansas State Agricultural College in 1899 where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in the "general course." The two certificates in the collection were awarded by Virginia State College. The first is a "Certificate of Merit" for ten years of service in 1945 and the second in appreciation for his teaching and service presented by the Alumni Association in 1946. Two of the five photographs show Owens as a student at KSAC in 1899 (one in his cadet uniform), two with his wife, Waddie Hill (a wedding photo in 1901 and another in 1903 with their newborn child), and one taken at the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute in 1920.

System of arrangement

The Owens Papers (1890-1946) contain ten items consisting of a scrapbook, two diplomas, two certificates, and five photographs. They were donated to the University Archives by his daughter, Ana Elnora Owens.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

Language and script notes

Generated finding aid

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

It received accession nmber P1988.18.

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Ana Elnora Owens donated her father's materials to Kansas State Libraries in 1978.
Acqusition Method: Donation.
Acqusition Date: 19780101

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

A transcribed version of the "Autobiography of George Washington Owens: First African American Graduate of Kansas State University" is available here:

Related descriptions

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Preferred Citation: [item title], [item date], George Washington Owens papers,  Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State Universtiy Libraries.

Alternative identifier(s)

Archon Collection ID


Description control element

Rules or conventions

Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Processing Info: Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, June 2015.
Publication Date: 2015-06-17

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Physical storage

  • 20x24: Box 1A, A83412162408
  • 2.5" Flip Top, Letter: Box 1B, A83412152916