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.
Owens, George Washington