This is part of a series of stories by Sheilla Lampkin on the history of Cooperative Extension Clubs. She credits Inez Lindsey for the information in this story.
The first Drew County African-American Cooperative Extension Homemakers Club was organized in the year 1950. Prior to that time African-Americans were not allowed to participate in the cooperative extension services due to racial segregation.
In 1950 Mrs. Joan Howard, Drew County Extension Agent, along with Mrs. Clara Belle Moore and Mrs. Gertrude Hall, met with fifteen African-American women in the Sixteen Section Missionary Baptist Church and organized the Harmony Home Extension Club. Mrs. Vashtie Rowlett was elected president; Mrs. Inez Lindsey was elected vice president, Mrs. Lillie M. Johnson secretary, and Mrs. Fannie Sims treasurer. After the initial meeting, the Harmony Club members held monthly meetings in the homes of the members. Due to the segregation laws, the Harmony Club members still could not attend the council meetings, so, Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Moore would attend the meetings and bring the information back to the Harmony members. They would also give demonstrations on the things that they had learned.
The Harmony Home Extension Club continued to grow. In 1962, the club had more than thirty members. It had become too large to meet in members homes. Inez Lindsey suggested that the club split and become two clubs. The other members agreed and it was decided that the ladies who lived on the east side of “the creek” (presumably Ables Creek) would form the second club and would call themselves Selma Eastside Home Extension Club. Mrs. Inez Lindsey was elected president, Mrs. Birdie Leonard vice president, Mrs. Lillie Johnson secretary, and Mrs. Fannie Sims treasurer. The club continued to meet monthly in the members’ homes.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Arkansas Cooperative Extension began offering their services and programs to all eligible persons without regard to “race, color, or national origin” thereby allowing for integration. Mrs. Mildred Childs became Drew County Extension Agent and began inviting all extension members to the county council meetings. She also encouraged the ladies to enter an exhibit in the county fair.
The first exhibit that the Harmony and Selma Eastside clubs entered won a blue ribbon using an idea borrowed from a lady who lived in Maumelle. Mrs. Inez Lindsey and Mrs. Vashtie Rowlett both went on to become County Council officers.
Selma Eastside Home Extension Club later organized a 4-H Club. The group was very active and participated in all the programs and activities offered by the county. Verna Sims served as leader of the group.
The Selma Eastside and Harmony home extension clubs became inactive during the mid-nineteen eighties. However, that was not the end of the involvement for many of its members.
In 1987, Mrs. Inez Lindsey, along with Mrs. Donna Frances, home extension agent, and Mrs. Peggy Echols organized the Ebony East End Home Extension Club in Monticello. The first meeting was held in the home of Mrs. Lindsey. Mrs. Vernestine Wilson was elected president; Mrs. Virdell Johnson, vice president; and Mrs. Janice Edwards, secretary/treasurer.
The Ebony East End Club continues today to serve the community. They enter exhibits in the county fair each year. Other projects include cooking in the county fair kitchen, highway clean-up, nursing home visitations, and making and delivering care packages to Drew County nursing home residents.
Current officers of Ebony East End Club are Mrs. Sherry Toney, president; Mrs. Kay Johnson, vice president; Mrs. Demetria Taylor, secretary; and Mrs. Janice Edwards, treasurer.