In the late 1800s, Robert Lloyd Smith came to Texas. Smith, a highly educated man and an advocate of Booker T. Washington’s philosophy of education and economic improvement for African-Americans, called himself a “practical sociologist.” He was also an educator and a businessman. In 1890 Smith founded the Farmers’ Home Improvement Society in Colorado County.
Smith created the F.I.S. as a self-improvement society to help tenant farmers out of a cycle of debt and poverty. The Society provided life insurance, financed a bank in Waco, operated an agricultural boarding school, and provided a social life in a religious and fraternal setting for African-Americans across Texas. At its high point in 1911, the Farmers’ Improvement Society claimed 12,000 members in 800 branches across Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Smith’s wife, Ruby Cobb of Waco, was instrumental in helping him run the F.I.S.
A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society was curated by Paul Fisher and Ann Payne and is made possible through the generous gift of materials from the Smith-Cobb family of Waco.
Stop by The Texas Collection from February 1 – March 20, 2012 to view the exhibit.
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