Floy Britt’s interest in 4-H home demonstration work professionally began while counseling 4-H girls while attending Florida A&M University (FAMU). She would later say it was, “one of the most interesting careers anyone could imagine.”
In 1932, Britt joined the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. It was a difficult time in the history of the United States, as many rural families were suffering mightily during the Great Depression. But Britt was committed to providing programs that could help families enjoy and build a better way of life. Insufficient food supplies, poor sanitation, and inadequate living conditions were common.
During this time, emphasis was placed on victory food production, and teaching food preservation so excess food could be canned. Surplus cotton was used to make mattresses, which improved home conditions considerably. With the help of the federal government, an outdoor privy campaign was undertaken. Families provided a small fee for building materials and labor was provided so privies could be built. This program improved sanitation in many rural communities.
She accepted a job supervising cooperative extension programs for African-American families in nine Florida counties in 1943. Britt was administratively responsible for 4-H club work with African-American girls, and she also organized 4-H short courses for African-American boys and girls at Florida A&M University. She would serve in a leadership role with the 4-H program for twenty-one years.
She was a role model for 4-H girls and she even opened her home to teach social skills. Thanks to her, many of the girls enrolled in Florida A&M upon their graduation from high school, and she continued to encourage and support many of them financially. She created educational materials for use with low-income families that encouraged better health and food management. She also conducted many educational programs at 4-H Camp Doe Lake, and hundreds of children attended summer camp at the facility.
4-H members also participated at the Florida State Fair and in county fair programs, where they exhibited their work. 4-H club members also delivered demonstrations at the fair that taught information to fair-goers and helped the demonstrators learn valuable public speaking skills.
One 4-H member participating in 4-H programs that Britt managed wrote, “As a result of 4-H club work, I have learned how to make improvement for my home, how to take care of a garden, and how to prepare many foods. 4-H club work has helped me and my family not only to improve our home, but also to improve ourselves and our surroundings. In a few years when I finish school, I plan to enter college and take home economics. One of the reasons for this choice is many experiences I had in 4-H club work. I can say that the six and a half years that I have had in 4-H club work have been full of learning experiences, joy, fun, and excitements. It is my hope that more and more girls will join the club and see what enjoyment and wonderful things would happen.”
“As one who traveled about the state observing your excellent work – sewing clinics, family relations programs, 4-H development activities, and rural home improvement programs carried out by the home economists under your supervision, I know you have built a monument to better rural living which will be long remembered and appreciated,” wrote Sherman Briscoe, information specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture upon Britt’s retirement in 1967.
The introduction to the 1950 State 4-H Short Course program at FAMU said: “The Annual State 4-H Short Course is held each year to provide inspiration and additional training for the outstanding Negro 4-H club boys and girls of Florida. It also gives recognition to boys and girls for jobs well done in their counties and further prepares them to render a more useful service in their homes and communities through the proper use of their heads, hearts, hands, and health.”
Miss Britt was the first state director of 4-H for African-American girls and served in this capacity until 1965. She encountered many challenges in providing programs for African-American children in an extension service that was still segregated and did not always provide comparable resources for programs in African-American communities.
Times were difficult, but Floy Britt remained a persistent advocate. “Floy Britt was a dedicated worker and insisted that black 4-H girls receive equal support and benefits comparable to the white boys and girls program,” said Joe Busby, dean for extension, who supervised her program from the University of Florida. “She was a persistent advocate for the black girls 4-H program and pressed for a comparable awards program to support their work. Under the existing attitude of business leaders, it was not always possible to achieve this support. I am sure that through her efforts, black girls in 4-H were much more ready to compete in an integrated program following the Civil Rights Act and I believe records will show that they did well. Much of their success can be credited to Floy Britt and her persistent leadership.”
“You are to be commended for the self-help philosophy and approach you and your staff have used in your work with disadvantaged families,” wrote State Comptroller, Fred O. Dickinson, Jr. in 1967. “I certainly feel that what you have striven to accomplish in your career has been an enduring and remarkable contribution to our state.”
She is credited with creating an outreach program that helped thousands of young people. “Floy Britt was a pioneer in the civil rights movement to bring equal opportunities through 4-H clubs for black girls in Florida,” said Busby.
Upon her retirement, Albert S. Bacon with the U.S. Department of Agriculture wrote, “I would like to commend you on the excellent job you have done through your leadership with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service. You have made many worthy contributions toward helping people live fuller and better lives through your extension educational efforts.”
After the 4-H programs were combined, Britt was transferred to Florida State University, and her job title was changed to extension home economist-special programs. She retired from extension work in 1967.
Floy Britt was a pioneer in 4-H youth development who will never be forgotten. The Floy Britt Memorial Room was dedicated to her memory in 1981 by the Black Archives at Florida A&M University. A special section of the historical records at the archives are dedicated to the 4-H program.