Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum
aka: St. Mary’s AME Church (Pocahontas)
aka: Pocahontas Colored School
The Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum in Pocahontas (Randolph County) preserves and displays the history of slavery, civil rights, and African Americans. The building and associated grounds are located at the corner of Archer and Pratt streets. The building housing the museum was originally St. Mary’s African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and also the Pocahontas Colored School.
The first evidence of St. Mary’s AME Church is ascribed to a building in the northern part of Pocahontas, around Bland and Schoonover streets. The building was purportedly erected sometime in 1865. The congregation subsequently moved the building to its current location between 1918 and 1919. The one-room wood-frame building served as both a school and as a house of worship, with Deacon Henry Taylor as pastor. Taylor served in this capacity until his death in 1948. The congregation transferred the property to the Pocahontas Special School District in June of that same year.
After the Pocahontas Special School District acquired the property of St. Mary’s AME church, the Pocahontas Colored School, as it was then known, offered instruction for first through eighth grades for Pocahontas’s African-American children. During the school district’s ownership, only one teacher taught at the Pocahontas Colored School, Eddie Mae Herron, for whom the current center was named. Herron first taught for the Biggers School District and arrived in Pocahontas after the Biggers Colored School closed. The black school children from Biggers were bused to the Pocahontas Colored School.
Since the Pocahontas Colored School offered school instruction for only eight grades, those who wanted to attend high school were forced to travel to other towns. Children from the Pocahontas Colored School were bused to the segregated school at Newport (Jackson County), about an hour south of Pocahontas. The transportation, including the bus driver, was provided by the Pocahontas School District.
The Pocahontas Colored School existed in this capacity until the end of the 1964–65 school year. Corresponding to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pocahontas School Board unanimously approved implementation of a plan of desegregation of Pocahontas schools on March 1, 1965. This plan instituted “a policy of complete school desegregation and [required] that all grades in the school system be open to all residents of the district without regard to race, color or national origin, with respect to the academic facilities of the school and the lunch room facilities of the school” to begin with the 1965–66 academic school year. This effectively closed the Pocahontas Colored School.
After the closure of the school, the building operated as a community center, a daycare center, and a senior center. In November 2000, members of the Pocahontas community, spearheaded by Pat Johnson, created a nonprofit corporation to form the Eddie Mae Herron Center, of which Pat Johnson became the director. The Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum offers permanent and traveling museum exhibits highlighting African-American history and the history of slavery in Arkansas. Complementing these exhibits are annual events such as the Juneteenth celebration and events memorializing Black History Month. Under the name of St. Mary’s AME Church, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2002.
For additional information:
Baker, William D. Public Schools in the Arkansas Ozarks, 1920–1940. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.
Dalton, Lawrence. History of Randolph County. Little Rock: Democrat Printing and Lithographing Company, 1946.
Eddie Mae Herron Center & Museum. http://www.herroncenter.org/ (accessed July 28, 2016).
Harding, Thomas. One-Room Schoolhouses of Arkansas as Seen through a Pinhole. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.
“St. Mary’s AME Church/Pocahontas Colored School.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/RA0084.nr.pdf (accessed July 28, 2016).
Last Updated: 08/19/2016