Entries - Starting with B

Black Bears

aka: Ursus americanus
Black bears have a rich and varied history in Arkansas. Once giving to the state its unofficial nickname (the “Bear State”), bruins long shaped society and culture in Arkansas and continue to do so. Used for meat, fur, and fat, bears were a valuable commodity in the colonial period. By the early nineteenth century, although bears were still prized for their original uses, the bear-human relationship began to shift toward overt exploitation and bear hunting as a quest for masculine identity. By the first decades of the twentieth century, Arkansas black bears were at the brink of extirpation, but the population has since been revived. Native Americans were the first to hunt black bears in the region. Documented evidence of …

Black Fork (Scott County)

Black Fork is an unincorporated community located in southwestern Scott County, just north of Black Fork Mountain. Black Fork was named after a creek—supposedly with dark, murky water—that flows through the area. Black Fork Creek is a distributary of the Fourche La Fave River and a tributary of the Poteau River. The agriculture and timber industries have traditionally been important in Black Fork. Archaeological findings have provided evidence of early inhabitants dating to the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods. Further archaeological evidence has indicated that people of the Caddo tribe inhabited the area. During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, French hunters and tradesmen traveled west from the Arkansas Post exploring portions of western Arkansas. Several rivers that flow …

Black Fork Mountain Wilderness

The Black Fork Mountain Wilderness is located in the Ouachita National Forest in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. At an elevation of 2,403 feet, the east-west-oriented Black Fork Mountain, formed by a geologic uplift, features rock screes, or flows. The large rock flows, sometimes called “glaciers,” and sandstone bluffs stand above a forest dominated by oak and shortleaf pine. The U.S. Congress designated 13,139 acres as the Black Fork Mountain Wilderness in 1984. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas (Arkansas has approximately 8,350 acres, while Oklahoma has approximately 4,789 acres), this area contains the thirteen-mile-long rugged ridge of Black Fork Mountain. In both states, the ridge rises to …

Black Hawk War of 1872

The Black Hawk War was a Reconstruction-era political and racial conflict in Mississippi County that occurred in 1872—not to be confused with two earlier incidents both called the Black Hawk War, which were clashes between Native Americans and white settlers in other states. Little is known about the event, including the origins of its name. During Reconstruction, the radical wing of the Republican Party controlled most elected offices. Many judges, prosecutors, and registrars were intensely disliked by local residents, who had little say in their own affairs and who resented the granting of civil rights to African Americans, of which Mississippi County had a sizeable population. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was very active in the area, resulting in Mississippi …

Black History Commission of Arkansas

The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA) was created as the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee in 1991. Senator Jerry Donal Jewell introduced legislation that passed as Act 1233, establishing the seven-member, governor-appointed committee. In 1995, Act 980 changed the committee’s name to the Black History Commission of Arkansas. The BHCA was charged with preserving and promoting Arkansas’s black history, as well as advising the Arkansas History Commission (which later became the Arkansas State Archives) with respect to gathering, developing, and keeping the history of black Arkansans. Ronnie A. Nichols, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena (Phillips County), and North Little Rock (Pulaski County) educator and civic leader Curtis Henry Sykes were elected as the first chairman …

Black Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter (BLM) began as Alicia Garza’s social media hashtag protest on Saturday, July 12, 2013, after a Sanford, Florida, jury acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges stemming from his killing of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Garza and her best friend of ten years, activist Patrisse Cullors, were joined by New York City executive and activist Opal Tometi in creating BLM’s digital platform. Since that time, BLM has become recognized as the major civil rights movement in twenty-first-century America, including in Arkansas. From the beginning, Black Lives Matter participants in Arkansas have been incredibly diverse, and protests in towns and large cities often were majority white. In late February 2012, George Zimmerman followed, confronted, and shot unarmed seventeen-year-old …

Black Oak (Craighead County)

The northeast Arkansas town of Black Oak, one of three Arkansas communities so named, is located in Craighead County on State Highway 18 about seventeen miles east of Jonesboro (Craighead County). Once a thriving timber town, it now exists as a small farming community surrounded by fertile farm land. Black Oak is part of the area known as Buffalo Island. The town gained international attention in the 1970s when a local boy formed and fronted the successful Southern rock group Black Oak Arkansas. In the late 1800s, the land surrounding present-day Black Oak was low lying and often under water, hampering settlement. Those who did come to the area settled on a rise in the timber-covered flat lands called Black Oak Ridge. …

Black Oak Arkansas

Black Oak Arkansas, a popular rock and roll band of the 1970s from rural Arkansas near Black Oak (Craighead County), was the first Arkansas rock band to have significant commercial success. Originally called the Knowbody Else, the band was formed in 1965 by singer James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum from Black Oak and guitarist Ricky Reynolds from Manila (Mississippi County). The band was signed to Stax Records and released an album, The Knowbody Else, on Enterprise, a Stax subsidiary, as well as Early Times, which was released on Stax. Despite the failure of these albums, the band continued touring the nation and was “discovered” in California by Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, who signed the band in 1970. They changed their …

Black Power Movement

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) worker Willie Ricks coined the “black power” slogan in June 1966 during the March Against Fear in Mississippi. The term was subsequently popularized by national SNCC chair Stokely Carmichael. Those who used the slogan often left its precise meaning deliberately ambiguous. In general terms, the black power movement is usually taken to mark a shift in emphasis from the earlier civil rights movement by advocating black separatism and black nationalism over inter-racialism and racial integration, and by advocating armed black self-defense over a strict adherence to nonviolence. More recently, historians have questioned just how dramatic a break the black power era represented from the civil rights era. Instead, they have noted that many of the …

Black River

The Black River has played a significant, but shifting, role in the lives of residents of northeast Arkansas. For the early Native Americans who lived in the area, it was an essential food and transportation source. This remained true for European settlers in the days before roads and railroads. The river was also an essential “highway” for the flatboats and river steamers that transported people and goods to and from the area. The river supported the development of local industry as the means for moving timber from the forests to places such as the Sallee Brothers Handle Mill in Pocahontas (Randolph County), while mussel fishing supplied pearls and mother of pearl for the local button-making industry for many years. While …

Black River Bridge (Historic)

The Black River Bridge is the name given to a historic bridge spanning the Black River in Randolph County. Built as part of U.S. Highway 67, the Black River Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 9, 1990, and maintained by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The Pocahontas (Randolph County) section of Highway 67 opened in February 1931. The confluence of Highways 90 and 115 with U.S. Highway 67 in Pocahontas required a bridge to provide for safe travel across the Black River. To begin the construction of a bridge, the State Highway Commission needed federal approval through the U.S. Congress and through the War Department. This approval was set in place to ensure that …

Black River Technical College

Black River Technical College (BRTC) is a comprehensive, two-year accredited institution of higher learning serving college transfer and career and technical education (CTE) students in northeast Arkansas, southeast Missouri, and beyond. It offers both traditional and distance education options. The main campus is in Pocahontas (Randolph County), with a second campus in Paragould (Greene County). Lawrence and Clay counties are also in BRTC’s service area. Enrollment in credit classes as of the fall of 2014 was 1,962, with some students enrolling in college basics and others enrolling in one of the college’s seventeen different associate’s degree programs and twenty-nine certificate programs. Both campuses also serve a significant number through continuing education and business outreach, as well as GED/adult education programs. …

Black Rock (Lawrence County)

The city of Black Rock in Lawrence County is situated on the Black River at the edge of the Ozark Mountains. It reportedly takes its name from black rocks in the area. The city was a boomtown, rising due to the development of railroads and timber interests, and it was later sustained by the pearling industry. Black Rock consisted of only a few houses and some cleared farmland prior to the 1882 construction of the Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Gulf Railroad through the area. Immediately, the area was transformed into a boomtown as lumber interests moved in to take advantage of the offerings of the Ozark Mountains. General stores were quickly established, and a sawmill was built on the …

Black Springs (Montgomery County)

Black Springs is a town on State Highway 8 in Montgomery County. Surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest, Black Springs had the potential to be one of the larger communities in the county until the planned railroad failed to be built through the town. Members of the Caddo Nation were living along the Caddo River when white settlers first arrived in the area. The springs for which the town was named were surrounded by black rocks—perhaps an ore of manganese or iron, or both. Also, a family named Black camped by the springs for a while. Either may have been the source of the name. A road connecting Hot Springs (Garland County) to Dallas (Polk County) ran east and west …

Black Union Troops

aka: African-American Union Troops
aka: United States Colored Troops
Many former African-American slaves and freedmen from Arkansas answered President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to help put down the Confederate rebellion. Across the war-torn nation, 180,000 black men responded. An estimated 40,000 lost their lives in the conflict. Lincoln later credited these “men of color” with helping turn the tide of the war, calling them “the sable arm.” The official records from the U.S. government credit 5,526 men of African descent as having served in the Union army from the state of Arkansas. Between 3,000 and 4,000 additional black soldiers served in Arkansas during the war, including in heavy artillery, cavalry, and infantry regiments. In addition, black soldiers manned all of the batteries and fortifications at Helena (Phillips County) …

Black United Youth (BUY)

Black United Youth (BUY) was a militant, black power–inspired youth organization that grew out of War on Poverty programs in Pulaski County in the mid-to-late 1960s. It had chapters in Little Rock (Pulaski County), North Little Rock (Pulaski County), Arkadelphia (Clark County), and Benton (Saline County). BUY’s activities in Little Rock are the best documented of all the chapters. BUY’s Little Rock president was Bobby Brown, the younger brother of Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine. BUY was, according to Brown, “an eyeball to eyeball organization” dedicated to “direct confrontation with white people for making changes.” Brown stated that BUY included “schoolteachers [and] professional people” as well as “street people [and] gangsters” from the local neighborhoods among …

Black, Daniel

Daniel Black is a nationally renowned, award-winning novelist. His works are inspired by African-American life, history, and heritage in the South—encompassing themes of race, religion, and sexuality. Daniel Black was born on November 28, 1965, in Kansas City, Kansas, but grew up in Arkansas in Blackwell (Conway County). His great-grandmother, Stella Swinton, was his childhood caregiver. He graduated from Morrilton High School in Morrilton (Conway County). Upon graduation from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1988, he was awarded a full fellowship to Temple University, where he earned a master’s in 1990 and a doctorate in 1992, both in African-American studies. Black also earned the prestigious Oxford Modern British Studies fellowship, leading him to study at …

Black, James

James Black, popularly known as the maker of the bowie knife, was one of the early pioneers of Arkansas and settled in the town of Washington (Hempstead County) in southwest Arkansas. James Black was born on May 1, 1800, in New Jersey; the names of his parents are unknown. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried. Black did not get along well with his stepmother and ran away from home at the age of eight to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, he was taken in as an apprentice to a silverplater named Stephen Henderson. During that time, Black apparently became strongly skilled in the art of silverplating. In 1818, when he was eighteen years old, his …

Black, John Charles

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Prairie Grove and brevet brigadier general of volunteers, John Charles (Charlie) Black later served as a U.S. congressman and as the national commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Born on January 27, 1839, in Lexington, Mississippi, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, Charlie Black was the eldest of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in 1850. …

Black, Pickens W., Sr.

Pickens W. Black Sr. was one of the most remarkable African-American agriculturalists in northeast Arkansas in the post–Civil War years. Although little has been written about his life, he is rightly entitled to appear in the annals of Arkansas history as an entrepreneur, community developer, philanthropist, and advocate for the education of black children in Jackson County. Pickens Black Sr. was born a slave about 1861 (no later than 1863) near Gadsden, Alabama. His mother, Mary Johnston, and her first and second husbands (the second was his father) were the slaves of a white plantation owner named Black, and they took the surname of their master. Black had an older half-brother, John V. Lee, from his mother’s first marriage. Black …

Black, William Perkins

A Medal of Honor recipient for valor during the Battle of Pea Ridge, William Perkins Black later served as an attorney and gained national prominence as lead counsel for the legal team that defended the accused bombers in Chicago’s Haymarket Square Riot case. Born on November 11, 1842, in Woodford County, Kentucky, to the Reverend John Black and Josephine Culbertson Black, William Black was the second son of their four children. After Rev. Black died in 1847, Josephine Black moved her family to Danville, Illinois, to be near her brother James Culbertson. Soon thereafter, she married Dr. William Fithian. Fithian served in the Illinois state legislature with Abraham Lincoln in 1834, and Lincoln successfully represented Fithian in a lawsuit in …

Blackburn, Sylvanus

Sylvanus Walker Blackburn is noted for building the first gristmill in Benton County, locating his mill on War Eagle River. After selecting a site, Blackburn built a home, followed by a gristmill, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, sawmill, and school. Today, Blackburn’s two-story home still stands, while a 1973 reproduction of the mill sits on its original spot. War Eagle Mill is Arkansas’s only remaining working mill and is believed to be the only undershot waterwheel now in operation in the United States. This is also the site of the well-known annual Ozark Arts and Crafts Fair, generally known as the War Eagle Fair, established in 1954 and held in October. Born on February 15, 1809, Sylvanus Blackburn was the son …

Blackfish Lake Ferry Site

The Blackfish Lake Ferry Site marks the location where a ferry was established in 1826 to allow travelers on the Memphis to Little Rock Road to cross Blackfish Lake in eastern St. Francis County. Surveyors hired to lay out a route for the proposed Memphis to Little Rock Road noted that Blackfish Lake was among the obstacles to be overcome in rugged eastern Arkansas. When they reported to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun on February 12, 1825, that they had selected the best possible route through eastern Arkansas, they included a description of Blackfish Lake east of Crowley’s Ridge and a recommendation that a ferry be established to cross it: “Blackfish—this stream has been considered the great obstacle in the …

Blackmon, Anita

aka: Anita Blackmon Smith
Anita Blackmon Smith was a prolific mystery author who wrote more than 1,000 short stories and several novels. She is most known for her contributions to the mystery genre’s “Had I But Known” school, a foreshadowing technique in which a character expresses regret over failing to recognize a sign portending larger, often deadly, consequences. Anita Blackmon was born in Augusta (Woodruff County) on December 1, 1892, to Edwin E. Blackmon, who was postmaster and later town mayor, and Eva Hutchinson Blackmon, principal of Augusta Public School. Blackmon graduated from high school when she was fourteen years old. She attended Ouachita College (now Ouachita Baptist University) and then the University of Chicago. Afterward, she taught Latin, German, and French in a …

Blackmon, Douglas A.

Douglas A. Blackmon is an American writer and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and an American Book Award for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008). Douglas Blackmon was born in the fall of 1964 in Stuttgart (Arkansas County). The family later moved to Leland, Mississippi, where Blackmon penned his first newspaper story at the age of twelve for the town’s Progress. The family relocated to Monticello (Drew County), where he graduated from high school. He then attended Hendrix College in Conway (Faulkner County), graduating in 1986. After graduation, Blackmon was a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and managing editor of the Daily Record in …

Blackton (Monroe County)

Little remains of the town of Blackton, but the area is significant as an important farming region and as the location of two national historic sites. Blackton is two and a half miles northwest of the intersection of Monroe, Phillips, and Lee counties. This intersection also marks the established beginning point to survey lands of the Louisiana Purchase. The beginning point was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The site became the location of the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park. Also near Blackton is the Palmer House. This grand brick structure built in 1873 by John C. Palmer is on the National Register of Historic Places. Palmer was a farmer, lawyer, and owner of a Helena (Phillips County) …

Blackwell (Conway County)

The Conway County community of Blackwell was organized in 1872 when the area was designated as a railway station by the newly developed Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad. The stop was designated as Blackville Station and was primarily intended as an agricultural loading site. The area surrounding Blackwell is made up of Arkansas River bottomland that is among the most productive farmland in the state. In 1878, the area warranted a post office, and a major disagreement ensured regarding the name for the community. Station stops along the railway were often named for someone employed by the railroad and had little to do with local geography or customs. Eventually, the community settled on the Blackwell name, although the record does not …

Blackwell, Marlon Matthew

Marlon Matthew Blackwell is a professor of architecture at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and is recognized both nationally and internationally for his architectural design work. He also co-founded and conducts an international architectural program and is the principal architect in an award-winning private design firm. Marlon Blackwell was born on November 7, 1956, to a military family stationed in Munich, Germany. He was brought up in various locations including Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, and the Philippines, and was a high school wrestler. Blackwell entered Auburn University in the summer of 1974, studying architecture and being selected as one of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. In 1980, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree in …

Blackwood, Dwight Hale

Dwight Hale Blackwood was a minor league baseball player who, after retiring from the game, became involved with state politics. He had a successful career in public office, holding a number of positions in state and local government in a career that extended from the mid-1910s through the early 1930s. Dwight Blackwood was born on December 24, 1886, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to John Oscar Blackwood and Nancy Emery Hale Blackwood. One of twelve children, he received his early education in the Osceola schools. Later, he attended what are now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County) and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville (Washington County). Blackwood began his professional baseball career in 1908, playing in the minor leagues—including the …

Blade, Maxwell

Maxwell Blade is an illusionist and comedian based in downtown Hot Springs (Garland County) is a well-known attraction. He began holding Maxwell Blade’s Festival of Magic in 2013 and undertook the restoration of the city’s historic Malco Theatre. Maxwell Blade was born on January 24, 1962, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). As a child in the 1970s, he became interested in magic after watching magician and comedian Mark Wilson’s Funny Face Magic Show and Magic Circus on television. He began learning and practicing simple magic tricks as a hobby, in addition to teaching himself to play drums and piano. When he was eight years old, he began playing music at a local church. He graduated from Greenwood High School in …

Blair, Diane Frances Divers Kincaid

Diane Frances Divers Kincaid Blair was a nationally respected educator, writer, speaker, political scientist, and public servant who authored two influential books, served as board chair of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission, chair of the U.S. Corporation for Public Broadcasting, member of the Electoral College, and professor of political science at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Diane Divers was born on October 25, 1938, in Washington DC to William Keeveny Divers and Minna Rosenbaum Divers, both attorneys; she had one older sister. Divers, selected for membership in Phi Beta Kappa as a college student, graduated cum laude from Cornell University’s Department of Government in 1959. Returning to Washington after college, she served as analyst for the …

Blaisdell, Frances Lillian (F.L.)

Frances Lillian (F. L.) Blaisdell, a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businesswoman, was Arkansas’s first published woman cartographer and one of the first woman map makers in the nation. Shortly before her death in 1924, she became the first woman to serve on the Pulaski County Board of Equalization. Her maps and her atlas of Arkansas were widely distributed. F. L. Blaisdell was born in Augusta, Georgia, in January 1884, the only child of civil engineer, architect, and pioneer landscape architect Frank M. Blaisdell and his wife, Belle Burr Brace Blaisdell. From an early age, Blaisdell was fascinated with her father’s work in designing city parks and other landscapes. She was especially fascinated by surveying and map making. The family moved …

Blaisdell, Frank M.

Frank M. Blaisdell was an architect and civil engineer who settled in Arkansas in 1905 and played a vital role in the growth of Little Rock (Pulaski County). While he was primarily a landscape architect, he left a permanent mark on the state by designing several buildings that still stand in the twenty-first century. Frank M. Blaisdell was born on September 17, 1855, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Mary A. Blaisdell and William Blaisdell. His father, who held the rank of general, was killed in battle at Petersburg, Virginia, during the Civil War in 1864. After his father’s death, Blaisdell became involved with the Massachusetts Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He attended West Point for three years …

Blake, Charles E.

Charles Edward Blake Sr. is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). He is also pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has a membership of more than 25,000. In addition, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children, which provides orphan care programs across the continent of Africa. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Charles E. Blake was born on August 5, 1940, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Junious Augustus Blake and Lula Champion Blake. His father was a native of Camden (Ouachita County) who pastored various churches throughout Arkansas before moving to California. Charles Blake was ordained a minister himself in 1962. He received a BA …

Blakely (Garland County)

The small community of Blakely originated as a logging camp of the Dierks Lumber and Coal Company. Named for Blakely Mountain and Blakely Creek in the Ouachita Mountains, the camp moved twice before reaching its permanent location just west of Highway 7 near Jessieville (Garland County). Blakely remains as a tangible reminder of the Dierks company’s legacy in Garland County. Dierks Brothers Company was founded in the 1880s by Hans, Herman, Peter, and Henry Dierks, sons of German immigrant Peter Henry Dierks. In 1895, the company became Dierks Lumber and Coal Company, and the company owned and operated numerous lumber yards in Iowa and Nebraska. In 1900, the Dierks brothers made their first purchase in Arkansas, acquiring a mill in …

Blakely House

The Blakely House was constructed as a dogtrot-style house in 1874 by the son of one of the early settlers in the Social Hill (Hot Spring County) area. Located on Arkansas Highway 84, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 3, 1976. Adam Blakely arrived in the area in the 1820s and, by 1837, owned almost 200 acres of land in the area. Over the next several decades, Blakely built a successful plantation near the Ouachita River and the waterway named for him, Blakely Creek. The house was constructed by Adam Blakely’s youngest son, Greenberry (or Green Berry) Blakely. Born on December 25, 1855, he married Martha Ingersoll (sometimes spelled Englesaw) on December 12, 1875. …

Blakely Mountain Dam

aka: Blakely Dam
aka: Lake Ouachita
Blakely Mountain Dam, located approximately ten miles northwest of Hot Springs (Garland County), was created to provide hydroelectric power and to control flooding along the Ouachita River. It impounds Lake Ouachita, the largest lake completely within the state of Arkansas at over 40,000 acres. In 1870, the U.S. Congress authorized a survey of the Ouachita River to investigate improving its navigability and preventing floods along its course. However, nothing was done until the 1920s, when Harvey Couch and his company, Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), began searching for sites for hydroelectric dams along the Ouachita River. AP&L built Remmel Dam and Carpenter Dam, which were in place by the early 1930s. Plans for a third, larger dam were announced in …

Blakely, Joe (Lynching of)

On May 29, 1909, African-American man Sam Blakely—with his brother Joe Blakely as an accessory—allegedly murdered deputy sheriff Walter Cain in Portland (Ashley County). Sam briefly escaped, and Joe was eventually lynched for his role in the murder. The incident was covered by numerous newspapers across the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Tribune. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the difficulty started when a white farmer named Bud Harper killed Sam Blakely’s dog. The two Blakely brothers then went to Harper’s home, assaulting him “in his own yard, abusing him while he held Mr. Harper under gun cover, backed up by Joe.” Warrants were sworn out against the African-American brothers for disturbing the peace, and Cain …

Blanchard Springs Caverns

Blanchard Springs Caverns (BSC) is a magnificent limestone cave system starting more than 200 feet underground in the Sylamore Ranger District of the Ozark–St. Francis National Forest, fifteen miles northwest of Mountain View (Stone County). The only cave administered by the U.S. Forest Service, it is considered one of the most beautiful in the country. Three guided tours through the caves are open to the public: the Dripstone Trail (open all year), the Discovery Trail (open during the summer), and the Wild Cave (open by special reservation). The limestone rock from which the cave developed was formed by fossilized sediment from sea creatures at the bottom of an ancient inland sea estimated to exist about 350–500 million years ago. When …

Blansett (Scott County)

Blansett is an unincorporated community in west-central Scott County. It was established in 1877 along the Black Fork of the Fourche La Fave River, which flows west through the Ouachita National Forest. The small community is surrounded mostly by forest, with some areas containing pastures. Evidence from the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian periods has been found throughout the area. The Caddo tribe once had a strong presence throughout Scott County, especially along prominent bodies of water. Numerous archaeological mounds have been discovered along waterways throughout the area, including Black Fork Creek. There is little evidence of early European exploration around Blansett. However, it is likely that French trappers and explorers traversed the rivers and creeks around Blansett in the late …

Blass, Gustave (Gus)

Gus Blass was a Jewish immigrant who settled in Arkansas and became one of the state’s most successful merchants, establishing what became the largest department store in Arkansas, the Gus Blass Company. Gustave (Gus) Blass was born on February 15, 1849, in Obornik, Germany, a small town north of Poznan, which is now part of Poland. At the age of sixteen, he boarded a ship bound for New York, identifying himself on the ship’s manifest as a merchant. After a short stint in Memphis, Tennessee, he made his way to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he founded the Gus Blass Dry Goods Company in 1871. The following year, Blass married Bertha Katzenstein, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had …

Blass, Noland

Noland Blass Jr., an architect with the firm Erhart, Eichenbaum, Rauch, and Blass (EERB), worked at the firm during its heyday in the mid-twentieth century. Blass began working for the firm in 1946, brought in to help modernize the firm. During Blass’s time there, EERB became one of the most prominent architecture firms in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Blass was also known as one of the most prolific designers of Mid-Century Modern–style residential architecture in Little Rock. His obituary in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted that Blass was “one of Arkansas’ most respected architects,” and was also a “mentor to most of the fine architects in the city.” Noland Blass Jr. was born in Little Rock on May 28, 1920, to …

Blazes, Albert (Lynching of)

aka: Albert Blades (Lynching of)
In May 1926, an African-American man named Albert Blazes (sometimes referred to as Blades) was taken from authorities in Wilson (Mississippi County) and lynched for allegedly attacking a white girl. The story was covered both nationally and internationally, appearing in Time magazine and meriting a front-page illustration in Le Petit Journal, published in Paris, France. There is no information on the identity of either the girl or the alleged perpetrator. According to the May 27, 1926, Arkansas Gazette, a group of Wilson school children were on an outing when three girls became separated from their classmates. Albert Blazes (whose age is reported in various sources from nineteen to twenty-two) pursued them; two of them ran away, but one girl tripped, …

Blevins (Hempstead County)

  Blevins is a second-class city located in the northeastern corner of Hempstead County on U.S. Highway 371. Overshadowed in significance by Washington (Hempstead County) and Hope (Hempstead County), Blevins has been overlooked in most historical studies. Unlike many similar small communities, it has survived into the twenty-first century. The first courthouse of Hempstead County was established two miles south of the current location of Blevins. The county government met in 1819 in the log house of John English, built on the bank of Marlbrook Creek. It continued to meet there until 1824, when a courthouse was completed in Washington. Around 1837, Hugh A. Blevins acquired several plats of land in northeastern Hempstead County; Hugh and Sarah Blevins had eleven …

Bliss, Calvin Comins

Calvin Comins Bliss was in search of challenges when he and his new wife Caroline came to Arkansas from New England in 1854. He was involved in many business and other ventures including real estate, publishing, and politics. During the Civil War, he served for a time in the Union army, became the first lieutenant governor of Arkansas, and participated in establishing the new constitution that abolished slavery. His resourceful wife taught school and took care of the family, even traveling back across the front lines to New England in wartime. Calvin Bliss was born on December 22, 1823, in Calais, Vermont, the son of farmers William and Martha Bliss. He was the first of their four children. He attended …

Block, Abraham

aka: Abraham Bloch
Abraham Block was the patriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to the state of Arkansas. After a period as a businessman in Virginia, Block moved his family to southwest Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Along with his sons, he created a regional merchant empire with businesses in Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. The family home in Washington has been restored and is currently a house museum in Historic Washington State Park. Abraham Block (or Bloch) was born on January 30, 1780, or 1781, in Schwihau, Bohemia. The names …

Block, Frances Isaiah Isaacs (Fanny)

Frances (Fanny) Block was the matriarch of the first documented Jewish family to immigrate to what became the state of Arkansas. After courtship and the start of a family in Virginia and New York, Block and her family moved to southwestern Arkansas in search of new economic opportunities. Her willingness to forgo the stability of a religious community on the East Coast and move her family west allowed the family to establish a regional mercantile empire that included businesses in places such as Washington (Hempstead County), Fulton (Hempstead County), and Paraclifta (Sevier County) in Arkansas, as well as in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at several stops along the railroad in Texas from Houston to Dallas. Fanny Block and her family …

Blockbusting

Blockbusting, or “panic peddling,” was a process whereby real estate agents urged white property owners to sell their property at low prices (often below market value) in response to their fear that black families would move into their neighborhood. Emerging primarily out of the Great Migration, or the resettlement of African Americans from the rural South seeking employment in the industrialized North between approximately 1915 and 1970, blockbusting matured as a real estate tactic amid population growth in urban areas of major cities all over the country and the racial tension accompanying it. Other processes in the housing market aided real estate agents who operated as blockbusters. With mortgage lenders denying loans to residents of certain areas who were deemed …

Bloody Mama

In 1969, Roger Corman, who had found success directing and producing low-budget exploitation films for American International Pictures, chose as his next project a fictionalized account of the exploits of the infamous Ma Barker and her gang. After a scouting trip to Arkansas, Corman decided to shoot the film in the Ozark Mountains and around the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. Corman described the experience as one of the “smoothest and most successful” shoots of his career. For the part of the notorious Ma Barker, Corman had only one actress in mind—Oscar-winner Shelley Winters. After agreeing to the role, Winters helped Corman cast the film. She showed him a video of Robert De Niro performing in a low-budget Brian De Palma film, …

Blossom, Virgil Tracy

Virgil Tracy Blossom was a professional educator who served as superintendent of Little Rock (Pulaski County) public schools during the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis that began in 1957. Although he was generally a progressive and effective school administrator, his leadership during the crisis proved to be ineffectual, and historians remain harsh in their assessments of his actions. Virgil T. Blossom was born on October 31, 1906, in Brookfield, Missouri, the son of George N. Blossom and Fannie M. Blossom; he had one sister. His father ran a construction business and served as the local tax collector. His mother was apparently a homemaker. Tall and broad-shouldered with a booming voice, Blossom attended public schools, excelling in athletics. He was …