Civil War to Gilded Age

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Entries - Entry Category: Civil War to Gilded Age - Starting with P

Paragould Race Riots

Paragould (Greene County), which incorporated in 1883, experienced a series of incidents of racial violence and intimidation from 1888 to 1908. (In this context, a race riot is defined as any prolonged form of mob-related civil disorder in which race plays a key role.) The outmigration of African Americans that followed these various incidents helped to cement its reputation as a “sundown town.” On April 21, 1888, the Arkansas Gazette published a letter sent by a member of the black community and addressed to the country’s first elected African-American municipal judge, Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. The writer sought Gibbs’s help, telling him that “I am disgusted the way I am served, and also my friends. We are but a few colored …

Parker, Tom (Reported Lynching of)

On October 14, 1897, an African American man named Tom Parker was reportedly lynched in Cleveland County for participating in a riot at an August picnic near Kendall’s mill. While many newspapers refer to Parker as the third person to have been lynched after the incident, the only other reported lynching as a result of the incident was that of Bill Wiley (also referred to as Bill Wiley Douglass and Bill Wyatt), who was lynched in late August. Newspapers ultimately concluded that Parker had not been lynched. The earliest report of the Kendall incident appears in the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic on August 22. On Saturday, August 21, a group of African Americans had a picnic near the Kendall mill …

Phillips County Lynching of 1889–1890

On December 30–31, 1889, and January 1, 1890, three unidentified African Americans were killed in Phillips County for allegedly robbing and murdering John W. Tate. The lynching victims were not identified by name in any source. In 1880, John W. Tate, a twenty-eight-year-old white farmer, was living alone in Poplar Grove (Phillips County). According to a January 1, 1890, report in the Arkansas Gazette, sometime in the 1880s he was dealing in illegal whiskey, and there were seven indictments pending against him in Phillips County. Just prior to his death, he was running a “blind tiger” (speakeasy) at Palmerton in neighboring Monroe County. Although the Gazette reported that the crime took place on Sunday night, December 29, 1889, other reports, …

Phillips, Henry (Lynching of)

On November 13, 1897, Henry Phillips was lynched in Osceola (Mississippi County) for the alleged murder of storekeeper Tom McClanahan. Editor Leon Roussan’s coverage of the incident in the Osceola Times sparked a feud with Sheriff Charles Bowen. Bowen, a former captain in the Confederate army and a local Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader, was prominently involved in the Black Hawk War of 1872. According to the Osceola Times, on November 6, Tom McClanahan was brutally murdered in his store. McClanahan had come from Tennessee three years earlier to work in a local sawmill. When the mill was sold, he remained in Mississippi County to settle up outstanding claims. At the same time, he operated a small grocery store in …

Pickens, William

William Pickens, who was born in South Carolina, spent his formative years in Woodruff County and Argenta, now North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He went on to become a nationally known orator, scholar, journalist, and essayist. William Pickens was born near Pendleton in Anderson County, South Carolina, on January 15, 1881. He was the sixth of ten children born to former slaves Jacob and Fannie Pickens. His father was a tenant farmer, and his mother worked as a cook and washerwoman. In 1888, they were lured to Woodruff County, Arkansas, by an immigration agent who promised them better employment and educational opportunities. At this time, such agents were scouring South Carolina for dissatisfied African Americans willing to work on Arkansas …

Pine Bluff Lynchings of 1892

On February 14, 1892, John Kelley (sometimes spelled Kelly) was lynched in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for the murder of W. T. McAdams. At the time, Pine Bluff was the second-largest city in Arkansas. The black population in Jefferson County was seventy-three percent, and there were a number of prominent African-American landowners and merchants. The city boasted a black newspaper, as well as the state’s only college for African Americans, Branch Normal School (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff). According to the Arkansas Gazette, on the night of February 9, John Kelley and several accomplices allegedly murdered W. T. McAdams, an agent for the Obest Brewing Company and a highly respected Pine Bluff citizen. At 10:30 p.m., McAdams …

Polk County Race War of 1896

In early August 1896, a “race war” broke out between white and black workers who were working on the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway (later the Kansas City Southern) in both Polk County and near Horatio (Sevier County) to the south. As a result, three African Americans were killed and eight wounded. Although reports place some of the events near Horatio, accounts clearly stated that the purpose of the attack was to keep African Americans out of Polk County, and so it was generally referred to as the Polk County Race War. This was part of a pattern of labor-related racial intimidation that was sweeping Arkansas at the time. Other incidents during that period included unrest at the Hawthorne …

Post-bellum Black Codes

aka: Black Codes
Immediately after the Civil War, Southern states passed onerous laws to maintain their legal control and economic power over African Americans in response to the 1865 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which ended slavery. Under slavery, whites had disciplined blacks mostly outside the law. After emancipation, fearing blacks’ revenge, slave owners sought to institute a comparable level of legal control over former slaves. While some Black Codes were not harsh, most were: African Americans could not serve on juries; could not sue or testify against whites; were prohibited from owning farms; and were forced to sign unequal labor contracts. The U.S. Congress immediately responded to the Black Codes by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1866, …

Pulaski County Lynching of 1894

On March 11, 1894, a group of African Americans discovered the body of a “mulatto” woman hanging from a tree about halfway between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Marche (Pulaski County). The woman was never identified but was estimated at thirty years old. The body, according to reports, appeared to have been there for several days (the Arkansas Gazette even described the corpse as “decayed”). Around her neck was a placard reading, “If any body cuts this body down, they will share the same fate.” As the Arkansas Gazette reported, “The woman is supposed to have been lynched, but when, by whom and for what reason no one is able to state.” Indeed, although this murder is typically counted among …