Overview

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Early Twentieth Century, 1901 through 1940

Arkansas faced a number of opportunities and challenges in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Not only did the state introduce some significant initiatives in response to the multi-faceted reform movement known as progressivism, it also endured race riots, natural disasters, and severe economic problems. Even as it attempted to modernize its road and school systems, expand its manufacturing sector, and deal with increasing urbanization, most Arkansans continued to live in rural areas and remained largely conservative, both in their attitudes toward traditional social relations, particularly with regard to race, and in their religious orthodoxy. The tension between the need to modernize and the provincialism of rural Arkansas persisted throughout the era and inhibited meaningful change. Although the …

Education, Elementary and Secondary

Education has been evolving since the first humans arrived in Arkansas. By the late nineteenth century, as Americans became enamored with modernization, active programs of state-funded schools were looked upon as vital necessities. Since many Arkansans did not share these modernizing values, a state commitment to education lagged significantly behind the rest of the nation. Largely agrarian Arkansans remained unconvinced that tax-supported education was worth the cost, and the end of racial segregation produced a cultural crisis witnessed across the nation. By the 1990s, some evangelical Christians began sending their children to church-related schools or practiced home-schooling in response to what they saw as the failure of Arkansas’s public schools. Pre-European Exploration Education started in Arkansas with the arrival of …

Education, Higher

Formal education above the high school level came to be known as higher education in the twentieth century. In Arkansas, higher education appeared, at least in name, prior to the Civil War, but the state university and most of the private institutions were postwar products. Early Nineteenth Century During Arkansas’s colonial period (1686–1802), there is no evidence of any public interest in higher education and little interest in even the most elementary sort. The transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States resulted in the arrival in Arkansas of numerous persons with backgrounds in higher education. James Miller, the first territorial governor, had attended Williams College in Massachusetts, as had Chester Ashley, the leader of the state bar association …

Environment

Arkansas’s physical environment features a mild climate, adequate rainfall, a rural and relatively uncrowded landscape, and diverse geology, which promote a variety of plants, animal life, and water resources. Understanding this environment requires examining the historical changes that have taken place, primarily those changes effected by human occupation. Each new culture and industry moving into the state has brought environmental changes, often dramatically affecting the landscapes of Arkansas’s six distinct geographic regions. An Environmental Snapshot Arkansas contains 53,104 square miles (some thirty-four million acres) composed of six regions: the Arkansas River Valley, Crowley’s Ridge, the Mississippi Alluvial Plain (also called the Delta), the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark Plateau, and the West Gulf Coastal Plain. More than 14.6 million acres is …

European Exploration and Settlement, 1541 through 1802

The region that became Arkansas was unknown to Europeans until the 1540s. Fifty years after Christopher Columbus landed in the western hemisphere, the European exploration of Arkansas began. The first settlement was not founded for another 140 years, and the first permanent settlement forty years after that. Throughout the colonial era, Arkansas underwent dramatic demographic changes. At the time of the first Spanish explorers in the 1540s, Arkansas was a land of heavily populated villages and extensive farm fields. By the time of the first French expeditions in the 1670s, Arkansas was sparsely populated with isolated villages and tribes but with an abundance of wild game and other resources. The focus of the colonial era was not on the promotion …