Political Issues and Controversies

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Entry Category: Political Issues and Controversies - Starting with S

Searcy County Draft War

Coming on the heels of a notorious case of World War I–era draft resistance in Polk County was the less notable Searcy County Draft War in Leslie (Searcy County). Like other such so-called draft wars in Arkansas, the Searcy County incident involved a family/clan living in an isolated, mountainous region. In August 1917, a year prior to the incident, the youngest son of the local Goodwin family, Miller Goodwin, had committed suicide rather than enter into military service. The Arkansas Gazette reported that he had left his home to report for military service in Marshall (Searcy County). During the trip, he stopped at a neighbor’s house at breakfast time. Shortly after his arrival, he shot himself. Suicides such as that …

Secession Convention

On May 6, 1861, a body of men chosen by Arkansas voters in an election held on February 18, 1861, voted to remove Arkansas from the United States of America. Arkansas’s secession ultimately failed in 1865 due to the military defeat of the Confederacy. States’ rights versus the national government had a contentious history prior to 1861. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 suggested that states retained powers to protect citizens from the federal government, and the Hartford Convention of 1814–1815 paved the way for the Doctrine of Nullification that South Carolina unsuccessfully invoked in 1832. States’ rights debates—notably among U.S. senators Daniel Webster, Robert Y. Hayne, and John C. Calhoun—led to a theoretical acceptance of this …

Slavery

American chattel slavery was a unique institution that emerged in the English colonies in America in the seventeenth century. Enslaved peoples were held involuntarily as property by slave owners who controlled their labor and freedom. By the eighteenth century, slavery had assumed racial tones as white colonists had come to consider only Africans who had been brought to the Americas as peoples who could be enslaved. Invariably, the earliest white settlers who moved into Arkansas brought slave property with them to work the area’s rich lands, and slavery became an integral part of local life. Slaves played a major role in the economic growth of the territory and state. Their presence contributed to the peculiar formation of local culture and …

Sundown Towns

aka: Racial Cleansing
Between 1890 and 1968, thousands of towns across the United States drove out their black populations or took steps to forbid African Americans from living in them. Thus were created “sundown towns,” so named because many marked their city limits with signs typically reading, “Nigger, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You In Alix”—an Arkansas town in Franklin County that had such a sign around 1970. By 1970, when sundown towns were at their peak, more than half of all incorporated communities outside the traditional South probably excluded African Americans, including probably more than a hundred towns in the northwestern two-thirds of Arkansas. White residents of the traditional South rarely engaged in the practice; they kept African Americans down …

Sunken Lands

The term “sunken lands” (also called “sunk lands” or “sunk country”) refers to parts of Craighead, Mississippi, and Poinsett counties that shifted and sank during the New Madrid earthquakes which took place between 1811 and 1812. Because the land was submerged under water, claims to property based on riparian rights by large landowners generated controversy which lasted decades and ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. When the New Madrid earthquakes began in December 1811, the territory which is today northeastern Arkansas was sparsely populated. An early chronicler described the earthquakes’ effect as the ground moving like waves on the land, when suddenly the earth would burst, sending up huge volumes of water and sand, leaving chasms where the earth had …