Projects

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Entry Category: Projects

Anderson, Pernella

Pernella Mae Center Anderson of El Dorado (Union County) was one of Arkansas’s two African-American interviewers for the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). She interviewed former slaves between 1936 and 1939. Pernella Center was born on April 12, 1903, in Camden (Ouachita County). She was the youngest of Willis Center and Sallie Washington Center’s ten children. Her father, a carpenter, and her mother, a housewife, were born in Louisiana but moved the family to Arkansas by 1894. Center’s mother died when Center was two years old, and her father remarried two years later. Center married her first husband, Theodore Haynie Jr., around 1920, and the couple had three children. Despite her home responsibilities, she was motivated to further her education and …

Arkansas Writers Project

The Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) served as a cultural anchor for Arkansas during the years of the Great Depression by providing work for unemployed and underemployed writers, who observed, recorded, and described the contemporary cultural conditions in their work. These texts serve to this day as the most complete and comprehensive documentation of Arkansas history and culture available from the viewpoint of Arkansans. The FWP was initiated in July 1935 as a component of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. The intention of the FWP was to provide employment to out-of-work writers affected by the Depression. The FWP writers were engaged in writing local histories, travelers’ guides, and cultural chronicles, particularly those relating to long-oppressed American groups …

Civil Works Administration (CWA)

The Civil Works Administration (CWA) was one of the first federal relief programs under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide employment and infrastructure improvements in the depths of the Great Depression. During this time, U.S. officials realized that the system created by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) to fund unskilled-labor jobs through state and local governments to provide employment was not sufficient to combat the worsening effects of the economic depression gripping the country. In response, Harry Hopkins, who was Roosevelt’s federal relief administrator and a proponent of work relief (as opposed to direct relief for the able-bodied unemployed), proposed a new agency to provide jobs. Roosevelt established the Civil Works Administration by executive order in November …

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

A brainchild of newly elected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began in 1933 with two purposes: to provide outdoor employment to Depression-idled young men and to accomplish badly needed work in the protection, improvement, and development of the country’s natural resources. Camps housing 200 men each were established in every state: 1,468 in September 1933, 2,635 in September 1935, and, because of the improving economy, down to 800 by January 1, 1942. During this period, seventy-seven companies undertook 106 projects located in Arkansas. Variously called, “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” “Tree Troopers,” “Soil Soldiers,” and the “Three-Cs Boys,” the CCC was the result of Senate Bill 8.598, which was signed into law on March 31, 1933. Reserve officers …

Dyess (Mississippi County)

aka: Dyess Colony Resettlement Area
One of the most famous “resettlement colonies” for impoverished farmers during the Great Depression was in Dyess (Mississippi County). The Dyess Colony became one of the most well known because one of its early residents was singer Johnny Cash. National attention focused on Arkansas when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the community in 1936. Although smaller now and no longer a government project, Dyess still attracts tourists to northeast Arkansas. While the Roaring Twenties had a euphoric effect on much of the nation, the agricultural economy of Arkansas did not share in the prosperity. By the end of the 1920s, one disaster after another devastated the small independent farmers of the state. The Flood of 1927 was followed by drought. …

Education Reform

Education reform, the process of improving public education through changes in public policy, has been slow and often ineffective in Arkansas. All aspects of public education are open to reform, including school finance, teacher quality, curriculum, transportation, and school facilities. Modern education reforms in Arkansas include school choice initiatives, alternative teacher pay, and standards-based accountability and testing. Arkansas has historically been one of the lowest-performing states academically, and even today, despite major improvements in funding and student achievement during the last decade, Arkansas still ranks below the national average on many objective measures. Arkansas also has one of the most undereducated populations in the nation in terms of the percentage of adults with college degrees and the percentage of high …

Farm Resettlement Projects

aka: Resettlement Administration
aka: Farm Security Administration
Many of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs were implemented to help farmers and rural residents weather the effects of the Great Depression. These programs allowed a succession of federal agencies to develop farming colonies throughout Arkansas. In an effort to assist rural residents and tenant farmers, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) urged each state to establish a Rural Rehabilitation Corporation. William Reynolds Dyess, Arkansas’s director of both the FERA and Works Progress Administration (WPA), created this assistance in Arkansas. Under the auspices of the Arkansas Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, Dyess sought to develop a swampy section in southwestern Mississippi County as a planned agricultural community. FERA administrator Harry Hopkins approved the plan in early 1934, and the corporation …

Floating CCC Camp at Jacks Bay

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) side camp BF-2 at Jacks Bay in Arkansas County was distinct from most other CCC camps in Arkansas in two ways: the enrollees were African American rather than white, and they were housed in floating government quarterboats rather than in barracks or tent camps. The side camp at Jacks Bay was occupied from January 1936 until May 1938, when it was abandoned, the boats removed, and the personnel integrated into another camp. The Jacks Bay side camp had its origins in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 7173, issued on September 5, 1935, that authorized the Bureau of Biological Survey to acquire 110,000 acres on the Lower White River for protection and conservation of migratory …

Fort Smith Council

The gathering of Native Americans, Arkansas territorial officials, and U.S. government representatives held in 1822 at the confluence of the Poteau and Arkansas rivers—the event commonly referred to as the Fort Smith Council—was a laudable effort to establish amicable relations between Osage and Cherokee who were engaged in hostile actions that disrupted a large portion of the frontier region. The event actually had only limited success, but the face-to-face meeting of both Indian and territorial leaders, a rare event in territorial Arkansas, has become a popular fixture in stories about Arkansas’s early history. When several bands of Cherokee settled along the Arkansas River upstream of Point Remove Creek in the spring of 1812, they established their communities in a nearly …

Freedmen’s Bureau

aka: Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands
Congress established the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands in March 1865 to help four million African Americans in the South make the transition from slavery to freedom and to help destitute white people with food and medical supplies in the dire days at the end of the Civil War. Headed by General Oliver Otis Howard, the Freedmen’s Bureau was supervised in Arkansas by assistant commissioners General John W. Sprague (April 1865–September 1866), General Edward O. C. Ord (October 1866–March 1867), and General Charles H. Smith (March 1867–May 1869). The bureau attempted to help Arkansas’s estimated 110,000 slaves become truly free as the Civil War ended. Seventy-nine local agents (thirty-six civilians and forty-three army officers) labored from 1865 to …

HumanitiesAR

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities
The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC) and then, since 2024, as HumanitiesAR, was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. HumanitiesAR and humanities councils for fifty-five other states and territories were established by Congress and operate under the guidelines of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent agency of the United States government. While state councils were formed under NEH legislation, they are separate, independent entities. HumanitiesAR is a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Arkansas. In its legislation creating the NEH, Congress gave the term “humanities” a wide-ranging definition. In brief, it may include history, literature, languages, …

Hunter, Joseph Boone

Joseph Boone Hunter was Director of Human Services at the World War II–era Japanese American Relocation Center in Rohwer (Desha County) and the founding minister of Pulaski Heights Christian Church; in addition, he served on the faculty of Little Rock Junior College (now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock), taught continuing education courses for teachers for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), and became the first administrator of the Arkansas Council of Churches. He was also an interim minister in twenty-seven churches, mostly in Arkansas. Joe Hunter was born on December 27, 1886, to John W. Hunter and Mary Frances Compton Hunter on a farm near Allen, Texas. He was the ninth of fifteen children and …

Indochinese Resettlement Program

aka: Operation New Life
In 1975, the state of Arkansas was tapped by the federal government to be one of four main entry points for Indochinese refugees. The presence and availability of the facilities at Fort Chaffee, located adjacent to Fort Smith (Sebastian County), made it an ideal location for processing tens of thousands of Indochinese seeking refuge from their war-torn country. When the United States evacuated its remaining personnel from Vietnam in the spring of 1975, it left in its wake a wide segment of the Indochinese population who had assisted the American military and political effort. Without the American presence, they were left vulnerable to retaliation by the North Vietnamese government. Many fled in the days and weeks leading up to the …

Japanese American Relocation Camps

After Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, and America’s subsequent declaration of war and entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which selected ten sites to incarcerate more than 110,000 Japanese Americans (sixty-four percent of whom were American citizens). They had been forcibly removed from the West Coast, where over eighty percent of Japanese Americans lived. Two internment camps were selected and built in the Arkansas Delta, one at Rohwer in Desha County and the other at Jerome in sections of Chicot and Drew counties. Operating from October 1942 to November 1945, both camps eventually incarcerated nearly 16,000 Japanese Americans. This was the largest influx and incarceration …

Jerome Relocation Center

The Japanese American relocation site at Jerome (in Drew County and partially in Chicot County) was listed on the Arkansas Register of Historic Places on August 4, 2010. This Japanese American incarceration camp, along with a similar one built in Desha County, eventually housed some 16,000 Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II. The Japanese American population, of which sixty-four percent were American citizens, had been forcibly removed from the West Coast under the doctrine of “military necessity” and incarcerated in ten relocation camps dispersed throughout the inner mountain states and Arkansas. This was the largest influx and incarceration of any racial or ethnic group in Arkansas’s history. The Jerome Relocation Center was in operation …

Lake Dick

The area of Lake Dick, a U-shaped oxbow lake in Jefferson County, was the site of a New Deal program in agriculture during the first administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The experiment involved the “resettlement” of struggling urban and farm families. How the lake got its name has been a source of speculation. Located one mile west of Arkansas Highway 88 and four miles south of Altheimer (Jefferson County), Lake Dick was at one time the site of farmsteads for some eighty white families who had been moved into the area. In 1936, the Resettlement Administration—later to be made a part of the Farm Security Administration—acquired 3,453 acres of farmland in Jefferson County with the twin goals of establishing …