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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 Humanities Council (AHC)

aka: Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities
The Arkansas Endowment for the Humanities, known since its early days as the Arkansas Humanities Council (AHC), was formed in 1974 for the purpose of supporting and promoting the humanities in the state. The AHC 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. The AHC 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, philosophy, archaeology, jurisprudence, comparative …

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 …

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 …

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, 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. and Mary Frances Compton Hunter on a farm near Allen, Texas. He was the ninth of fifteen children and one of seven who received advanced education degrees. His …

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 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 of …

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 …

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States government purchased over 800,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River from France in what would become the largest land acquisition in American history, also known as the Louisiana Purchase. Named “Louisiana” after the French “sun king,” Louis XIV, the territory comprised most of the present-day western United States, including Arkansas. The Louisiana Purchase allowed the U.S. government to open up lands in the west for settlement, secured its borders against foreign threat, and gave the right to deposit goods duty-free at port cities (mainly New Orleans). In Arkansas, the Louisiana Purchase signaled an end to French and Spanish dominance as Americans filtered into the area. Between 1686 and the 1790s, the French …

McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS)

The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) was the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time of its opening. Today, it is responsible for $1 billion to $2 billion in trade transportation in Arkansas each year and from $100 million to $1 billion in trade transportation in Oklahoma. Additionally, the system has numerous flood protection projects, hydro power plants, and soil conservation and recreational areas. Many communities, such as Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County), have taken advantage of the development to enhance further riverfront developments, such as the River Market and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. At 1,460 miles long, the Arkansas River is …

National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR)

The National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson (Jefferson County) is thirty-five miles southeast of Little Rock (Pulaski County) and twenty miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). The site, consisting of 496 acres with numerous buildings and research laboratories, is under the control of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) at the time the center formed. HEW became the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) in 1980. The facility addresses the toxicity of various chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, assesses the risks of microbial food contamination, and identifies microbiological pathogens that could be used for acts of terrorism. Including various contractors, research assistants, and scientists, …

National Education Program

The National Education Program (NEP) was founded by Harding College (now Harding University) president George S. Benson to disseminate his ideas on Americanism. These included three fundamental principles: belief in God, belief in the U.S. Constitution, and belief in the free-enterprise system. Sources disagree about the date the NEP was founded, citing 1936, 1941, and 1948. The NEP wedded fundamentalist Christian religion with free-enterprise economic thought, which became foundational to the conservative movement that gained prominence with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. A native Oklahoman and a member of the Church of Christ, Benson completed his bachelor’s degree at Harding College and afterward served as principal of its high school division. In 1925, he and his wife, Sallie …

National Youth Administration

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was the last of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal programs established to address the massive unemployment caused by the Great Depression. It focused on creating employment and education for people aged sixteen to twenty-five who, because of the effects of the Depression, often had neither. Roosevelt created the National Youth Administration by executive order on June 26, 1935, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) at a time when some 2.9 million American children were in families receiving government relief. The NYA’s goal was to provide funds for part-time work for out-of-school youths from families on the dole; training, counseling, and placement for NYA workers; recreational programs for workers; and student aid for …

New Deal

In many ways, Arkansas experienced the hardship of the Great Depression of the 1930s even before the stock market crash of 1929. In the 1920s, it led the nation in per capita indebtedness. As an agricultural state, Arkansans was affected by low crop prices, which left people unable to pay taxes. Schools and roads deteriorated. Without funding for road construction, some towns found themselves isolated and cut off from the rest of the state. Arkansas also suffered as it alternated between both drought and floods—the Flood of 1927, followed by the Drought of 1930–1931 and the Flood of 1937. Banks failed, wiping out savings and ready cash. Many Arkansans lost their land, being forced to become tenant farmers. Others could …

NYA Camp Bethune

aka: Camp Bethune
National Youth Administration (NYA) Camp Bethune was part of a New Deal program that provided opportunities for literacy and critical advantages for young black women from across the state of Arkansas during the Great Depression. Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal (AM&N) College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), incorporated the camp site. The camp marked the network of regional and national political activism among African Americans who negotiated community and citizenship in the first half of the twentieth century. The Federal Emergency Relief Appropriation (FERA) Act created the NYA in 1935. The agency funded part-time work for students between the ages of sixteen to twenty-five, as well as worked to promote public …

Office of Removal and Subsistence

The United States government opened the federal Office of Removal and Subsistence for territory west of the Mississippi River in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1831. The office oversaw removal and subsistence operations relating to the Native American tribes being expelled from their eastern homes, along with providing subsistence for one year after their relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). During the nine years the office was in operation, almost $4.5 million passed through the hands of the officers charged with the operations of the office. The Choctaw were the first of the five Southeastern tribes to sign a removal treaty. The Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed by the Choctaw on September 27, 1830, and ratified by the …

Plum Bayou Project

The Plum Bayou Project was part of a New Deal plan designed to help rural residents receive federal relief and assistance during the economic crisis of the 1930s. Located approximately seventeen miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Plum Bayou was one of several similar communities built in the Arkansas Delta. During the Great Depression, the federal Resettlement Administration—later the Farm Security Administration (FSA)—experimented with programs designed to give assistance to rural farm families. Rexford G. Tugwell, head of the Resettlement Administration, believed that sending farmers into the cities with no job prospects was an untenable situation and certainly no answer to the farmers’ desperate plight. Instead, he focused on developing resettlement projects designed to move farmers barely surviving on …

Poland Committee

aka: Select Committee to Inquire into Conditions of the Affairs in the State of Arkansas
The Poland Committee was a congressional committee established by the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate the situation in Arkansas in the aftermath of the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. It was chaired by Representative Luke P. Poland of Vermont. The group’s findings were ultimately submitted by President Ulysses S. Grant to his attorney general, George H. Williams, for further action, but Congress overrode the administration’s response to the report. The subsequent resolution is generally seen as marking the end of Reconstruction in Arkansas. The Brooks-Baxter War had roots in the contested 1872 gubernatorial election. On the one side was Joseph Brooks, a “carpetbagger” and reputed radical leader who ran as the head of the Reform Republicans, the faction that supported …

Post Office Art

Arkansas has nineteen Depression-era works of art created for U.S. post office buildings. Two are sculpture bas-reliefs, and seventeen are paintings. In addition, another painting was destroyed in a post office fire, and one was never installed and was lost during World War II. The art was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and was created to reflect life in the United States at the time and to honor hard work. During a time of national economic crisis and with the specter of World War II on the horizon, images of strong workers, productive farmers, and determined pioneers were intended by Roosevelt to reassure and motivate Americans. The goal was to remind Americans of their history at a time …

Public Works Administration

The U.S. Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) on June 16, 1933, as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal to combat the effects of the Great Depression and the ensuing failures of businesses across the country. As part of the act, the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works—called the Public Works Administration (PWA) after 1935—was established on June 16, 1933, to provide grants and loans to finance public works projects that would help “promote and stabilize employment and purchasing power.” Across the country, the PWA funded some 34,000 projects between July 1933 and March 1939, expending $6 billion over the lifetime of the agency. President Herbert Hoover had sought to establish a public works division within …

Rohwer Relocation Center

The Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County was one of two World War II–era incarceration camps built in the state to house Japanese Americans from the West Coast, the other being the Jerome Relocation Center (Chicot and Drew counties). The Rohwer relocation camp cemetery, the only part of the camp that remains, is now a National Historic Landmark. The camp housed, along with the Jerome camp, some 16,000 Japanese Americans from September 18, 1942, to November 30, 1945, and was one of the last of ten such camps nationwide to close. The Japanese American population, of which sixty-four percent were American citizens, had been forcibly removed from the west coast of America under the doctrine of “military necessity” and incarcerated …

Sharp, Willous Floyd

Willous Floyd Sharp was a longtime government official. While he served in a number of different capacities at the local, state, and federal levels, he was best known for his leadership of Arkansas’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs during the New Deal. Floyd Sharp was born on March 28, 1896, in Union, Tennessee, one of seven children born to Rufus Sharp and Mary Jane Sharp. The family moved to Idaho in 1899. In 1907, the family moved to Arkansas, settling in Garland County. Sharp received his early education in the area’s local schools. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and upon his discharge from the military, he got a job working as a printer for the …

Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR)

The Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR), which is located east of Strickler in rural Washington County, was completed in 1969 at the direction of the federal government, specifically the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, to test the feasibility of breeder reactors in the production of electricity. It closed in 1972, and the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) took over ownership of the site in 1975 and conducted research at the facility until 1986. A fast breeder reactor such as SEFOR uses fast neutrons for fission, making it possible for the nuclear reactor to produce more new fuel than it consumes, essentially “breeding” new fuel in the process. SEFOR was developed by a consortium of private energy companies, …

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Little Rock District

Although technically a part of the U.S. Army, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has played a vital role in the development of civilian transportation infrastructure and water resources since Congress passed the first river and harbors bill in 1824 and charged the corps with maintaining navigational channels. Work on the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers received first priority, but as settlers moved farther west, attention soon focused on other navigable streams. Until 1916, Congress authorized only navigational improvements on rivers. Flood control only entered the corps’ mandate indirectly, as levees were considered navigational aids. However, as agricultural and transportation needs grew and the national economic importance of the lower Mississippi River Valley became evident, politicians found it easier …

Vogel, Mabel Rose Jamison (Jamie)

Mabel Rose Jamison (Jamie) Vogel taught art to Japanese American children and adults at the Rohwer Relocation Center during World War II. “Miss Jamison” brought to this unique American experience set in a bleak camp in the uncleared swamplands of the Arkansas Delta a respect for people of all nationalities, including the thousands of imprisoned West Coast Japanese Americans uprooted from their California homes. Such respect was not typical in the United States at that time, and it was certainly not the norm in Arkansas. When the teacher left the Desha County camp as the war came to an end, she took with her not only the friendship of former students, but also an abiding commitment to continue her support of …

Works Progress Administration (WPA)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), later called the Work Projects Administration, was the largest and best known of the federal work relief programs established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to combat unemployment and stimulate a national economy ravaged by the Great Depression. During the eight years of its existence, 8.5 million people nationwide received WPA paychecks totaling nearly $11 billion. In Arkansas, the WPA provided much-needed social services and infrastructure improvements, while its salaries supported thousands of families and the merchants who depended on their business. The WPA began operations in Arkansas in July 1935. It carried on many of the functions of the earlier Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) while emphasizing work programs to a greater degree than its …

World War II Ordnance Plants

aka: Arkansas Ordnance Plant (AOP)
aka: Maumelle Ordnance Works (MOW)
aka: Southwestern Proving Ground (SPG)
aka: Ozark Ordnance Works (OOW)
aka: Shumaker Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD)
During World War II, Arkansas was home to six ordnance plants. The sites were located near Jacksonville (Pulaski County), Marche (Pulaski County), Hope (Hempstead County), El Dorado (Union County), Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), and Camden (Ouachita County). The uses for the locations included the manufacture of detonators, fuses, primers and bombs; proving grounds for testing munitions; rocket loading, testing and storage; and producing chemical agents needed in bombs and explosives. Four of the plants were government owned and contractor operated (GOCO). These plants were over seen by a military staff, but a private corporation had the contract to operate the plants. The Southwestern Proving Ground and the Pine Bluff Arsenal were government owned and operated. All the plants depended heavily …

World War II Prisoner of War Camps

aka: Prisoner of War Camps (World War II)
aka: POW Camps (World War II)
During World War II, the United States established many prisoner of war (POW) camps on its soil for the first time since the Civil War. By 1943, Arkansas had received the first of 23,000 German and Italian prisoners of war, who would live and work at military installations and branch camps throughout the state. The presence of POW camps in the United States was due in part to a British request to alleviate the POW housing problems in Great Britain. Initially, the U.S. government resisted the idea of POW camps on its soil. The huge numbers of German and Italian POWs expected to occupy the camps created many problems for the federal government and the military. The military did not …

WPA Slave Narratives

aka: Slave Narratives
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was the largest agency in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal economic relief, reform, and recovery agenda during the Great Depression, as their “make-work” programs got millions of unemployed people back to work. One component of the WPA, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), sponsored unemployed writers to undertake assorted research and writing assignments, including conducting oral history interviews of ex-slaves in the Southern and border states. By the time the program ended in 1939, Arkansas had generated the largest portion of the interviews, nearly one-third, now known collectively as the WPA Slave Narratives. The FWP’s national director was Columbia University law graduate Henry G. Alsberg, who was a lawyer, former foreign correspondent, and director of the …