Entries - Entry Category: Race - Starting with L

Labor Day Bombings of 1959

The Labor Day bombings in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1959 represented the last gasp of opposition to the desegregation of the capital city’s Central High School. Coming almost two years to the day after the Little Rock Nine’s first attempt to attend Central High, the coordinated set of explosions evinced a stark and violent reminder of the continuing racial tensions in Arkansas’s capital. The damage was limited, however, and the effort was arguably more symbolic than substantive. At the same time, the bombings highlighted the fact that, while the determined effort to resist the integration of Central High had finally been overcome—with the historic high school having opened its doors for the 1959–60 school year to a student body …

LaNier, Carlotta Walls

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The oldest of three daughters, Carlotta Walls was born on December 18, 1942, in Little Rock to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Her father was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, and her mother was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing. Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as the desire to get the best education available, Walls enrolled in Central High School as a sophomore. Some white …

Ledbetter, Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams

Mary Brown “Brownie” Williams Ledbetter was a lifelong political activist who worked in many controversial and crucial campaigns in Arkansas, as well as nationally and internationally. A catalyst in many local grassroots organizations, she exhibited a dedication to fair education and equality across racial, religious, and cultural lines. Born on April 28, 1932, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Mary Brown Williams was the first of four children born to William H. Williams, a businessman and dairy farmer, and Helon Brown Williams. Born with brown eyes, she was nicknamed “Brownie” by her family. After her mother’s death in 1947 and her father’s death in 1950, Williams and her siblings were raised by relatives Grainger and Francis Williams, who moved into the …

Lester, Julius

Julius Lester, who spent considerable time in Arkansas as a child, was an author, musician, photographer, and civil-rights activist. A longtime educator, he was recognized by numerous organizations and institutions for his artistic and literary efforts. Julius Lester was born on January 27, 1939, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Woodie Daniel Lester, who was a Methodist minister, and Julia Smith Lester. Lester spent his earliest years in Kansas City, Kansas, living there from 1941 to 1954. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1954 but spent most summers on the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) farm of his grandmother, who was the daughter of a former slave and a German Jew. Her father had immigrated to the United States and settled in …

Lewis, Sanford (Lynching of)

At midnight on March 23, 1912, a mob hanged Sanford Lewis from a trolley pole in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). He had been suspected of shooting Deputy Constable Andy Carr, who sustained a fatal wound above the eye. Although the Arkansas Gazette refers to this as the first lynching in Sebastian County, it was actually the first lynching of an African American there. The murder of a white man named James Murray in the county on December 6, 1897, was described in many media outlets as a lynching. Deputy Constable Andy Carr was probably the Andy Care [sic] listed on the census as living in Ward 4 in Fort Smith in 1910. Living with him were his wife, Della, and …

Lightfoot, G. P. F. (Lynching of)

In December 1892, African-American Baptist minister G. P. F. Lightfoot, referred to in most accounts as “Preacher Lightfoot,” was murdered by a group of African Americans in Jackson County in retaliation for taking their money and promising them nonexistent passage to Liberia. Interest in immigrating to Africa started early in the United States. The Back-to-Africa movement dates back to 1816, when the American Colonization Society (ACS) was established to help free blacks resettle in Africa. The Republic of Liberia was established in 1847 and was recognized by the U.S. government in 1864. Following the Civil War, many newly freed Arkansas slaves became interested in the movement, especially those in majority-black counties in the Arkansas Delta. The Liberian Exodus Arkansas Colony …

Little River County Race War of 1899

The Little River County Race War occurred in March 1899 in southwestern Arkansas and entailed the murder of at least seven African Americans throughout Little River County. The reported impetus for this race war was the murder of a white planter by a black man, but white fear of “insurrection” on the part of black residents quickly manifested itself into a campaign of violence and terror against African Americans. During the last half of the nineteenth century, lynchings were widespread in Arkansas, especially in the southern part of the state. A number of factors contributed to this racial animus. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the black population of Arkansas increased greatly, mostly due to recruiters who canvassed the …

Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year. Before transferring to Central, the Nine attended segregated schools for black students in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, and Gloria …

Little Rock School Desegregation Cases (1982–2014)

aka: Little Rock School District, et al v. Pulaski County Special School District et al.
From 1982 until 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, handled Little Rock School District, et al. v. Pulaski County Special School District et al. At least six federal district judges presided over the case during this span of time. In 1984, the district court ruled that three school districts situated in Pulaski County were unconstitutionally segregated: the Little Rock School District (LRSD), the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), and the North Little Rock School District (NLRSD). One reason for the ruling was that the population of Little Rock was approximately sixty-five percent white in 1984, while seventy percent of Little Rock School District students were black. Those who brought the case feared …

Little Rock Uprising of 1968

What became known as the Little Rock Uprising of 1968 was triggered by the controversial killing of inmate Curtis Ingram at the Pulaski County Penal Farm. A subsequent community rally protesting the circumstances surrounding the killing and its investigation ended in violence. Three nights of unrest followed until Governor Winthrop Rockefeller imposed countywide curfews that finally brought the crisis to an end. The events ultimately led to changes in the previously discriminatory way that grand juries—which provided oversight for investigations at the penal farm—had been selected in Pulaski County. In August 1968, eighteen-year-old Curtis Ingram, who was African American, was arrested for a traffic violation and later charged with drug offenses. He was sent to the penal farm to pay …

Livingston, Abe (Lynching of)

Although apparently only one Arkansas newspaper covered it, in late August 1884 an African-American man named Abe Livingston was hanged in Desha County for allegedly robbing and threatening a white man named William Kite. A search of public records revealed no information on either Kite or Livingston. According to an August 26 article in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Daily Independent, which was reprinted a week later in the Batesville Guard, Livingston was a “dangerous negro” who, sometime earlier in 1884, had robbed Kite. He was arrested at the time and put in jail in Arkansas City (Desha County). At some point in July, he escaped from jail. While he was free, he allegedly made several attempts to kill Kite and also …

Livingston, Frank (Lynching of)

Former soldier Frank Livingston was burned alive at age twenty-five near El Dorado (Union County) on May 21, 1919, for the alleged murder of his employer. Livingston’s lynching was among several similar incidents in Arkansas involving returned African-American World War I–era servicemen. At the time of the 1910 census, Frank Livingston was living with his parents, Nelson and India Livingston, and his three brothers in Tubal Township, Union County. Although the census record indicates that Frank was born around 1893, subsequent draft records give his birthdate as November 1, 1892, in Shuler (Union County). Nelson Livingston and his two older sons, Ruf and Frank, were working as farmers on the “home farm.” Frank Livingston’s parents could read and write, but …

Lonoke County Lynching of 1910

On April 4, 1910, Frank Pride and Laura Mitchell were lynched near Keo (Lonoke County) for allegedly murdering Pride’s wife and Mitchell’s husband, Wiley. The lynch mob was composed entirely of African Americans, one of a number of such lynchings in Arkansas. According to historian Karlos Hill, such lynchings were the result of African Americans’ lack of faith in the white judicial system. The lynchings often occurred in close-knit plantation societies and were an attempt to enforce community morals. Most, as in this case, occurred in domestic situations. There is almost no information available on Frank Pride or Laura and Wiley Mitchell. Newspaper accounts indicate that Pride was fifty years old, and Laura Mitchell ten years younger. Frank Pride was …

Lonoke County Race War of 1897–1898

The situation in Lonoke County was dire for African Americans during the latter half of 1897 and early 1898. In June 1897, a black normal (teacher-training) school was ransacked and one of the teachers severely whipped. In September, that same teacher was found dead. In December, Oscar Simonton, an African-American merchant, was attacked and his store ransacked. In February the following year, notices were placed on the doors of black residents warning them to leave the county on pain of death. This was closely followed by the burning of black homes and schoolhouses. Trouble had flared up several times in the county dating all the way back to Reconstruction. Many of the reports on the 1898 events refer to a …

Lorch, Grace Lonegran

Grace Lorch, wife of Philander Smith College mathematics professor Lee Lorch, was a civil rights and labor rights activist. She is best known for lending aid to one of the Little Rock Nine during the Central High School desegregation crisis in 1957. Of Irish extraction, Grace Lonergan was born on September 26, 1903, to William and Delia Lonergan in Boston, Massachusetts. She and her brother Thomas grew up in a working-class household in which her father was a railroad worker and her mother was a homemaker. Grace Lonergan became a public school teacher at a young age. She was a member of the Boston Teachers’ Union and the Boston Central Labor Council. After she married Lee Lorch in December 1943, …

Lorch, Lee

Lee Lorch was a professor of mathematics at Philander Smith College in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the second half of the 1950s. He and his wife, Grace Lorch, became involved in the black civil rights struggle in central Arkansas. As a lifelong leftwing activist, he also came to the attention of investigatory commissions at both the federal and state levels. Lee Lorch was born to Adolph Lorch and Florence Lorch in New York City on September 20, 1915. Lorch’s grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Germany (an old town in the Rhine River Valley is named Lorch). His mother was a school teacher until she married, and his father eventually became part owner of a small factory. Lorch had three …

Lost Year

“The Lost Year” refers to the 1958–59 school year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), when all the city’s high schools were closed in an effort to block desegregation. One year after Governor Faubus used state troops to thwart federal court mandates for desegregation by the Little Rock Nine at Central High School, in September 1958, he invoked newly passed state laws to forestall further desegregation and closed Little Rock’s four high schools: Central High, Hall High, Little Rock Technical High (a white school), and Horace Mann (a black school). A total of 3,665 students, both black and white, were denied a free public education for an entire year which, increased racial tensions and further divided the community into opposing camps. …

Lowery, Henry (Lynching of)

The January 26, 1921, lynching of Henry Lowery stands out for its barbarism, as well as the national and international attention it received, happening at a time when the U.S. Congress was debating anti-lynching legislation. The brutal murder of Lowery was used in a national campaign to pass such legislation, though this proved unsuccessful. Henry Lowery was an African-American tenant farmer in Mississippi County. Lowery is reported to have disputed a matter of payment with a local planter named O. T. Craig, whose land was adjacent to that of Lee Wilson, owner of the largest cotton plantation in the South. On Christmas Day of 1920, Lowery, forty years old at the time, became intoxicated, according to reports, and decided to …

Lucas, John Gray

John Gray Lucas’s life was representative of the broad changes that occurred in the patterns of race relations in Arkansas and the South during the latter half of the nineteenth century. From the end of the Civil War until the early 1890s, African Americans could obtain an education and then enter politics as independent, forthright champions of their race’s interests. After that point, as historian J. Morgan Kousser observed, “most blacks would have to emigrate to the North, choose other professions, or settle for the role of white-appointed race leader, with all constraints that role imposed on their statements and actions.” Lucas served in the Arkansas General Assembly and advocated for the rights of African Americans during his tenure in …

Lynching

Lynching was an extra-legal form of group violence, performed without judicial due process. Scholars enumerating cases of lynching consider only those cases in which an actual murder occurs, though some states had laws against the crime of “lynching in the second degree,” in which death did not result to the victim. Lynchings, especially in the American South, have typically been perpetrated on marginalized groups—predominately African Americans, but also Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, and criminals. In his 1999 dissertation on lynching, Richard Buckelew documented 318 lynchings in Arkansas, 231 of which were directed against black victims, but additional research since then has increased the number. According to the traditional view, prior to the Civil War, most lynchings were carried out by individuals …