Entry Type: Event - Starting with S

Sit-ins

In Arkansas, the “sit-in” protest was used most commonly during the 1960s in association with the civil rights movement as a way to protest segregation at lunch counters, department stores, and other public facilities. The power of the sit-in protest lay in its peaceful nature on the side of the protestors and its ability to apply economic pressure to targeted businesses. Sit-ins are a nonviolent direct-action protest tactic. Protestors at sit-ins occupied places in both public and private accommodations to put pressure on proprietors to enforce segregation laws. In doing so, those laws—applied to peaceful demonstrators who were simply seeking services provided to other customers—came under intense scrutiny. Sit-ins also disrupted commerce and thereby placed economic pressure on merchants for …

Six Bridges Book Festival

The Six Bridges Book Festival is an annual celebration of literacy, language, and the written word. The event was begun by Arkansas Literacy Councils, Inc., (ALC) with the goals of increasing awareness of the importance of literacy and raising funds for adult literacy programs in Arkansas—all through a culturally vibrant event that highlights the state of Arkansas and its rich literary heritage. The festival started in 2002 as the Arkansas Literary Festival (known as Lit Fest), and the Central Arkansas Library System took over management of the festival in 2008, renaming it the Six Bridges Book Festival in 2019. The festival, based in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was held for many years on the third weekend of April; the festival …

Skipper v. Union Central Life Insurance Company

aka: William Franklin Skipper (Murder of)
aka: Monticello Lynching of 1898
The death of William Franklin Skipper near Baxter (Drew County) in 1896 sparked a series of trials the Arkansas Gazette described as “perhaps the strangest case in the criminal annals of Arkansas.” The only certainty in the case seems to be that Skipper, a merchant and sawmill owner and a partner in the firm of Skipper and Lephiew (sometimes spelled Lephlew), died of a knife wound to the neck beside Bayou Bartholomew sometime on May 13, 1896. During the two criminal trials, much of the argument centered on whether he committed suicide or was murdered by a group of African-American men who worked at his mill. The criminal case dragged on for more than two years. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the …

Slater, Philip (Lynching of)

On March 22, 1921, fifty-year-old Philip Slater was hanged on the public square in Monticello (Drew County) for allegedly assaulting a white woman in nearby Wilmar (Drew County). Philip Slater was one of many African Americans who worked in Drew County’s timber industry, the largest industry in the county in 1920. According to the 1920 census, Slater and his wife, Jimmie, were boarding with Addie Green on Buber Street in Wilmar. Both Philip and Jimmie could read and write, and he was working as a laborer in a lumber mill. This may have been the large Gates Lumber Company, which was located in Wilmar. Slater was reportedly fifty years old when he was murdered. According to the Arkansas Gazette, on …

Smackover Riot of 1922

In late November 1922, a hooded and robed “cleanup committee”—possibly members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) or some related group—rode through the Smackover (Union County) oil fields in order to drive away “undesirable” people, such as saloon owners and gamblers. The vigilantes killed at least one person, shot at others, and destroyed buildings, and there were widespread reports of floggings and even cases of people being tarred and feathered. This multi-day riot mirrored other vigilante actions in the newly established oil fields in Arkansas. The previous February, the citizens of El Dorado (Union County) had formed a “Law Enforcement League” for the same purpose. Smackover is located twelve miles north of El Dorado in Union County, an area that had relied on …

Smith (Lynching of)

In August 1882, an African-American man known only as Smith in published newspaper reports became the second man ever to be lynched in Pulaski County, according to available records. Jim Sanders had been lynched earlier that year in the county. In part because the victim was named only as “Smith” in published accounts, little information can be gleaned regarding his actual identity. Nothing was reported of the event in the Arkansas Gazette, and most reports that circulated nationally fell along the lines of this bare-bones account published in the Highland Weekly News of Highland County, Ohio: “Smith, who assaulted a white lady near Little Rock, Arkansas, was lynched by a disguised party who shot him to death.” The National Republican …

Smith, Henry (Lynching of)

On July 10, 1881, an African American man named Henry Smith was hanged at Des Arc (Prairie County) for allegedly murdering an orphan girl named Lucinda (Lucy) or Matilda (Mattie) Webb. According to census records, an eighteen-year-old laborer named Henry Smith was living in the household of farmer William McBee in White River Township in 1880. Reports on the lynching indicate that, in 1881, he was living on the Stallings place. There were two Stallings (or Stallins) families in White River Township at the time, those of fifty-one-year-old Len C. Stallins and thirty-five-year-old J. B. Stallins. There was an orphan girl named Webb in White River Township in 1880, but the census lists her first name as Tennessee. She was …

Smith, James (Lynching of)

James Smith, an African American man, was lynched in Crittenden County on February 8, 1917, for having allegedly killed Special Deputy Fred Hicks as Hicks attempted to arrest Smith on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette datelined February 5, Smith was “said to have had a bad reputation, and frequently to have caused trouble on the plantation of H. G. Long, where he was employed.” Following a night of “disorders,” apparently at the Long plantation, Hicks was deputized to arrest Smith at Proctor (Crittenden County). However, as Hicks was attempting to arrest him, Smith reportedly without warning “placed a gun against Hicks’ breast and fired,” also beating the man after …

Smith, Jim (Lynching of)

Sometime in mid-November 1888, an African-American man named Jim Smith was lynched in Crittenden County for allegedly approaching an unidentified white woman with an insulting proposal. According to the November 30 edition of the Arkansas Democrat, which quotes the Memphis Avalanche, word reached Little Rock (Pulaski County) on November 29 that a black man named Jim Smith approached a married white woman on the road and asked her a question. She recognized him and paused to answer him, whereupon they spoke about “the weather and the cotton crop.” She was not suspicious, and answered his question, whereupon he made her “an insulting proposition.” She became angry and began to hurry away, but he followed, threatening her. The woman became increasingly …

Smith, Leroy (Lynching of)

On May 11, 1921, fourteen-year-old Leroy Smith was hanged at McGehee (Desha County) for allegedly attacking J. P. Sims and Arabella Bond as they drove along a road between McGehee and Arkansas City (Desha County). It is one of many accounts of alleged roadside attacks, some of which are referred to in historian Kristina DuRocher’s book, Raising Racists. Although early reports, including the one in the Arkansas Gazette, indicated that the name of the lynching victim was unknown, an article in the St. Louis Argus identified him as Leroy Smith, a teenager from Lake Providence, Louisiana, which is about sixty miles from McGehee. The 1920 census lists a teenager named “Lawyer” Smith, born around 1908, living in Police Jury Ward …

Smith, Less (Lynching of)

On December 9, 1922, an African-American man named Less Smith was lynched in Morrilton (Conway County) for the alleged murder of deputy sheriff Granville Edward Farish. Farish had been in Conway County since at least 1900, when he was twelve years old and living in Welborn Township with his parents, Columbus and Bell Farish. At the age of seventeen, he married sixteen-year-old Carrie Spears in Morrilton. Carrie might have died, because in 1909 he married a woman named Myrtle, and in 1910 they were living and farming in Welborn Township. In 1920, he and Myrtle were living in Welborn Township with their children Thetus (age eight), Cessna (age seven), Harrell (age five), Janie (age three), and Dorothy (age one). As …

Smith, Walter (Reported Lynching of)

In many cases of reported lynchings, newspapers in other states received initial reports by wire from local newspapers and then failed to include updates on these first stories. Such was the case with the alleged lynching of twenty-four-year-old Walter Smith in Cabot (Lonoke County) in May 1892. In Smith’s case, even the Arkansas Gazette failed to update its story on a rumored lynching. The first news of Smith’s alleged crime appeared in the Arkansas Democrat on May 23, 1892. Smith, an African American, had reportedly attacked a white woman in Cabot a week earlier. After committing “his heinous crime,” he escaped. Police wired a description of “the brute” to officials in the area, and he was found on May 22 …

Smithee-Adams Duel

What has often been described as “the last duel fought in Arkansas” was an exchange of gunshots in the streets of Little Rock (Pulaski County) between James Newton (J. N.) Smithee and John D. Adams on May 5, 1878. This event was also an early episode in the long newspaper war conducted between the Arkansas Gazette (then the Daily Arkansas Gazette) and the Arkansas Democrat. Adams became owner, with William D. Blocher, of the Gazette on November 11, 1876. They hired James Mitchell to be editor-in-chief of the newspaper; Mitchell had been a professor of English literature at Arkansas Industrial University, now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). Smithee competed with the Gazette by purchasing the printing …

Smithville, Skirmish at (June 17, 1862)

After securing Missouri for the Union by routing the Confederate Army of the West at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, the Union Army of the Southwest under General Samuel Curtis moved into northeast Arkansas and occupied Batesville (Independence County) on its mission to capture Little Rock (Pulaski County). There, Curtis divided his force in the region, and the Fifth Illinois Cavalry (US) moved into Pocahontas (Randolph County) from Doniphan, Missouri, to reinforce a Union division under General Frederick Steele. From there, a battalion of the Fifth Illinois under Major A. H. Seley was sent to the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County and a strategic location along the Military Road that connected to …

Sneed Tornado of 1929

aka: Tornado Outbreak of April 10, 1929
The only F5 tornado ever recorded in Arkansas destroyed the Sneed and Pleasant Valley communities in Jackson County on April 10, 1929, one of a series of twisters on that day that claimed at least fifty-four lives in the state. At least eight tornadoes hit northeastern Arkansas on April 10, 1929. The most powerful, with wind speeds of 261 to 318 miles per hour, formed near Batesville (Independence County) and traveled northeast, entering Jackson County at about 6:15 p.m., with a half-mile-wide path. As it approached Pleasant Valley (also known as Possum Trot) north of Swifton (Jackson County), people sought shelter in homes that were quickly destroyed by the tornado “dipping down into the farm communities as if a gigantic …

Solar Eclipse of 1834

A total solar eclipse is a phenomenon in which the moon totally obscures the bright light of the sun, leaving only the faint corona visible. Some residents of Arkansas Territory and some states in the South could see such an eclipse on November 30, 1834. The Arkansas Gazette announced the impending event in December 1833 by running an excerpt from the American Almanac stating that “the most remarkable of the phenomena that this year will happen, is the eclipse of the sun on Sunday, the 30th of November,” being total “in a small part of the territory of Arkansas” and in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. The article noted that “a great depression of the thermometer, …

Solar Eclipse of 1918

The second of two recorded total solar eclipses—in which the moon totally obscures the sun, leaving only the corona visible—that could be seen in Arkansas occurred on June 8, 1918. While the first, in 1834, was clearly observed as a “magnificent phenomenon of nature in all its sublimity,” the 1918 event was reported as “somewhat of a disappointment.” On January 3, 1918, the Arkansas Gazette announced that June 8, 1918, would be “a gala day for astronomers,” as a total solar eclipse would cross the United States, beginning in northern Oregon and traveling to northern Florida “at a speed of something like 1,000 miles an hour.” The Hot Springs New Era noted a few weeks later that Mount Ida (Montgomery …

Southern Arkansas Race Riots of Late 1896

During November and December 1896, there were three separate racial incidents on job sites in and around El Dorado (Union County). In mid-November 1896, there was a “race war” between white and Black workers at Hawthorne Mills, twelve miles southwest of El Dorado. On Tuesday, December 1, 1896, five African-American section men who were working on the line of the Cotton Belt Railroad between Camden (Ouachita County) and Bearden (Ouachita County) were killed by a group of unidentified men. In late December, near McNeil (Columbia County), approximately twenty African Americans were shot when white men raided a sawmill. This was part of a widespread pattern of intimidation of Black laborers in southern Arkansas in the 1890s, a practice that seems to …

Southern Cotton Oil Mill Strike

On December 17, 1945, 117 of the 125 mostly African-American employees of the Southern Cotton Oil Mill Company in Little Rock (Pulaski County) walked off the job, demanding sixty cents an hour and time and a half for anything over forty hours a week. The strikers—members of Food, Tobacco, Agricultural and Allied Workers (FTA) Local 98—set up picket lines, and the company ceased milling operations, although it did maintain a small workforce to receive shipments and maintain equipment. The strike remained peaceful until December 26, when an African-American strikebreaker named Otha Williams killed a striker, Walter Campbell, also an African American. A Pulaski County grand jury, empaneled by County Prosecutor Sam Robinson, refused to indict Williams on charges of murder …

Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas Expedition

By late 1862, much of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas was overrun by large armies of both the Union and Confederacy. After they marched off to other campaigns outside the region, the area was left in the hands of smaller Federal and Confederate forces that were in frequent competition, both sides attempting to gain an advantage. Information-gathering incursions, such as this one initiated by Federal forces into Boone County in late 1862, were typical of the smaller military operations. On November 8, 1862, Captain Milton Burch of the Fourteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia) was ordered to lead a detachment of Missouri militia from Ozark, Missouri, into northern Arkansas to gather information about Confederate forces in the area. The force of approximately …

Southwest Stakes

The Southwest Stakes is a thoroughbred horse race held at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs (Garland County) restricted to three-year-old colts and geldings. The Southwest is the first major step in Oaklawn’s series for horses aspiring to run in the $1 million Arkansas Derby and subsequent Triple Crown races (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes make up the Triple Crown); the Rebel Stakes is the second major step, with the Arkansas Derby being the third. The Southwest is traditionally run on Presidents Day in February. Stakes races—so called because of the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay—are rated grade one (the highest), grade two, or grade three based on the size of the purse. (The purse …

Spanish-American War

On April 25, 1898, after months of discussion and negotiations concerning the revolt in Cuba, an island possessed by Spain, the U.S. Congress officially declared war upon Spain. For months, the national media, including Arkansas newspapers, had been filing exaggerated reports concerning the revolt in Cuba, stirring up anti-Spanish sentiment throughout the country. By the time of the unexplained sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, many citizens of Arkansas were ready for war. On the same day as the war declaration, Governor Daniel Webster Jones received a message from the U.S. Department of War requesting that Arkansas provide two regiments of National Guard troops, approximately 2,000 soldiers. This was a difficult task for the …

Spavinaw, Skirmish at

  On May 10, 1864, Major Milton Burch led a force of forty troopers of Company M, Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) and twenty infantrymen under captains John R. Kelso and Ozias Ruark of the Eighth from the Union base at Neosho, Missouri, on a scouting expedition down the Grand River onto the Cowskin Prairie in the Indian Territory and on to Spavinaw Creek in Arkansas. After three days, the infantry soldiers turned back to Neosho while Burch and the cavalrymen continued toward Spavinaw Creek. Around 11:00 p.m. on May 13, 1864, they spotted campfires and initially thought the fires might be from another Union contingent operating in the area but soon determined that around thirty men of Colonel …

Special Olympics Arkansas

Special Olympics Arkansas (SOAR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization headquartered in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). The organization’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community. Special Olympics Arkansas began in 1970, just two years after Special Olympics Incorporated founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver held the first Special Olympics games, at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, in 1968. Arkansas’s first games were held in Conway (Faulkner County) at Hendrix College, with approximately 280 athletes in …

Speers, J. E. (Execution of)

J. E. Speers was hanged on May 27, 1892, in Magnolia (Columbia County) for the slaying of a Ouachita County timber man, a crime he claimed was committed in self-defense. J. E. Speers was born in 1863 in St. Francis County. He married Annie Hutson, “a rustic beauty,” near Brinkley (Monroe County) twenty years later, and they would have five children, two of whom lived. Speers worked as a railroad engineer for some time, but by 1892 “for several years ha[d] been employed in various capacities about saw mills.” The Arkansas Gazette described him as “one of the Smith and Wesson gentry, and an all around tough.” Speers was working at a mill near Camden (Ouachita County) as a night …

Spring River near Smithville, Skirmish at

aka: Skirmish at Spring River (April 13, 1864)
aka: Skirmish at Smithville (April 13, 1864)
Union forces sought to solidify their control in northeast Arkansas and safeguard important supply lines after Federal troops occupied Little Rock (Pulaski County) in September 1863 and the state’s Confederates fled to establish a new capital at Washington (Hempstead County). Colonel Robert R. Livingston and his Union forces reoccupied Batesville (Independence County) on Christmas Day 1863 to establish the headquarters of the District of Northeastern Arkansas. Union forces at Batesville attempted to suppress small bands of regular and irregular Confederates in the region during the following months. Confederate bands were especially active in the vicinity of Smithville, the seat of government for Lawrence County. Union forces collided with a larger Confederate force composed of elements of Freeman’s Brigade on February …

Spring River, Action at

aka: Battle of Salem
As the largest Civil War engagement in Fulton County, the Action at Spring River was fought when Union forces from Missouri ventured into north-central Arkansas in search of Confederate cavalry bands seeking to unite as a regiment. Fought over the space of four hours, the battle resulted in the temporary elimination of a Confederate presence in southern Missouri, as well as sixteen Union and well over 100 Confederate casualties. Lieutenant Colonel Samuel N. Wood of the Sixth Missouri Cavalry Regiment led a force of 250 troopers of his regiment and 130 men of the Third Iowa Cavalry led by Major William C. Drake south from Missouri on March 10, 1862. They were in pursuit of Confederate troops commanded by Colonel …

Springer, Andrew (Lynching of)

Andrew Springer, a white man, was lynched in Powhatan (Lawrence County) on May 21, 1887. His is the only lynching recorded as happening in Lawrence County and occurred during a decade when whites and African Americans were lynched in relatively equal numbers. That would change the following decade as lynching violence became more exclusively anti-black. The lynching of Springer became the subject of the October “Ghost Walk” held at the Powhatan Historic State Park each year and is a significant component of local folklore. The event was mentioned by newspapers as far away as Perth, Australia. The exact identity of Springer remains a mystery. Some newspapers reported that he was originally from Cook County, Illinois, but the four possible matches …

Springfield, Missouri, into Northern Arkansas, Scout from

aka: Skirmish at Bennett’s Bayou
aka: Skirmish near Buffalo City
The scouting expedition from Springfield, Missouri, into northern Arkansas, lasting from February 23 to March 9, 1864, was typical of Union operations in the Ozark Mountains in 1864 during which Federal troops sought to locate and destroy guerrilla bands in the region. Captain Eli Hughes of the Sixth Missouri State Militia Cavalry (US) left Springfield, with 111 men of the regiment, on February 23, 1864, “with orders to proceed south into Arkansas.” They crossed the White River on February 25, and while riding south of Sugar Loaf Prairie in modern-day Boone County, they encountered a group of guerrillas, part of a band led by Major Louis M. Gunning. They killed two of this band and reached Yellville (Marion County) a …

Springfield, Missouri, toward Fayetteville, Scout from

As the guerrilla war intensified in the Ozarks region in the spring of 1864, it became an increasing challenge to maintain telegraphic communications between the Union stronghold at Springfield, Missouri, and Fayetteville (Washington County). On April 28, 1864, Major John Cosgrove of the Eighth Missouri State Militia Cavalry led eighty men and two officers out of Springfield to restore the telegraph line between the two posts. On arriving at Cross Hollow in Benton County, however, the Missourians encountered a detachment of the First Arkansas Cavalry (US) already guarding a repairman as he fixed the downed telegraph line, so Cosgrove and his men moved toward Bentonville (Benton County), near where Colonel William Penn Adair was reported to be with around 200 …

St. Charles Lynching of 1904

Over the course of four days in the first week of spring 1904, a succession of white mobs terrorized the black population of St. Charles (Arkansas County). They murdered thirteen black males in this town of about 500. Given the death toll, it was one of the deadliest lynchings in American history. The murderers were never identified in either public reports or eyewitness accounts, and the scant surviving evidence in newspapers and manuscripts lists only the victims, not the killers or their possible motives. On Monday, March 21, on the dock at the White River crossing in St. Charles, Jim Searcy, a white man, argued over a game of chance with a black man named Griffin, with whom he was …

St. Charles, Capture of

A bloodless engagement, the January 13, 1863, capture of St. Charles (Arkansas County) was part of a larger Federal movement up the White River after the capture of Fort Hindman earlier that month. St. Charles served as an important Confederate stronghold before its abandonment and subsequent capture. Located on high ground on the west bank of the White River, St. Charles is the first defensible location north of the junction of the White and the Arkansas rivers. Fortified by Confederate forces in June 1862, St. Charles was attacked by Federal forces the same month. While Union troops did take St. Charles, it was only after a substantial engagement that saw massive casualties among the Federal sailors in the expedition. With …

St. Charles, Engagement at

After the fall of Memphis, Tennessee, during the Civil War, the Confederate navy was on the defense. Three Confederate war ships made their way up Arkansas’s White River to save themselves and also to defend the White River from invasion by the Union troops. Union major general Samuel R. Curtis and his Army of the Southwest advanced from Pea Ridge (Benton County) through the Ozark Mountains to Batesville (Independence County). Curtis later set up headquarters at Jacksonport (Jackson County), where the White and Black rivers converged. Confederate major general Thomas C. Hindman, the “Lion of the South,” was in charge of the defense of Arkansas. Hindman’s main objective was to slow the Union side’s movement so that the Confederates could prepare …

St. Francis County Reported Lynching of 1910

A reported 1910 lynching in St. Francis County illustrates the difficulty of doing research in this field. While historian Richard Buckelew included the incident in the list of Arkansas lynchings he compiled for his 1999 dissertation, it seems that the violence was inflicted by a posse. There is a blurred line between lynch mobs and posses, as in many cases posses killed fleeing African Americans rather than jailing them and letting them face trial. In this particular case, the shooting was particularly egregious, as the suspect killed may not have been the alleged murderer. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the incident stemmed from a disagreement between whites and African Americans near Georgetown (White County) at the new bridge for the …

St. Francis Road, Skirmish at

This brief engagement in Phillips County occurred in relation to some of the earliest Federal operations against Vicksburg, Mississippi. Brigadier General Willis A. Gorman, commander of the District of Eastern Arkansas headquartered at Helena (Phillips County), reported that an unspecified unit of Texas cavalry had attacked a Federal outpost of pickets on the St. Francis Road near Helena on December 23, 1862. Casualties at the outpost included two Federal soldiers killed and sixteen wounded, with no report of Confederate losses. Federal cavalry vigorously pursued the Texans and forced them to scatter in order to make their final escape through a patch of woods. Although unidentified in the official reports, the attack may have been conducted by Captain Alfred Johnson’s Company …