Gender: Does not Apply

Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail

The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail is a walking tour in Little Rock (Pulaski County) that commemorates people and places that have played important roles in the state’s journey toward equal rights for all. A part of the United States Civil Rights Trail, the Arkansas trail was created by University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity to recognize “the sacrifices and achievements made by those who fought for racial and ethnic justice in Arkansas.” The trail also serves to raise awareness both for tourists and Arkansas residents of the important place of the civil rights legacy in the state’s history, the full extent of which is often overlooked. The several-blocks-long trail begins just outside the …

Arkansas Historical Quarterly

The Arkansas Historical Quarterly is the official publication of the Arkansas Historical Association (AHA), offering original research on Arkansas history subjects as well as relevant secondary resources. It is housed in the AHA offices in the history department of the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County). The Arkansas Historical Association was organized in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 22, 1941. Its first project was “publication of a journal of state history.” David Yancey Thomas, one of the main proponents of creating the AHA, was its first editor. The first issue of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly was published in March 1942 and featured “a ‘Salutory,’ a ‘List of Charter Members,’ four leading articles, ten pages of ‘Documents,’ twelve …

Bell and Swain v. State

aka: Elbert Thomas (Reported Lynching of)
Examination of the cases of Black youths Robert Bell and Grady Swain shines a powerful light on the ordeals encountered by African Americans accused of committing crimes in Arkansas during the years of segregation. If African Americans managed to avoid the extralegal threat of lynching and made it into the criminal justice system at all, they then faced the prospect of law enforcement officials using torture to extract confessions, the racial prejudices of all-white courtrooms and all-white juries, and the fickleness of state politicians and state government. On the afternoon of Thursday, December 29, 1927, sixteen-year-old Robert Bell and fourteen-year-old Grady Swain were playing outside the white-owned store of William Bunge “Bunn” McCollum in Greasy Corner (St. Francis County). Their …

Bentonville Schools, Desegregation of

Bentonville (Benton County) was one of the earliest school districts in Arkansas to admit African American students after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. As Benton County was located in an area of low Black population, in practice this meant admitting the sole Black student living in the district to Bentonville High School. Even so, desegregation took place under a veil of secrecy. At the time of the Brown decision, Arkansas had a total of 423 school districts. Of these, 184 served only white students, eleven served only Black students, and 228 had both white and Black students. Many of the early moves toward school desegregation were in northwestern Arkansas, …

Chicken War of 1962–1963

The Chicken War of 1962–1963 was a trade dispute between poultry producers in Arkansas and other states and the European Economic Community (EEC). In the late 1950s, Arkansas poultry producers began to market U.S. chicken in western Europe. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, M. H. “Bill” Simmons of Plus Poultry in Siloam Springs (Benton County) and other business leaders helped post–World War II Europeans develop their own poultry industry. Noting that Arkansas’s Benton County produced more chicken than some European nations, Simmons assumed it would be decades before European producers could compete with their American mentors. “There is a considerable movement of poultry from Northwest Arkansas into the export channels almost weekly,” Simmons wrote to U.S. Senator …

Couch-Marshall House

Located in Magnolia (Columbia County), the Couch-Marshall House is an example of what has become known as the Plain Traditional style of architecture, which in this instance took on characteristics of the Queen Anne Revival style. The “high style” of the Queen Anne Revival type of residence had become the preferred style of design and construction in Arkansas by 1880 and was to remain so until the beginning of the twentieth century. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 24, 1992. The house takes part of its name from Thomas G. Couch, who was born in Columbia County on February 28, 1852, not long after his parents had relocated from their ancestral home in …

DeWitt Commercial Historic District

Centered on Courthouse Square in DeWitt, the southern seat of Arkansas County, the DeWitt Commercial Historic District includes a variety of public and commercial buildings. Including both the 1931 courthouse and 1939 post office, the district preserves a historic Arkansas town square. Initially plotted in 1854 after Arkansas Post was deemed to be too far from the center of Arkansas County to serve as the county seat, DeWitt remained a small, isolated community until a rail line connected it with Stuttgart (Arkansas County) in 1891. Few businesses operated in the community until after the railroad was established, but the new transportation link increased the population of the town. The early buildings that stood in what is now the historic district …

Dr. E. P. McGehee Infirmary

Located in Lake Village (Chicot County), the Dr. E. P. McGehee Infirmary served as a healthcare facility for both white and African American residents of the surrounding area. After the facility’s service as a medical infirmary ended, the Museum of Chicot County operated there for a period. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 1, 2005. Born in Alabama in 1869, Edward Pelham (E. P.) McGehee studied at Southern University in Greensboro, Alabama, as well as Vanderbilt University and the University of Mobile. After opening a practice in Alabama, he moved to Lake Village in 1899 and set up an office in the John Tushek Building. He married Sue Gordon McMurray in 1904, and the …

Dumas Race Riot of 1920

In January 1920, federal troops were called out to quell a feared “race war” near Dumas (Desha County). The incident is indicative of the tensions in the area at the time. World War I had deepened racial animosity in Arkansas and across the nation. African American soldiers who had served their country in segregated units hoped they would increasingly be treated and paid as equals. The area around Dumas was heavily African American, and the area around the settlement where the incident occurred was estimated to be predominately Black at a ratio of 30–1. Many white residents of such areas saw such large Black populations as a threat. Farm organizations were increasingly attempting to organize Black farm laborers, increasing whites’ …

Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC)

The Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) is an independent Catholic denomination, not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, with congregations in the United States and Europe. The denomination remains comparatively small, especially in Arkansas, where it is represented by only one church. However, the Arkansas congregation was one of the earliest developed in the denomination’s history. The ECC grew out of the independent St. Matthew’s Church, founded in Orange County, California, in 1985. This church was started by Peter Hickman, who had originally been ordained as a Baptist minister but later found himself drawn to Roman Catholic liturgical practices. He eventually was ordained a priest in the Old Catholic tradition, which split from the Roman church following the First Vatican …

Fort Smith Schools, Desegregation of

At the time the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, the African American population of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) accounted for nine percent of the city’s 47,942 residents. The Black-to-white student ratio in the city was roughly the same, with 1,055 Black students and 10,297 white students. When the Court handed down its implementation order for school desegregation (which became known as Brown II) in May 1955, Fort Smith Superintendent of Schools Chris Corbin announced that school desegregation would begin in 1957 using a “stairstep” desegregation plan of one grade per year starting with the first grade. Pupil assignment to schools was based on geographical attendance zones that were clearly drawn …

Greenwood Tornado of 1968

On April 19, 1968, an F4 tornado touched down and caused immense damage to the city of Greenwood (Sebastian County) and the nearby area. Lasting only four minutes, the twister resulted in more than a dozen deaths, more than 250 people injured, and over a million dollars in storm damage. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) used data from the 1968 Greenwood tornado to better understand the weather phenomenon. Greenwood, one of the two seats of Sebastian County, had a population between 1,500 and 2,000 in 1968. It boasted general merchandise stores, grocers, multiple hotels, and medical professionals. On April 19, around 3:15 p.m., heavy rain began to fall in the area. Shortly thereafter, a tornado was sighted as …

Long Line Rider [Song]

“Long Line Rider” is a 1968 rock song written by Bobby Darin based on the Arkansas prison scandals of that same year. While not a commercial success, the song garnered controversy for its subject matter when CBS executives prevented Darin from playing it on a taping of The Jackie Gleason Show in 1969. The song was also mentioned in congressional testimony concerning prison reform in 1971. In January 1968, Tom Murton, the superintendent of the Cummins Unit in the Arkansas prison system—with the help of an African American inmate informant—dug up several bodies on the prison grounds that he believed had been murder victims. The ensuing scandal became fodder for national and even international headlines, embarrassing Governor Winthrop Rockefeller, who …