Race and Ethnicity: African American

112th United States Colored Infantry (US)

aka: Fifth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent)
The 112th United States Colored Infantry was a United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiment formed in Arkansas during the Civil War. Consisting of former slaves, the unit was originally known as the Fifth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent). The arrival of Federal troops in the state in 1862 brought hundreds of former slaves into Union lines. After the Army of the Southwest took the Mississippi River port of Helena (Phillips County), thousands of slaves made their way to the city and to the protection of the Union forces. Taking advantage of this source of manpower, Federal authorities began to organize military units of freedmen in 1863. The First Arkansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment (African Descent) was formed in April 1863 in …

113th United States Colored Infantry (US)

aka: Sixth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent)
The 113th United States Colored Infantry, part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), served in Arkansas during the Civil War. Consisting of former slaves, the original unit was known as the Sixth Arkansas Volunteer Infantry (African Descent). The 113th never reached full strength, leading to its consolidation with two other regiments to form a new regiment. When the Union’s Army of the Southwest moved into Helena (Phillips County) in 1862, thousands of former slaves flocked to the city. Recognizing that these freedmen were a potential source of manpower, the Federal government authorized the establishment of African-American units in 1863. A number of units were recruited in Helena, and additional units were recruited in Little Rock (Pulaski County) after that …

Abrams, Annie Mable McDaniel

Annie Mable McDaniel Abrams is a retired educator and a political, social, civic, and community activist in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She was instrumental in campaigns to rename various Little Rock streets in honor of Daisy Bates and Mayor Charles Bussey. Most notably, she was a leader in the campaign resulting in the renaming of High Street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and in the institution of Little Rock’s first Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. Annie McDaniel was born on September 25, 1931, in Arkadelphia (Clark County). She is the eldest of four children born to Queen Victoria Annie Katherine Reed. McDaniel’s father died when she was eighteen months old, and she was reared with the help …

Act 151 of 1859

aka: Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State
aka: Arkansas's Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859
The Arkansas General Assembly passed a bill in February 1859 that banned the residency of free African-American or mixed-race (“mulatto”) people anywhere within the bounds of the state of Arkansas. In 1846, the Statutes of Arkansas had legally defined mulatto as anyone who had one grandparent who was Negro. Free Negroes were categorized as “black” in the 1850 U.S. Census, so historians have adopted the term “free black” to refer to Negroes or mulattoes who were not enslaved. On February 12, 1859, Governor Elias N. Conway, who had supported removal, signed the bill into law, which required such free black people to leave the state by January 1, 1860, or face sale into slavery for a period of one year. …

Adair, Benjamin Frank

Benjamin Frank Adair, born a slave in Phillips County, established a legal practice in central Arkansas in the late 1800s and was elected to the Arkansas General Assembly. There, he supported the Separate Coach Law of 1891 (a Jim Crow law requiring separate coaches on railway trains for white and black passengers)—the only black legislator to do so. His reputation was later damaged when he engaged in embezzlement and fraud. Benjamin F. Adair was born a slave in 1852 in the Silver Creek Township of Phillips County. His mother, Charlotte, a Virginia-born slave, was owned by Benjamin F. Adair Sr., a white planter and the father of Adair. After the passage of Act 151 of 1859, a law demanding that …

African American Perspectives Northeast Arkansas

The quarterly African American Perspectives Northeast Arkansas magazine was established in Jonesboro (Craighead County) in 2007 by Diversified Publishing Company, LLC. Founding members of the publishing group included Drs. Lonnie R. Williams, George Grant, and Glen Jones, who were administrators at Arkansas State University (ASU), and community leaders, Everett Fair and Emma Agnew. Agnew served as editor for the first five years until Williams assumed a co-editing role during the last two years of publication, 2011–2013. Four seasonal issues were published each year, and content consisted of feature articles from various contributing writers as well as advertising. Standing columns included an African-American business directory, church directory, and calendar of events. According to its vision statement, Perspectives was created to uplift …

African Americans

African Americans constitute 15.4 percent of Arkansas’s population, according to the 2010 census, and they have been present in the state since the earliest days of European settlement. Originally brought to Arkansas in large numbers as slaves, people of African ancestry drove the state’s plantation economy until long after the Civil War. African Americans have exerted a profound influence upon all aspects of the state’s history and culture. European Exploration and Settlement through Early Statehood In August 1721, a party of Frenchmen employed by John Law’s Compagnie d’Occident established a new colony near the banks of the Arkansas River, a few leagues upstream from where it empties into the Mississippi River. Shortly thereafter, French colonial officials conducted a census for …

African Methodist Episcopal Church

The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after white Methodist Episcopalians at the city’s St. George Chapel forced those of African descent out of the congregation in 1787. This led to the dedication of the first AME chapel, Bethel AME, in 1794. However, the AME was not represented in Arkansas until 1863 after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Arkansas’s earliest AME congregation formed under the leadership of the Reverend Nathan Warren. Warren, reared a slave in the District of Columbia, arrived in Arkansas in 1819 with Robert Crittenden, who served as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Upon Crittenden’s death in 1834, Warren purchased his freedom from the family, married, and lived as …

Alexander, John Hanks

John Hanks Alexander was the second African-American graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, following Henry O. Flipper. John Alexander was born on January 6, 1864, the son of James Milo Alexander and Fannie Miller Alexander, both of whom were born slaves. Supported and protected by prominent white families in Helena (Phillips County),  Alexander’s father prospered as a barber and dealer in toiletries, acquired property, and purchased his own freedom, as well as that of most of his family. Alexander’s parents were determined that their seven children would be educated. All seven graduated from high school, and three attended Oberlin College in Ohio. In 1879, Alexander graduated from high school in Helena at the head of his …

Alexander, Larry Dell

Larry Dell Alexander is a visual artist, writer, and Bible teacher best known for his elaborate pen-and-ink drawings and crosshatching technique. He painted Clinton Family Portrait, an oil painting that he gave to President Bill Clinton in 1995. He has also written several Bible study commentary books on the New Testament. Larry D. Alexander was born on May 30, 1953, in Dermott (Chicot County), the second son of Robert and Janie Alexander. His father was a truck driver and his mother a hairdresser. He has eight siblings. Alexander began drawing at age four and never received any formal art training while growing up. After graduating from Dermott High School in May 1971, Alexander moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where …

Allen, Dick

aka: Richard Anthony Allen
Richard Anthony “Dick” Allen—or “Richie” Allen, as the media called him early in his career—was the first African American to play for the minor league baseball team based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). That same year, 1963, official baseball records first recognized the team’s name change from the Little Rock Travelers to the Arkansas Travelers. After one season in Little Rock, Allen had a memorable, though controversial, career in the major leagues. Dick Allen was born on March 8, 1942, in Wampum, Pennsylvania, the second youngest of nine children born to Era Allen and Coy Allen, a traveling truck driver and self-employed sanitation worker who later divorced her. Era Allen raised Dick Allen primarily on her own. Allen’s family was …

Alley, Gerald Byron

Gerald Byron Alley is the founder of Con-Real, LP, which is the leading black-owned construction and real estate firm in Texas, with other offices located in Arkansas and California. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 2020. Gerald Alley was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on September 30, 1952. He was the youngest of five children of Troy Alley, a local businessman who started the Alley ESSO Service Station, and Gladys Gray Alley, an educator who had taught at Philander Smith College before marriage. After attending local public and private schools, and working in his father’s station, Alley enrolled in the University of Arkansas (UA) in …

Allison, Luther

Blues guitarist and singer Luther Allison was born in Arkansas, but like many of his contemporaries in the rural South, he rose to fame in cities far from his original home. His style exemplified the soulful blues of the west side of Chicago, Illinois, where he moved with his family as a child. Later, in 1977, when the popularity of the blues faded in the United States, he began touring Europe extensively and became an international star. Born in Widener (St. Francis County) on August 17, 1939, Luther Allison was the fourteenth of fifteen children, all of whom were musically inclined, born to parents who were cotton farmers. He was exposed to gospel music as a young child, although he …

Altheimer, Joshua

Joshua Altheimer was one of the Delta’s most prolific blues pianists. Altheimer mastered the emerging boogie-woogie style of the 1930s as he accompanied some of the legendary blues musicians of his era. Joshua Altheimer was born on May 17, 1911, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Silas Altheimer and Verdis Pruitt Barnes Altheimer. He played his first years in Arkansas, performing during the late 1920s. It is not clear whether Altheimer knew blues legend “Big Bill” Broonzy during this period, who was from his home county and who was raised just a few miles from where he was born. By the 1930s, Altheimer had moved to Chicago, Illinois, and was playing with the likes of John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson, Washboard Sam, …

Anderson, Daisy

Educator, author, and lecturer Daisy Graham Anderson is best known for being one of the last surviving widows of the American Civil War (1861–1865), having been married to a former slave and U.S. Colored Regiment soldier and Union veteran. In 1998, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Daisy Graham was born about 1900 in Civil District 8, Hardin County, Tennessee, to John Wesley Graham and Alice Graham. She was the oldest of the eight Graham children (three girls and five boys). Her father was a farmer. Even though he was poor, he owned his home. Education was stressed to the children—both Graham’s mother and father could read and write. After graduating …

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 …

Angelou, Maya

aka: Marguerite Annie Johnson
Maya Angelou was an internationally renowned bestselling author, poet, actor, and performer, as well as a pioneering activist for the rights of African Americans and of women. Her first published book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), was an autobiographical account of her childhood, including the ten years she lived in Stamps (Lafayette County) with her grandmother. The popular and critical success of the book was the foundation of her career as an author and public figure, as well as the basis of her identification as an Arkansas author. She was in the first group of inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1993. She held over fifty honorary university degrees, along with many other awards recognizing her accomplishments in the …

Anti-miscegenation Laws

Anti-miscegenation laws were edicts that made it unlawful for African Americans and white people to marry or engage each other in intimate relationships. The measures first appeared in the United States in colonial times and had two functions. First, the laws helped maintain the racial caste system necessary for the expansion of slavery and the idea of white supremacy. If white masters took slave women as lovers and fathered children by them, anti-miscegenation laws ensured that the children remained slaves because the illicit nature of the relationships left biracial children with none of their father’s free status. Second, anti-miscegenation statutes gave white men greater power to control the sexual choices of white women. In the colonial period, white patriarchs used …

Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World

The “Appeal of the Arkansas Exiles to Christians throughout the World” was a plea for assistance written by twelve free African Americans expelled from Arkansas after the passage of Act 151 of 1859 (also known as the Act to Remove the Free Negroes and Mulattos from the State or Arkansas’s Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859). The authors of the appeal left Arkansas on or about January 1, 1860, and arrived, with several others, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 3, 1860. The exodus from Arkansas displaced an estimated 800 free blacks from an approximate population of 1,000 who resided in the state prior to 1860. Of the 800 free blacks who were expelled, as many as 200 were believed to …

Argenta Race Riot of 1906

aka: Lynching of Homer G. Blackman
Ignited by the slayings of two black men in separate incidents the previous month, racial animosity flared up in Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County) in early October 1906, leading to the violent deaths of three more men over four days, including the lynching of Homer G. Blackman, a black restaurateur. Local authorities imposed martial law and provided additional officers in an effort to quell hostilities. However, before order was restored, half a block of commercial buildings on East Washington Avenue burned down, two African-American residences went up in flames, and scores of black families temporarily left the city as armed men roamed the streets. The two major newspapers in Little Rock, the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas …

Arkadelphia Baptist Academy

The Arkadelphia Baptist Academy in Arkadelphia (Clark County) was one of many schools founded across the South by the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which was headquartered in New York. Beginning in 1865, the northern Baptists joined other denominations in the effort to educate the recently freed slaves across the South. In an article published in the New York Times in 1897, the society’s corresponding secretary, General Thomas J. Morgan, noted that, after the war, “the problem presented itself of the intellectual elevation of 4,000,000 human beings, just emerging from a degrading bondage.” During the thirty-two-year period between the end of the war and Morgan’s statements, the Home Mission Society had spent about $3 million, and its more than thirty institutions …

Arkadelphia Lynching of 1879

aka: Lynching of Daniels Family
In late January 1879, Ben Daniels and two of his sons—who were accused of robbery, arson, and assault—were lynched in Arkadelphia (Clark County). There is some confusion as to the actual date of the lynching. A January 31 report in the Arkansas Gazette said only that it had happened several days previous. The Cincinnati Daily Star reported that it took place on Sunday night, which would have been January 26. The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, reported that the lynching occurred on Friday, January 24. At the time of the 1870 census (nine years before the incident), thirty-three-year-old Benjamin (Ben) Daniels was living in Manchester Township of Clark County with his wife, Betsy, and eight children. His older sons were Charles (thirteen …

Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy

Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy, located in Arkadelphia (Clark County), was a co-educational elementary and secondary school operated by the Presbyterian Board of Missions for Freedmen. This board was part of the “Northern” Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), which founded schools for African Americans across the South after the Civil War. The board began opening schools for freed slaves as early as the 1860s, but the movement arrived late in Arkansas. It was not until 1889, when a new presbytery was organized in the state and large numbers of blacks from the eastern states were settling in Arkansas, that the board felt confident to begin its work in the state. The academy in Arkadelphia had earlier roots, however. According to historian Inez Moore Parker, it was …

Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case

aka: Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers (Trial and Execution of)
aka: Caruthers, James X., and Bubbles Clayton (Trial and Execution of)
The trial and conviction of African-American farm laborers Bubbles Clayton and James X. Caruthers for the rape of a white woman, Virgie Terry, in Mississippi County drew national attention to the Arkansas criminal justice system and became widely known as the Arkansas “Scottsboro” Case. Clayton, age twenty-one, and Caruthers, age nineteen, were arrested at Blytheville (Mississippi County) in January 1935 and charged as suspects in the armed robberies of couples in parked cars. Their arrest followed an incident in which Sheriff Clarence Wilson was injured in an attempted robbery while in a parked car near the Blytheville country club. Taken from the county jail by authorities on pretense of protection from mob violence, the two men were beaten with rubber …

Arkansas Association of Colored Women

aka: Arkansas Association of Colored Women’s and Girls Federated Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women’s Clubs, Inc.
aka: Arkansas Association of Women, Youth, and Young Adults Clubs, Inc.
The Arkansas Association of Colored Women (AACW) was organized in 1905. Affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), which was founded in 1896, the AACW adopted the national organization’s motto, “Lifting as We Climb,” and was dedicated to improving conditions in African-American communities throughout Arkansas. Its members were middle-class, educated black women from all over Arkansas. Some AACW members also held offices in the national organization. For example, Fort Smith (Sebastian County) resident Mame Josenberger (who was a member of the Phillis Wheatley Club, one of the earliest black women’s clubs in Arkansas, founded in Fort Smith in 1898) was AACW state president from 1929 to 1931 and had served as the NACW’s auditor in the 1920s. The …

Arkansas Black Hall of Fame

The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame was founded in 1992 by Charles O. Stewart and Patricia Y. Goodwin as a means of recognizing the best and brightest African Americans with Arkansas roots. The first induction ceremony was held on October 30, 1993, in the exhibition hall of Robinson Auditorium. Each year, six inductees from diverse fields of endeavor are recognized for their contribution to African-American culture and to the nation. In 1998, seven inductees were selected. Nominations are received from across the country offering recommendation for induction into the hall. The board of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, after a comprehensive review of the submitted nominations, makes the final selection of inductees. Past honorees have included writers, singers, actors, …

Arkansas Council on Human Relations (ACHR)

A key facilitator in the desegregation of public schools and businesses in the state, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations (ACHR) was formed in December 1954 out of the reorganization of the board of the Arkansas branch of the grassroots organization, the Southern Regional Council. Initial funding came from a grant, via the Southern Regional Council, from the Ford Foundation, as well as the assistance of Fred K. Darragh Jr., a noted Arkansas agribusiness leader and philanthropist. In the wake of the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision, Nat Griswold, the first director, recognized two basic problems hampering efforts to desegregate Arkansas’s public facilities: white opposition to integration and political disunity among African Americans. The …

Arkansas Freeman

The Arkansas Freeman, which began publication on August 21, 1869, was the first newspaper in Arkansas printed by an African American and focusing upon the black community. It was in publication for less than one year, having become symptomatic of the divisions within the Republican Party, particularly where African Americans were involved. The idea to found a black press was approved on June 20, 1869, by a committee of African Americans, led by local advocate Jerome Lewis, at Wesley Chapel Methodist Church on the campus of Philander Smith College; a dinner was later held at the City Hall of Little Rock (Pulaski County) to raise funds to establish a newspaper. The committee included several ministers and community leaders who felt …

Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association

The Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association (AMDPA) was founded in 1893 by a group of African-American medical professionals. Barred from joining local white medical societies and the American Medical Association (AMA), black medical professionals organized their own local associations and national organization. Trained medical providers began moving into the Arkansas Territory around 1820. In the early 1880s, and in concert with trends in other states, several black physicians organized their own “Colored Medical Association.” These medical professionals were not only interested in the mutual recognition and fraternity offered by the organization; they were also genuinely concerned about the poor state of health among African Americans and the failure of white physicians to adequately address these healthcare needs. In 1893, …

Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA)

The Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA) was founded in 1928 by Little Rock (Pulaski County) physician John Marshall Robinson, who served as president until 1952, and a number of other prominent black professionals. Between 1928 and 1952, ANDA was the leading voice of black Arkansas Democrats in the state. Although ANDA tackled a number of issues concerned with racial discrimination, its principal focus was on winning the right for black citizens to participate in the activities of the Arkansas Democratic Party, especially its primary elections. In Arkansas, the payment of a one-dollar poll tax qualified a person to vote, irrespective of race. But exclusion from state Democratic Party primary elections significantly disfranchised black voters since that party dominated state politics. …

Arkansas State Capitol, Desegregation of the

In 1964, Ozell Sutton, an African-American man, sought to exercise his right to eat at the Arkansas State Capitol cafeteria. Initially turned away, he later successfully sued in the courts for service without discrimination. The state’s attempt to privatize the cafeteria and thereby avoid desegregation was ruled unlawful. Nonviolent direct action demonstrations by students and a petition from local white clergy helped to speed the case through the courts. On July 15, 1964, Sutton attempted to eat a meal in the Arkansas State Capitol cafeteria in the basement of the building. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required the desegregation of public accommodations, had become national law just two weeks earlier. However, Sutton was refused service. On July 21, the capitol cafeteria …

Arkansas State Press

The weekly Arkansas State Press newspaper was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1941 by civil rights pioneers Lucious Christopher Bates and Daisy Gatson Bates. Modeled on the Chicago Defender and other Northern, African-American publications of the era—such as The Crisis, a magazine of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP)—the State Press was primarily concerned with advocacy journalism. Articles and editorials about civil rights often ran on the front page. Throughout its existence, the State Press was the largest statewide African-American newspaper in Arkansas. More significantly, its militant stance in favor of civil rights was unique among publications produced in Arkansas. Although in later years, Daisy Bates would be recognized as co-publisher of the paper and, in fact, …