Entries - Race and Ethnicity: African American - Starting with D

Daisy Bates et al. v. City of Little Rock

aka: Bates v. City of Little Rock
Daisy Bates et al. v. City of Little Rock, 361 U.S. 516 (1960) was a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a number of the state’s local ordinances that had been enacted in an effort to harass and hamper the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other civil rights advocates. It was one of a series of cases that arose when the region’s local white power structure—seeking to fight back against the federal court decisions and black activist–sponsored direct action that threatened to bring an end to the South’s longtime legally mandated Jim Crow practices—undertook harassment campaigns against the civil rights leaders. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), this harassment took …

Davis, Anthony (Lynching of)

Anthony Davis, an African-American man, was lynched in Texarkana (Miller County) on October 9, 1906, reportedly by other local black residents. The alleged crime was the assault of a teenaged girl. Davis was described in news reports as a “negro hack driver” (driver of a hackney carriage for hire) who was forty years old and had a wife and three children. A week before his murder, he was arrested for reportedly assaulting a “fifteen-year-old mulatto girl,” according to the Arkansas Gazette, though national newspapers placed her age at sixteen. The unnamed girl was en route from Baxter (Drew County) to Crockett, Texas, and had asked Davis to ferry her from one depot to another. However, he drove her outside the …

Davis, Danny K.

Danny K. Davis is an Arkansas-born politician who has represented the Seventh District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives for almost two decades. First elected in 1996 to the 105th Congress, he began his congressional service in 1997. In 2014, Davis was reelected to the 114th Congress, beginning his tenth term in January 2015. Davis was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1998. Daniel K. Davis was born in Parkdale (Ashley County) on September 6, 1941, to Hezekiah Davis and Mazzie Davis. He received his early education in the local schools before graduating from Savage High School in 1957. After earning his BA in history from Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas at …

Davis, Ellis CeDell

Ellis CeDell Davis was a blues musician and recording artist who helped bring blues from its rural Southern roots into the twenty-first century. He employed a unique slide guitar style and performed the traditional Delta blues he learned growing up in and around Helena (Phillips County). Although he was a longtime professional musician, recordings of his music were not available until 1983. In the late twentieth century, he recorded several albums and became a favorite with a new generation of blues fans. CeDell Davis was born on June 9, 1926, in Helena, where his mother worked as a cook but was also known as a faith healer. At age four, Davis went to live with relatives on the E. M. …

Davis, Erma Lee Glasco

Erma Lee Glasco Davis is a historian, civic leader, and educator. She is best known for preserving and communicating the legacy of her alma mater, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and Junior College (the building is in use in the twenty-first century as Dunbar Magnet Middle School), and highlighting the impact this historically black institution had in Arkansas. She is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Erma Lee Glasco was born on December 31, 1928, in Eagle Township of Pulaski County, near Keo (Lonoke County), to Anderson Glasco and Rodelia Glasco. Her father was a stone and masonry contractor, a deacon at Mount Zion Baptist Church, a member of the Arkansas Minority Contractors Association, and a former …

Davis, Gregory A.

Gregory A. Davis is the founder of Davis Broadcasting, a regional media company that owns several radio stations in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia; the stations range from urban contemporary and gospel to sports and Spanish-language formats. Davis serves as the president and CEO of Davis Broadcasting. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year that marked the thirtieth anniversary of the company he founded. Gregory Davis was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1948. His mother was an educator at the local black school, and his father worked in a bakery before opening a shoeshine parlor. He attended twelve years of Catholic school, graduating from St. Anne’s Academy, where he was the …

Davis, Howard (Lynching of)

On October 25, 1914, a mob in Newport (Jackson County) took an African-American man named Howard Davis from county authorities and hanged him for allegedly murdering Marshal James S. Payne. Davis was supposedly assisted in the murder by an accomplice, John Woodard. Some national reporting indicates that there may have been at least one more accomplice. While there is no information available on Davis or Woodard, or on Bob Griffin, to whose house Davis fled after the shooting, Payne was apparently a popular resident of Newport. He was forty-three years old at the time of these events and had a wife and five children. Born in Missouri in 1871, he married Parlee Belford in 1892, and by 1900 they were …

Davis, L. Clifford

L. Clifford Davis is an attorney whose active participation in the legal challenges of the civil rights movement began when he first sought admission to the all-white University of Arkansas School of Law. That effort was the precursor to a distinguished career in the legal profession, one that included two decades of service as a judge in the Texas court system. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2007. L. Clifford Davis was born on October 12, 1924, in Wilton (Little River County). The youngest of seven children of Augustus Davis and Dora Duckett Davis, he was raised on the family farm and received his early education in the Wilton schools. As the town’s educational offerings …

Davis, Lawrence Arnette, Sr.

Lawrence A. Davis Sr. served as president of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N) from 1943 until his resignation in 1973. During his tenure, he oversaw the school’s 1972 transition from college to university status as part of the University of Arkansas System. The merger entailed a name change to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), and Davis served one year as UAPB’s first chancellor. During his long tenure, Davis, whom Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) residents and students at AM&N affectionately called “Prexy,” was among the most prominent heads of a historically black college (HBC) in the country. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1996. Lawrence Arnette Davis was born on July …

Davis, Lovett (Lynching of)

Early on the morning of May 25, 1909, an African-American man named Lovett Davis was hanged in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for an alleged assault on a young woman named Amy Holmes. Although the Arkansas Gazette reported that Davis was from Atlanta, Georgia, and had relatives there, public records provide no information to confirm this. Amy Holmes was living in Pine Bluff with her uncle, railroad conductor H. Knowlton Padgett. Holmes was the daughter of Knowlton’s older sister, Harriett, who died in Batesville (Independence County) in 1893. She was still living with the Padgetts in 1910. According to the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, Davis, described as a “big burly negro,” was a suspect in several robberies in Pine Bluff. Intent …

Davis, William Delford (Willie)

Willie Davis was a millionaire business executive, civic leader, and former football standout who grew up in Miller County. Davis achieved athletic success in football at the high school, college, and professional levels. After retiring from a National Football League (NFL) career of twelve seasons (1958–1969), he moved into the business world, where he attained equal success. Davis was a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. William Delford (Willie) Davis was born on July 24, 1934, in Lisbon, Louisiana, to David and Nodie Davis. After his parents separated when he was eight, his mother moved the family to Texarkana (Miller County). His mother supported the family by working as a cook at the Texarkana Country Club. Willie Davis …

Dean, Arthur (Lynching of)

On September 9, 1911, a twenty-three-year-old African-American man named Arthur Dean was lynched in Augusta (Woodruff County) for a crime spree that ended in the alleged murder of a white woman named Mrs. Albert Vaughan. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Dean had earlier been convicted of assault and had been released from the penitentiary two weeks before the crime spree. On the morning of September 8, he went to the home of Tom Ligon, an African-American farmer who lived five miles east of Augusta. This was perhaps Thomas Ligon, listed on the 1920 census as a tenant farmer living in Augusta with his wife, Mary, and six children aged thirteen and under. While at Ligon’s home, Arthur Dean encountered an …

Denton, Herbert Jr.

Herbert Denton Jr. was a leading African-American journalist at the Washington Post. Raised in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of a prominent public educator, Denton became the first person of color to hold a supervisory position at the Post. During his career, Denton reported for the metro, national, and foreign desks; served as both Maryland and District editor; hired and mentored a generation of minority journalists (especially African Americans and women); and built a potent legacy of journalistic excellence at the Washington Post. Herbert H. Denton Jr. was born on July 10, 1943, in Muncie, Indiana, the first of four children of Herbert Denton Sr. and Lucille Battle Denton. “Herbert Junior” spent part of his infancy in Arkadelphia (Clark …

Devoe and Huntley (Lynching of)

aka: Huntley and Devoe (Lynching of)
In early January 1898, two African Americans named Devoe and Huntley (no first names were given in the reports) were allegedly lynched near Bearden (Ouachita County) for an attempted assault on an elderly woman there a year earlier. They were apparently lynched in two different incidents, and as the authorities maintained they had escaped, few details are available. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Devoe and Huntley had attempted to assault an elderly woman named Mrs. Paine near Bearden approximately a year before the alleged lynchings. They fled the scene, but in early January 1898, Devoe returned to the Bearden area and was arrested by J. D. Best and Frank Butler. They asked him where Huntley was, and when he refused …

DeWitt Lynching of 1891

On December 21, 1891, a mob of masked men entered the jail in DeWitt (Arkansas County) and shot three men: Floyd McGregory (sometimes written as Gregory) and his father-in-law, J. A. Smith (who were both white), as well as Mose Henderson (who was African American). The three men had been put in jail for plotting to kill Smith’s wife, who had divorced him and received one-third of his property in the settlement. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Smith’s wife, Mary, divorced him because “he was unkind to her, and abandoned her companionship for that of negroes.” The case was bitterly fought, but in the end, she received damages as part of the settlement, and her former husband objected. Smith enlisted …

Dixon, Martha

Martha Smith Dixon is an internationally recognized clothing designer and entrepreneur. Her designs of couture gowns worn by Hillary Clinton during Clinton’s husband’s 1987 gubernatorial inauguration and 1993 presidential inauguration helped launch her career in fashion design and sales. Dixon is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Martha Smith was born in Clark County on February 2, 1946, the seventeenth of twenty children of James G. Smith and Beatrice Cook Smith, impoverished cotton pickers and sharecroppers in the South Central community in Clark County. She attended public school in Gurdon (Clark County) when work allowed and graduated from Peake High School in Arkadelphia (Clark County) in 1965. The first in her family to attend college, she spent …

Dodd, Frank (Lynching of)

Frank Dodd was lynched in DeWitt (Arkansas County) on October 8, 1916, by a mob of about 300. He had reportedly insulted two white women the previous day. Dodd was the second man taken from the jail at DeWitt and lynched in as many months, though the previous mob had taken its victim to Stuttgart (Arkansas County) to be murdered. The exact identity of Dodd is difficult to determine, however. In the 1910 census, there is an African-American man named Frank Dodd living in Drew County with his wife, Isabella, but by the following census year she is living with her family and going by her maiden name; he apparently disappears from the record. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Dodd …

Donaldson, Jeffrey Richardson (Jeff)

Jeffrey Richardson Donaldson was an important and influential African-American artist and art educator during the second half of the twentieth century. Working within the context of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and beyond, Donaldson pioneered a distinctively Afrocentric—or, using the term he coined, “TransAfrican”—aesthetic that championed the societal contributions of African Americans and, as an artistic counterpart to the Black Power Movement, challenged white hegemony. Jeff Donaldson was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on December 15, 1932, the youngest of four siblings. His parents were Sidney Frank Donaldson Sr. and Clementine Frances Richardson Donaldson. Donaldson’s father, a laborer and World War I veteran, died early in Donaldson’s youth. His widowed mother supported the family by working first as a …

Donnelly, Robert (Lynching of)

Robert Donnelly, an African-American man, was lynched in Lee County on June 29, 1892, by a mob of more than 200 other African Americans. His alleged crime was the repeated assault of a twelve-year-old black girl. While black-on-black lynchings were rare, historian Karlos Hill asserts that many of those that occurred shared a number of similarities. Most of the victims were young, married males who worked as farm laborers. Many of the victims were also connected with plantation societies, communities where everyone knew each other and which were inclined to punish their own criminals. Many of the thinly populated areas in the Arkansas Delta were similar to frontier areas, where violence was rampant and white officials were unresponsive, especially to …

Dove v. Parham

Dove v. Parham was a federal desegregation lawsuit filed in the fall of 1959 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas. The suit was filed by attorney George Howard Jr. on behalf of three African-American students who were denied transfer to the all-white Dollarway School District. The lawsuit would eventually reach the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The saga of Dove v. Parham began in 1954 when a member of the Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), William Dove, along with a small group of African-American citizens, requested that the Dollarway School District desegregate. The group’s request was denied. In 1957, Dove repeated his request to transfer his five …

Driftwood (Lawrence County)

Driftwood is a historic African-American community located in Morgan Township on Highway 361 about four miles east of Strawberry (Lawrence County) and about two and a half miles south of Lynn (Lawrence County). The Black River and its alluvial bottomland are about two and a half miles to the east. In its early days of settlement, Driftwood was referred to as Morgan Creek; it was also often referred to as “Little Africa,” as it had an estimated fifty farm families, mostly African American, living there at one time in its history. The black farmers in the area, most of whom worked on the Sloan Plantation near Black Rock, were given the proverbial “forty acres and a mule” by James F. …

Duke, Charles Sumner

A trailblazing African-American architect and engineer, Charles Sumner Duke not only designed unique public structures, but he also fought for housing rights and educational opportunities for African Americans. His powerful legacy continues in the buildings he designed, as well as in the organization he formed to facilitate the development of engineering and technological skills in youth of color. Charles Sumner Duke was born in Selma, Alabama, on July 21, 1879. His father, Jesse Duke, was the editorial writer and publisher for a local newspaper, The Herald. His mother, Willie Black Duke, was from a family of established businessmen. It was a financially secure family, allowing Duke and his siblings to take advantage of opportunities that many others in the black …

Dumas, Henry

Henry Dumas was a critically acclaimed author of poetry and fiction who captured, in some of his finest work, many of his childhood experiences as an African American living in southern Arkansas. Henry Dumas was born on July 20, 1934, in Sweet Home (Pulaski County), sometimes called Sweetwater, and he continued to live there until he moved with his family to Harlem when he was ten years old. Almost no information about Dumas’s childhood is available, yet his life in the deep South and the desolate conditions confronting black Southerners in that era are insightfully depicted in several of his writings, including his widely admired short story, “Goodbye, Sweetwater.” Dumas graduated from Harlem’s Commerce High School in 1953 and then …

Dye, “Aunt Caroline”

aka: Caroline Tracy Dye
Caroline Tracy Dye, better known as “Aunt Caroline,” was a highly respected seer whose name was recognized in Arkansas and the Mid-South in the early years of the twentieth century. The fact that she was an uneducated African American made her popularity at the time all the more unusual. Caroline Tracy’s parents’ names are unknown, and there has been an abundance of conflicting information through the years about her date of birth and early life. A 1918 obituary described her as being eighteen years of age at the start of the Civil War, which would put her born around 1843; however, the 1880 census records age as twenty-seven, which would put her birth year at 1843. Her tombstone records her …