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

Garland, Mamie Odessa Hale

Mamie Odessa Hale Garland served as midwife consultant for the Arkansas Department of Health from 1945 to 1950 and is credited with training the state’s elderly and illiterate “granny midwives” to ensure that they knew the proper techniques to manage the medical aspects of pregnancy, labor, and delivery and could complete birth certificates. Her contributions led to Arkansas’s improved maternal/infant mortality rates and regulation of midwives. Mamie Odessa Hale was born November 19, 1910, in Keeny’s Creek, West Virginia. She was the third child born to Emanuel Hale and Minnie Maude Creasy Hale. In 1941, Hale attended the Tuskegee School of Nurse-Midwifery for Colored Nurses in Alabama, a program sponsored by the Children’s Bureau; a bachelor’s degree was required to …

George Berry Washington Memorial

The George Berry Washington Memorial, located near Earle (Crittenden County), is the burial place of a man born a slave who rose to become an African-American social leader and one of the largest landowners in the county in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. George Washington Jr. was born on December 25, 1864, the son of George Washington and Hanna Washington. His parents were both born in Kentucky and were possibly the slaves of James G. Berry, one of Crittenden County’s largest landowners, who moved to Arkansas from Kentucky as early as 1833. In May 1883, Washington—who now went by the name George Berry Washington—married eighteen-year-old Ella Rostelle. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1886 and a second daughter, …

Gibbs, Mifflin Wistar

Mifflin Wistar Gibbs was a Little Rock (Pulaski County) businessman, a politician, and the first elected African-American municipal judge in the United States. Mifflin Gibbs was born on April 17, 1823, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children born to Jonathan and Maria Gibbs. His father, a Methodist minister, died when Mifflin was a child, and his mother worked as a laundress. Gibbs learned carpentry through an apprenticeship. He read widely and attended debates at the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons. He had a chance to practice his own oratory in the 1840s when Frederick Douglass invited him to help conduct an abolitionist lecture tour. Journeying to California soon after the gold rush of 1849, he became a …

Gibson, J. W. (Murder of)

On December 23, 1920, in what one newspaper called “One of the most dreadful tragedies that the Negroes of the City of Helena has [sic] ever been called on to witness,” Professor J. W. Gibson was killed by a night watchman in Helena (Phillips County). Depending on how the word “lynching” is interpreted, this may have been an incident of police brutality, or Professor Gibson may in fact have been lynched. The Arkansas Gazette filed no report on Gibson’s death. The only national coverage appears to be a rather belated report in the Dallas Express, an African-American newspaper published in Texas. Not much is known about Gibson. According to the Express, not only did Gibson teach in Helena, but he …

Giles, Albert

Albert Giles was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six (including Giles) who became known as the Ware defendants—were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Ultimately, the Ware defendants were freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court in 1923; after numerous legal efforts, the Moore defendants were released in 1925. Albert Giles was born in Louisiana on November 22, 1898, to Sallie T. Giles and an unidentified father. He moved to Phillips County, Arkansas, sometime in the early 1900s and was residing in Elaine (Phillips County) when he was drafted into the U.S. military on September …

Gillam, Isaac Taylor

Isaac Taylor Gillam was an important African-American leader in post–Civil War Little Rock (Pulaski County). His service on the Little Rock City Council, the Arkansas General Assembly, and as Pulaski County coroner typified the strong interest black freedmen took in politics and elections for decades after the Civil War. Isaac Gillam was born a slave in Hardin County, Tennessee. His birth date is unknown, but based upon surviving documents, he was probably born in 1839. Little is known of his life until September 15, 1863, when he enlisted in the Union army at Little Rock, five days after the city fell to Union troops. Gillam served in Company I, Second Regiment, Arkansas Infantry (later renamed Company I, Fifty-fourth Regiment, U.S. …

Gilmore, Felix (Lynching of)

On May 26, 1916, Felix Gilmore (sometimes referred to as Felix/Phelix Gilman or Gillmore) was hanged by a mob near Prescott (Nevada County) for allegedly attempting to assault a seventeen-year-old girl. At the time of the federal census in 1910 (six years before the incident), Gilmore was listed as a ten-year-old African American living in Prescott with his parents, Frank and Pearl Gilmore. His father was working in a sawmill, and his mother was a washerwoman. They were renting their home, and they could all read and write. If the census record is correct, Gilmore was only sixteen at the time of his death, although newspapers reported him to be older. He had apparently been in trouble before. According to …

Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters

Gladys McFadden and the Loving Sisters were an African-American gospel group based in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At its artistic peak in the 1970s, the group’s adventurous, contemporary style put its sound outside the realm of traditional gospel music. The group—which included McFadden as well as Jo Dumas, Ann James, and Lorraine Leeks—was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Gladys McFadden was born on September 10, 1934, in Little Rock. Her father, Aaron Williams, was a pastor, and her mother coached their church choir. McFadden sang in that choir until age nine, when she founded a group she christened the Loving Sisters, as the group included one of McFadden’s sisters, as well as a friend who …

Great Migration

Between the 1920s and the 1970s, more than 14 million Americans left their rural homes in search of jobs and new opportunities. Known as the Great Migration, this exodus represents one of the largest internal resettlements in American history. Arkansas played a leading role in this development, as the state lost more people than any other; more than 1.2 million left during this period. In fact, Arkansas had witnessed steady population decline since the 1890s, and, according to U.S. census records, lost people in every decade of the twentieth century until 1970. Migration out of Arkansas was largely caused by two factors: the lack of high-paying jobs (which tended to drive out educated Arkansans) and the lack of available arable …

Green, Al

Al Green is one of Arkansas’s best-known singers, with a career that has ranged from rhythm and blues (R&B) to pop to gospel and a combination. Green’s distinctive falsetto singing style continues to thrill fans old and young, and he remains an active soul singer from an era that also produced Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye. Al Greene (he later dropped the last “e”) was born on April 13, 1946, in Forrest City (St. Francis County) and grew up in a large family that sang gospel music. When his sharecropper father moved the family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Green was only nine but sang with his siblings in the Green Brothers. When he began listening to the non-gospel …

Green, Ernest Gideon

Ernest Gideon Green made history as the only senior of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who, in 1957, desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Green’s place in Arkansas’s civil rights history was solidified when he became the first African American to graduate from the previously all-white Central High School. Ernest Green was born in Little Rock on September 22, 1941, to Lothaire and Ernest Green Sr. Green has two siblings: one brother, Scott, and one sister, Treopia Washington An active member of the community from an early age, Green regularly attended church and …

Green, Marlon DeWitt

In 1963, Marlon DeWitt Green, an Arkansas-born African American and former U.S. Air Force pilot, broke the airline industry color barrier when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Continental Airlines had to comply with the State of Colorado’s anti-discrimination laws—there being no conflict with any federal statute—and required that the company hire him. He has been described as the “Jackie Robinson of the airline industry” for overcoming discrimination to become the first black pilot hired by a regularly scheduled commercial passenger airline. Marlon D. Green was born on June 6, 1929, in El Dorado (Union County) to McKinley Green, who was a domestic worker, and Lucy Longmyre Green, a homemaker. He had four siblings. Despite growing up economically disadvantaged, Green …

Green, Steve

In 1910, an Arkansas tenant farmer named Steve Green fled the state to Chicago, Illinois, after allegedly killing his employer, William Sidle (sometimes referred to as Seidel or Saddle), near Jericho (Crittenden County). He narrowly escaped extradition back to Arkansas after his case was taken up by prominent African Americans in Chicago, including Ida Wells-Barnett. There is no record of Steve Green in Arkansas census records. According to an article written by W. E. B. Du Bois in the November 10, 1910, issue of The Crisis, Green was born in Tennessee in 1862 and was totally uneducated. There was an African American named Steve Green living in Civil District 15 in Shelby County, Tennessee, in 1900. He was born in …

Greene, Charles Edward

Charles Greene, born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), was a track and field champion who won the bronze medal in the 100-meter dash at the 1968 Olympic Games. He also took gold—and was part of a world-record performance—in the 4×100-meter relay in 1968. Charles Edward (Charlie) Greene was born on March 21, 1945, in Pine Bluff. Six months after his birth, his mother, Bertha Johnson, moved them to Chicago, Illinois, to escape the segregation of Pine Bluff. In January 1946, they moved to Washington State, near the Grand Coulee Dam, where she took a job as a domestic worker. Later that year, the family moved to Seattle, where his mother worked as a barber and cleaned houses part-time. Greene began …

Greenwood, L. C.

L. C. Greenwood was professional football player who starred as a defensive lineman at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) and played thirteen years in the National Football League (NFL), leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Born on August 8, 1946, in Canton, Mississippi, L. C. Henderson Greenwood was one of nine children. He started playing football at Rogers High School in Canton in order to avoid after-school chores.After graduating from high school in 1966, Greenwood received both academic and athletic scholarship offers. He turned down an offer to study pharmacy at Clarke College in Atlanta, Georgia, for the opportunity to play football in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) at Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal …

Gregory, Dick (Arrest of)

In February 1964, African-American satirist Dick Gregory was jailed in the Jefferson County Jail in Pine Bluff for attempting to eat at a segregated restaurant. Gregory, an internationally celebrated entertainer who rose to prominence in the 1960s, was also actively engaged in the civil rights movement. He was arrested a number of times in demonstrations and protests, although his arrest in Arkansas has been much less publicized. The events leading to Gregory’s arrest began on Sunday night, February 16, 1964, when he was in Pine Bluff talking to members of the Pine Bluff Movement, a local organization affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC had established a foothold in Arkansas in October 1962 when it sent white civil …

Grey, William Henry

William Henry Grey emerged as a leader of African Americans in Arkansas after he settled in Helena (Phillips County) in 1865. Never a slave himself, he was a tireless fighter for the rights of freedmen. His involvement in politics included being a Republican member of the 1868 state constitutional convention and a member of the Arkansas General Assembly, as well as serving as the Commissioner of Immigration and State Lands. In 1872, he became the first African American to address a national nominating convention, seconding the nomination of Republican presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. He was also the first Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge (Colored) of Free and Accepted Masons of Arkansas, established in 1873 from the merger …

Grice, Geleve

Capturing some of the most powerful aspects of African-American life from the mundane to the sublime, Geleve Grice established himself as Arkansas’s most prolific photographer for more than six decades. From his studio in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), Grice produced thousands of photographs over the years for a variety of special occasions, including weddings, funerals, and school graduations. Although some of his more high profile photographs were featured in national publications, the heart of Grice’s work highlighted the common people and events of southeast Arkansas. Geleve Grice was born on January 16, 1922, in Tamo (Jefferson County), a small farming town located fifteen miles from Pine Bluff. At the age of thirteen, Grice moved with his parents, Toy and Lillie, …

Griggs, Mildred Barnes

Mildred Barnes Griggs served as professor and dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and is a nationally recognized leader in the field of home economics. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Mildred Barnes was born in Marianna (Lee County) on March 11, 1942. After graduating from Robert R. Moton High School in Marianna, she studied at Arkansas AM&N College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)—which is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)—graduating in May 1963 with a degree in education. She earned graduate degrees, including a doctorate, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1967 and 1970. After joining the faculty in 1970, she …

Gross, Tabbs

Tabbs Gross was a former slave who, as a lawyer and newspaper publisher, played an active role in Arkansas politics during Reconstruction. A political gadfly, he worked hard to secure greater influence within the Republican Party for the newly freed and enfranchised African-American population. Tabbs Gross was born a slave in Kentucky in 1820. Purchasing his freedom prior to the Civil War, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he aided slaves using the Underground Railroad, both there and in New England. He also served in Cincinnati’s Black Brigade during the war. After the war, Gross continued his efforts on behalf of the former slaves, serving as the head of a local “Committee to Get Homes for Refugees.” He soon decided …

Guy v. Daniel

aka: Abby Guy v. William Daniel
Abby Guy v. William Daniel was a freedom suit and racial identity case brought before the Arkansas Supreme Court in January 1861. The case originated in the Ashley County Circuit Court in July 1855 when Abby Guy sued William Daniel, whom she said wrongfully held her and her children in slavery. According to Guy, she and her family were free white people. After a jury decided in favor of Guy, Daniel appealed the case to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which, in the end, declined to overturn the lower court’s verdict. Guy and her children were freed. Racial identity trials, in which the outcome rested on whether or not one party was white, were not unusual in the South. Guy v. …