Race and Ethnicity: African American - Starting with J

Jackson, Gertrude Newsome

Gertrude Newsome Jackson was a local activist in the Marvell (Phillips County) area who, along with her husband, Earlis, played a central role in the local civil rights movement. She was widely recognized for her long-term efforts on behalf of the community’s young people and its minority members. Gertrude Newsome was born on November 7, 1923, in Madison, Illinois, to Mitchell and Lillie Newsome. When she was seven, her paternal grandfather died, and the family moved to Gum Bottom, an area in Phillips County, Arkansas, near the Turner community, so that her father could help operate the family’s small Arkansas Delta farm. One of eleven children—six boys and five girls—she got her early education in Marvell, walking miles to a …

Jackson, Henry (Lynching of)

On October 4, 1877, an African-American man named Henry Jackson was shot by a masked mob near Watson (Desha County) for allegedly murdering a justice of the peace referred to only as Mr. O’Neil. However, the circumstances of the event speak to the broader efforts in post-Reconstruction Arkansas to remove black elected officials from office. While it is impossible to identify O’Neil, there were two African Americans named Henry Jackson living in Desha County in 1870. The first was a twenty-nine-year-old farmer living in Red Fork Township who had personal property worth $500 and real estate valued at $250. The second was a twenty-seven-year-old farmer who was living in Jefferson Township and had personal property worth $125 and real estate …

Jackson, Joseph Walter (Joe)

Joseph Walter (Joe) Jackson was a talent manager best known as the father and manager of his children’s careers, including the Jackson 5, Michael Jackson, and Janet Jackson. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Joseph Walter Jackson was born on July 26, 1928, in Fountain Hill (Ashley County). He was the oldest of five children of Samuel Joseph Jackson and Crystal Lee King. His father was a schoolteacher. Jackson remembered that his father was one of few African Americans in the area to own a car. The elite status earned his father the nickname of “Professor Jackson.” Much of Jackson’s childhood was spent in Arkansas. However, when his parents separated, he left Arkansas at the …

Jackson, Keith Jerome

Keith Jerome Jackson is a former college and professional football player and current radio broadcast color analyst for University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) football. Jackson began working with the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network in 2000. Jackson is the founder of P.A.R.K (Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids), a nonprofit after-school recreational and educational program for students. Keith Jackson was born on April 19, 1965, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and grew up in a single-parent home with his mother, Gladys Jackson. He went on to become a successful high school athlete, earning letters in football, basketball, and track at Little Rock Parkview High School. A highly recruited football player, Jackson chose to play for head coach Barry Switzer at …

James, Henry (Lynching of)

On May 14, 1892, Henry James was lynched in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for an alleged assault on five-year-old Maggie Doxey. According to the Arkansas Gazette, it was the first time in twenty years that “Little Rock [had] witnessed a mob or an attempt at enforcing mob law in this city.” James, described in some newspapers as a twenty-two-year-old “mulatto,” was originally from Augusta, Maine, but had moved south three years earlier. He worked for a time as a waiter in Hot Springs (Garland County), but for the two weeks prior to his murder, he had been working for the family of Charles Johnson in Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the family found him to be “a faithful …

Jameson, Jordan (Lynching of)

Jordan Jameson, an African-American man, was burned to death on November 11, 1919, on the town square in Magnolia (Columbia County) for having allegedly murdered the local sheriff. Only a handful of lynchings in Arkansas were carried out by means of burning the victim while alive, most notably the 1892 lynching of Ed Coy in Texarkana (Miller County), the 1919 lynching of Frank Livingston near El Dorado (Union County), and the 1921 lynching of Henry Lowery in Mississippi County. At the time of the lynching, Jameson was described in newspaper reports as fifty years old and living four miles west of Magnolia. The 1880 census records a Jourdan Jameson, born about 1872 and living in Magnolia at the time, while …

Jasper, Rickey Lane

Rickey Lane Jasper is the highest-ranking African American ever to serve in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He has also had a career as a minister, serving as a pastor at his church in the United States while pursuing seminary studies both at home and abroad. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Rickey L. Jasper was born in Parkdale (Ashley County) on July 28, 1963. His mother, Louisie Mae Grayson, and her husband, Kirt Grayson, raised him and his siblings in the small town. He graduated from Hamburg High School before heading off to college. Although he had planned to join the military after graduation, the academically inclined Jasper instead decided to join his …

Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teachers

Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teachers were funded by a $1 million endowment from the Jeanes Fund, also known as the Negro Rural School Fund. It was created in 1907 by Pennsylvania Quaker Anna Thomas Jeanes to support African-American education in cooperation with white state and county school officials who hired industrial supervising teachers to work in rural black schools. Most black educators were appointed by and depended upon southern white largesse. Such was certainly the case for Jeanes Supervisors. While the Jeanes Fund initially provided all the monies for industrial teachers’ activities, county school boards and quorum courts increasingly began paying at least part of their salaries and traveling expenses for the resources they required to perform their jobs. In Arkansas, …

Jeannette, Gertrude Hadley

Throughout her career, Gertrude Hadley Jeannette was a playwright, producer, director, and actress with roles on Broadway. Involved in the civil rights movement, she also became a rare woman taxicab driver in New York. Retired after a seven-decade theater career, she remained active in the New York theater scene. Jeannette was a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Gertrude Hadley was born in Urbana (Union County) on November 28, 1914, to Willis Lawrence Hadley and Salley Gertrude Crawford Hadley. She attended Dunbar High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and had plans to attend Fisk University. Instead, she eloped in 1934 to New York City with Joe Jeannette II, a prizefighter and president of the Harlem Dusters, a motorcycle club. …

Jefferies, Oscar (Lynching of)

In 1887, a black teacher named Oscar Jefferies from Brownstown (Sevier County) was shot to death by a group of men because he eloped with Ina W. Jones, the daughter of a wealthy white farmer. According to newspaper accounts, Oscar Jefferies, “a fine looking colored man,” arrived in Brownstown from Oswego, New York, in June 1887 to take over the “colored academy.” After his arrival, he paid considerable attention to Ina Jones, who was described as the daughter of “one of the largest plantation owners in the counties.” She welcomed his attentions, and despite her parents’ threats, in late September, she told her friends that she was going to marry Jefferies the following Sunday, October 2. When her parents heard …

Jefferson County Lynching of 1857

On July 31, 1857, an unidentified enslaved man was killed in Jefferson County for allegedly murdering a man identified only as “Dr. Guinn.” There is no information available about Guinn, except that he was “universally loved and esteemed,” but reports indicate that he was staying with Creed H. Taylor, a prominent planter near New Gascony (Jefferson County), thirteen miles west of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Taylor was an early settler in the county, serving as its first sheriff and first county judge. By 1860, he was one of the wealthiest cotton planters in Arkansas. The unidentified enslaved man was reportedly the property of Louis Bogy (sometimes referred to as Baggy or Boggy), another planter in the region. Bogy owned twelve …

Jefferson County Lynching of August 1897

Even when they appear in newspapers across the United States, some accounts of lynchings are so brief that it is difficult to uncover details or even confirm the events. Such is the case of an African American man whose body was supposedly found hanging from a trot line in the Arkansas River near Rob Roy (Jefferson County) in 1897. While the Arkansas Gazette, in an article datelined September 1, reported that the body was discovered on August 31, other sources give the date as September 1 or September 2. Due to the fact that there was a rope around the man’s neck and he had several gashes in his head, reports speculated that he had been lynched and then thrown …

Jefferson County Lynching of December 1897

In late December 1897, an unidentified African American man was found dead and reportedly lynched in a field between Altheimer (Jefferson County) and Sherrill (Jefferson County). Although some sources indicate that the supposed lynching happened in early January, the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic reported on December 30 that he had been killed on Wednesday, December 29. According to their account, the man had formerly been tried for hog stealing, “but each time, by some means, he was acquitted.” Speculation was that the man was found with another stolen hog and “parties…exasperated at the repeated defeats of justice…shot him.” On January 3, 1898, the Moline Dispatch, which erroneously noted that Sherrill was in Cleveland County, published more details on the killing. …

Jenkins, Ferguson Arthur (Fergie)

Fergie Jenkins was a major league pitcher in the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Over his nineteen-year major league career, the six-foot-five-inch right-hander established a reputation for consistency and durability. Jenkins pitched for the Arkansas Travelers in 1963, 1964, and 1965, and was only the second African American to play for the Travelers. He won a Cy Young Award in 1971 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Ferguson Arthur (Fergie) Jenkins Jr. was born on December 13, 1942 (although some records say 1943, Jenkins has always maintained that it was 1942) in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. He was the only child of Ferguson Arthur Jenkins Sr. and Delores Jenkins. Growing up in Chatham, Jenkins was a …

Jenkins, S. A. (Lynching of)

In the White County town of West Point in May 1900, whitecappers (also called nightriders) murdered a black schoolteacher named S. A. Jenkins. While this event was described in state newspaper accounts most often as an example of whitecapping, Jenkins’s murder is also typically included in tabulations of lynching victims in America. According to news reports, two different businesses had been robbed in West Point on the night of Saturday, May 19, 1900. Apparently, Jenkins was suspected, as was another man named only Durham in reports. The name S. A. Jenkins does not match any local census data for the year 1900, and so determining his exact identity is difficult. On the night of May 20, 1900, as the Arkansas …

Jennette (Crittenden County)

Jennette is a largely African-American town in western Crittenden County, located north of the Shearerville (Crittenden County) exit on Interstate 40. Jennette is variously spelled Jeanette, Jennettee, and Jenette. The location of what is now Jennette was swampy hardwood forest until early in the twentieth century, when the Edwards Fair Lumber Company, based in Crawfordsville (Crittenden County), cleared the land. Various drainage ditches were dug to make the cleared land suitable for farming. The origin of the name Jennette is unknown. Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church was established in Jennette around 1900. A post office opened in Jennette in February 1904 and continued operating until May 1927. A school was organized on the Baptist church property in 1908. The school …

Jetton, White (Lynching of)

In late December 1904, an African-American teenager named White Jetton was hanged near Spring Hill (Hempstead County) for allegedly attacking a white farmer named Nobbs. A search of public records revealed no information about either Jetton or Nobbs. A report in the Arkansas Gazette on January 3, 1905, said only that the lynching occurred “several days ago.” The report indicates that two African Americans, one of whom was Jetton, attacked a farmer named Nobbs near Spring Hill, ten miles south of Hope (Hempstead County), in a dispute over money they maintained Nobbs owed them. Jetton was described as being “less than 18 years of age.” According to the Gazette, Nobbs was wounded in the face and head, but not seriously. …

Jewell, Jerry Donal

Jerry Donal Jewell was the first African American to serve in the Arkansas Senate in the twentieth century. He was also Arkansas’s first ever African-American acting governor, albeit for only a temporary four-day period during Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration in 1993. Jewell moved his dental practice from North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1978, where he continued to work during his political career and up until his death in 2002. Jerry Jewell was born on September 16, 1930, in Chatfield (Crittenden County). His parents James M. Jewell and Ruth Lee Taylor Jewell, who were both sharecroppers, came from Mississippi. He had four sisters, only two of whom survived past infancy. Around 1936, Jewell and his …

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws were statutes passed in most of the Southern states between the 1880s and 1960s that separated the races and created a segregated society. Exactly why these laws were implemented at this time is unclear, although scholars believe that they may have been a response to the breakdown of traditional barriers between black and white people in the post-Reconstruction era. This breakdown was made possible by expansion of the South’s railroads, development of urban areas and industrial workplaces, and the progress African Americans made economically during this period. Whatever the reason for the timing of their passage, these laws reflected prevalent anti-black racism and the views of contemporary whites, who asserted that African Americans represented an inferior and …

Jimerson, Aaron (Lynching of)

On August 8, 1917, an African-American man named Aaron Jimerson was lynched at Foreman (Little River County) for an alleged attack on a local constable. Jimerson, who was born in 1887, married eighteen-year-old Virginia Hooks at Foreman in 1914. According to the Arkansas Democrat, Constable Sam Anderson arrested Jimerson on August 8 for shooting at another African American. As Anderson was opening the jail door to put Jimerson into a cell, Jimerson grabbed him and stole his pistol. Anderson retrieved the gun, but before he could use it, Jimerson hit him with a wooden stick. Jimerson then escaped but was soon recaptured by a posse led by Sheriff W. D. Waldron. He was placed in jail, but a mob broke …

John, “Little Willie”

aka: William Edgar John
William Edgar “Little Willie” John was a powerful rhythm and blues vocalist and songwriter who recorded several hit songs, including the original version of “Fever” at age eighteen. Little Willie John was born on November 15, 1937, in Cullendale (Ouachita County). He was one of ten children. His father, Mertis, was a logger in northern Louisiana and southern Arkansas; his mother, Lillie, played guitar and sang gospel songs, teaching them to her children. His sister Mable, also raised in Ouachita County, recorded as a Raelette for Ray Charles and solo for Stax Records. In 1942, the Johns moved to Detroit, Michigan, so Mertis could pursue factory work. The eldest children, including Willie, formed a gospel quintet in the 1940s. A …

John, Mary

Mary John was born a slave under French colonial occupation, and after obtaining her freedom in 1840, she opened a hotel at Arkansas Post and became a prominent local figure. Mary John was born around the latter part of the 1780s. She may have been Marie Jeanne, whom Etienne de Vaugine bequeathed to his granddaughter, Pelagie, in his will dated September 1, 1794, at New Orleans, Louisiana (although the 1850 federal census lists her as having been born in Arkansas). Little is known about her early life. A bill of sale written in French by notary Andre Fagot at Arkansas Post on July 30, 1806, records that Marie Languedoc transferred ownership of a “creole negress” named Marie Jeanne to Jean …

Johns, Riley “Doc”

Riley “Doc” Johns was an African-American athletic trainer at Little Rock High School (now Little Rock Central High) from 1930 to 1950. He was also the groundskeeper and equipment manager for the school’s sports teams until his death seven years before the Central High Crisis of 1957. Riley Johns was born on September 14, 1895, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) to Joseph Johns and Nettie Flynn Johns. He was the youngest of three sons that included Clarence (born 1891) and Percy Legette Johns (born 1892). His parents had lived in several northwestern Arkansas counties before settling in Fort Smith. During World War I, he was drafted into the military from Fort Smith and entered service on August 1, 1918. At …

Johnson, Glenn T.

Glenn T. Johnson was a trailblazing judge in the latter half of the twentieth century. Born in Arkansas, he spent most of his professional life in Illinois, serving in a number of public positions in a career dedicated to public service. Johnson was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2006. Glenn T. Johnson was born in Washington (Hempstead County) on July 19, 1917, to Floyd Johnson and Reola Thompson Johnson. As the family moved around the state, he received his early education Washington, then Hope (Hempstead County), and finally Hot Springs (Garland County), where he graduated from Langston High School. Johnson earned a BS from Wilberforce University in Ohio, graduating in 1941. After college, he served in …

Johnson, Henry (Lynching of)

On November 3, 1903, an African-American man named Henry Johnson was hanged in Lake Village (Chicot County) for his alleged involvement in a shooting at a saloon. It is not possible to specifically determine who Johnson was, since the 1900 census lists more than one Black man named Henry Johnson in Chicot County. According to newspaper accounts, around 2:00 a.m. on November 3, Frank Anderson, described by the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic as “a prominent businessman of Lake Village,” and Baldy Vinson, “the well known Little Rock attorney,” were drinking in Joe Frame’s saloon in Lake Village. The Daily Independent of Newport (Jackson County) reported that some of the Black waiters in the saloon had been “throwing beer around the …

Johnson, Jeff (Lynching of)

On September 15, 1869, an African-American man named Jeff Johnson was lynched near Des Arc (Prairie County) for allegedly attacking Jennie Conly, the niece of Colonel John H. Bulls. Bulls, a wealthy planter, had been in Prairie County since at least 1860, when he was living near Walnut Plains with his wife, Amanda. He served as a captain in the Twenty-First Arkansas Infantry during the Civil War and was to die of a brain disease only two months after the alleged attack on Conly. According to reports, before the Civil War, Jeff Johnson had been a slave belonging to John C. Johnson in St. Francis County. After the war, Johnson was convicted of theft in Madison (St. Francis County), but …

Johnson, Joe Marcus

Joe Marcus Johnson is a professional basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets. In the 2012–13 season, Johnson averaged 16.3 points per game, third best on a team that entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference. With about 16,000 points and counting, Johnson is the second-most prolific NBA scorer from Arkansas, as of 2013; Scottie Pippen of Hamburg (Ashley County) scored 18,940 points in seventeen seasons. Johnson, a six-time All Star, was a member of the U.S. national team in the FIBA World Championship in 2006. Joe Johnson was born on June 29, 1981, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the only child of Sara Dianne Johnson. For most of his childhood, he was raised in a …

Johnson, John Harold

John Harold Johnson rose above abject poverty and racial discrimination to build a publishing empire that helped forever change the perception of African Americans in the United States. Johnson Publishing Company became the largest African-American-owned and -operated publishing company in the world and launched Ebony and Jet, two very successful magazines that gave a voice to millions of black Americans. Born Johnny Johnson on January 19, 1918, in Arkansas City (Desha County) to Leroy Johnson and Gertrude Jenkins Johnson, a cook in a Mississippi River levee camp, Johnson was a third-generation descendent of slaves. After the death of Johnson’s father in a sawmill accident when Johnson was eight years old, his mother married James Williams, who helped raise him. During a …

Johnson, William J.

William J. Johnson became the first African-American general in the history of the Arkansas National Guard. Johnson served in the Arkansas National Guard for thirty-six years before his 2012 retirement. Brigadier General Leodis Jennings said of Johnson’s 2008 promotion to deputy adjutant general that it was “significant on three levels—he is the first African American General in Arkansas, the first African American Deputy Adjutant General in Arkansas and the highest ranking African American in the Arkansas National Guard. He routinely sets the standard of excellence.” In 2010, Johnson was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, and three years later became a member of the Arkansas National Guard Officer Candidate School (OCS) Hall of Fame. William J. Johnson was …

Johnston, David Augustine Elihue

David Augustine Elihue Johnston, also known as D. A. E. Johnston or Elihue Johnston, was an inventor, a successful dentist and businessman, and a member of the National Negro Business Men’s League. He and his brothers were killed under mysterious circumstances during the time of the Elaine Massacre of 1919. D. A. E. Johnston was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), although sources differ as to the year. Johnston’s official date of birth is listed as May 1, 1878, on his application for a draft exemption with the Phillips County Local Exemption Board on September 12, 1918. On the 1900 U.S. Census, he was listed as being born in May 1881, but on his January 1910 marriage license, his age …