Entries - 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, 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 …

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, 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 …

Johnston, Leroy Alfred

Leroy Alfred Johnston was a World War I veteran who received the Croix de Guerre and who posthumously received the Purple Heart in 2018 after it was discovered that his service records had been deliberately altered. He and his three brothers were murdered during the Elaine Massacre of 1919. Leroy Alfred Johnston was born on April 2, 1893 or 1894, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). In the 1900 federal census, Johnston’s date of birth was listed as April 1893, but on his military records, his date of birth was listed as April 2, 1894. Johnston was the son of the Reverend Lewis Johnston Jr. (1847–1903), who was a native of Pennsylvania, and Mercy Ann Taborn Johnston (1848–1927), a native of …

Johnston, Lewis Harrison (L. H.)

Lewis Harrison Johnston was a physician, surgeon, and wealthy businessman. He was a member of the Negro Business League and the State Medical, Dental and Pharmaceutical Association of Oklahoma. He and his three brothers were killed by a posse in 1919 during the Elaine Massacre. Lewis Harrison Johnston, known as L. H., was born on July 4, probably in 1880, in either Arkansas or Ruston, Louisiana, to Lewis Johnston Jr. and Mercy Ann Taborn Johnston. In the 1880 census, Johnston was living in Vaugine Township in Jefferson County with his parents and siblings. His place of birth was listed as Arkansas, and his age was listed as one. In 1900, Johnston was listed as living in Ward 3 in Pine …

Johnston, Lewis, Jr.

Lewis Johnston Jr. was the first African American ordained as a minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the founder (with his wife) of the Richard Allen Institute in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), a school black students. He was also a teacher, writer, and newspaper publisher. He worked with Professor Joseph Carter Corbin and the Reverend Elias Camp Morris during a time of major transformation in the development of education for African Americans. Four of his sons were killed during the Elaine Massacre in 1919. Lewis Johnston Jr. was born free on December 12, 1847, in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, to Lewis Johnston (1805–1881) and Jane Bronson Johnston (1810–1897). His father had been born a slave in Derry, Pennsylvania, and later became …

Jones, Edith Irby

Edith Irby Jones was the first African American to attend and to graduate from the University of Arkansas Medical School, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Not only was she a pioneer in the desegregation of higher education in Arkansas and the South, but she also served as a highly successful doctor, educator, and philanthropist in Arkansas, Texas, and overseas. Edith Irby was born on December 23, 1927, near Conway (Faulkner County) to Robert Irby, a sharecropper, and Mattie Buice Irby, a maid. Her father died when she was eight, and the family moved to Hot Springs (Garland County). Irby’s older sister died of typhoid fever at the age of twelve, largely …

Jones, Fred Thomas

Fred Thomas Jones Sr. was a physician and pioneer in providing insurance and medical care to African Americans in Arkansas and Louisiana. Fred T. Jones was born on September 8, 1877, in Homer, Louisiana, the oldest of eleven children born to Fred R. Jones, a farmer, and Harriett E. Jones, a housewife. In 1904, Jones married Hattie McGraw. The couple had a daughter but divorced soon after. Three years later, in 1907, he married Katie Chandler. They had seven children—five daughters and two sons. After attending Claiborne Parish School at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Jones graduated from Arkansas Branch Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) between 1900 and 1904, …

Jones, Green Hill

Green Hill Jones was an African-American politician and Free Will Baptist minister in Chicot County. Born into slavery, Jones served in the Union army during the Civil War and received an education in the North following his discharge. Upon returning to Chicot County, he became county treasurer and served two terms in the Arkansas General Assembly. Throughout his adult life, he was known as G. H. Jones, Greenhill Jones, Green Hill Jones, or Hill Jones. However, in an interview with the U.S. Pension Office, he stated that his true name when he attained his freedom was Green Hill Jones Haywood. Born a slave in Maury County, Tennessee, on December 18, 1842, Green Hill Jones was part of the vast estate …

Jones, Henry (Lynching of)

On June 23, 1891, an African-American man named Henry Jones, accused of murdering his wife, was hanged by a mob near Hamburg (Ashley County). The victim may have been a thirty-seven-year-old African American named Henry Jones, who in 1880 was twenty-six and living in Ashley County’s De Bastrop Township with his wife, Eliza, age eighteen, and children Jane (age five) and William (age one). Although newspaper accounts indicate that Jones’s wife’s name was Lucy, this may be an error in reporting. On June 18, the Arkansas Democrat published a report on Jones’s alleged crime. According to the Democrat, Jones told authorities that after cooking breakfast on the morning of June 11, his wife went out to get one of their …

Jones, James (Lynching of)

James Jones (some sources refer to him as W. A. Jones) was an African-American choir director lynched near the historic Hinemon University campus on August 22, 1895, in Monticello (Drew County) after being forcibly removed from the Drew County jail by a mob. Jones was accused of murdering Harry Beltshoover of Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) in 1894 but avoided capture by law enforcement for roughly a year while traveling through Arkansas and surrounding states. He was later allegedly involved with the injury of J. R. Bennett of Dermott (Chicot County) during an escape attempt from the Drew County jail on August 17, 1895. Jones was arrested in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on June 20, 1895, by Sheriff M. A. …

Jones, Judge (Lynching of)

On March 25, 1910, a twenty-six-year-old African-American man named Judge Jones was hanged from a water tank in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for allegedly harassing a young white woman. In both 1908 and 1910, the Pine Bluff city directory lists a man named Judge O. Jones living at 603 East 15th Avenue and working as a driver. This agrees with newspaper accounts stating that Jones had formerly worked as a driver for the Marx-Baer Grocery Company. According to the March 26, 1910, Pine Bluff Daily Graphic, Jones was arrested on Friday morning, March 25, for loitering around the home of Mrs. Mueller in the outskirts of Pine Bluff and demanding to see her daughter. He had apparently been in trouble …

Jones, Scipio Africanus

Scipio Africanus Jones was a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) attorney and one of the city’s leading African-American citizens at the end of the nineteenth century and during the first decades of the twentieth century. Jones is most significantly remembered for his role defending twelve men sentenced to death following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. He is also remembered for his role in the Republican Party at a time when many Arkansas Republicans were trying to restrict membership in the party to whites only. Scipio Jones was born to a slave, Jemmima Jones, in 1863 in the area of Tulip (Dallas County). His father is generally considered to be Dr. Sanford Reamey, a prominent citizen of Tulip and the owner …

Jones, Wiley

aka: Walter Jones
Walter “Wiley” Jones was one of the first wealthy African Americans in the South. Jones, a leading businessman, was an ex-slave who became a barber and a saloon owner. Wiley Jones was born on July 14, 1848, in Madison County, Georgia. He was one of six children of George Jones, a white planter, and Ann, a slave. His mother named him Walter after her doctor, but he got the nickname “Wiley” for being untamed and playful. In 1853, five-year-old Jones moved with his family to Arkansas. They settled on the former acting governor Richard Byrd’s plantation in Jefferson County, twelve miles north of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on the Arkansas River. Shortly before George Jones’s death in 1858, he claimed …

Jones, Willa Saunders

Willa Saunders Jones grew up in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the first decades of the twentieth century before moving to Chicago, Illinois, where she became a prominent religious and cultural leader. Her crowning achievement was a passion play (a dramatization of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection), which she wrote in the 1920s and produced for more than five decades in churches and eventually prestigious civic theaters. The play featured top musical talent, including Dinah Washington and Jones’s close friend Mahalia Jackson, and drew support from such prominent figures as the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. Her success in music as a soloist, accompanist, and choral director and in drama stemmed from early experiences in …

Jonesboro Lynching of 1881

aka: Greensboro Lynching of 1881
In March 1881, Martha (Mattie) Ishmael, the teenage daughter of planter Benjamin Russell Ishmael, was brutally murdered in the family’s home near Jonesboro (Craighead County). Four African Americans were accused of the murder and were bound over to the grand jury, but before they could be tried, they were lynched by a mob of masked men. Benjamin Ishmael was born in Tennessee, but by the middle of the 1830s, he and his parents had settled in Arkansas in Greensboro (Craighead County), eleven miles east of Jonesboro. Greensboro, then located in Greene County, was settled around 1835, and was mostly occupied by small farmers. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the lush forests of the area would give rise …

Joplin, Scott

Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin composed more than forty ragtime piano pieces, including “Maple Leaf Rag” (which sold more than a million copies) and “The Entertainer” (which was used in the 1973 film The Sting). He spent his formative years in Texarkana (Miller County), and his major opera, Treemonisha, is set in the plantation area of Rondo (Miller County) north of Texarkana. Scott Joplin was born on November 24, 1867 or 1868, near Marshall, Texas. His father, Giles, was a former slave, and his mother, Florence, was a freed woman from Kentucky. The family moved to Texarkana early in Joplin’s life so that his father could obtain work on the railroad. Joplin showed an early interest in …

Jordan, Bob (Lynching of)

In August 1892, an African-American man named Bob Jordan was shot by members of a mob near Camden (Ouachita County) for allegedly insulting a white woman. According to the Arkansas Gazette, a Constable Wright had arrested Jordan and was en route to Camden with his prisoner on the night of August 8. Along the way, six miles from town, a group of masked men intercepted them. The men told the constable to leave and then shot Jordan. The incident was reported in a number of newspapers across the country, with the Postville, Iowa, Graphic reporting that Jordan had attempted to assault a woman. Historian Kenneth C. Barnes, in his book Journey of Hope, noted that the incident was indicative of …

Jordan, Lena Lowe

Lena Lowe Jordan was an African-American registered nurse and hospital administrator who managed two institutions for African Americans—a hospital for the care of crippled children, which later became a general hospital. In addition, she began a unique training program for young black women who wanted to become practical nurses. Lena Lowe was born on April 6, 1884, in Georgia, to Hollin and Martha Lowe. She spent her childhood in Georgia and then trained as a nurse at the Charity Hospital of Savannah. She moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) from Cordele, Georgia, in the 1920s and began her career as a registered nurse in Arkansas as head nurse at the Mosaic State Templars Hospital in 1927. In 1920, she became …

Jordan, Louis Thomas

Louis Thomas Jordan—vocalist, bandleader, and saxophonist—ruled the charts, stage, screen, and airwaves of the 1940s and profoundly influenced the creators of rhythm and blues (R&B), rock n’ roll, and post–World War II blues. Louis Jordan was born on July 8, 1908, in Brinkley (Monroe County). His father, Dardanelle (Yell County) native James Aaron Jordan, led the Brinkley Brass Band; his mother, Mississippi native Adell, died when Louis was young. Jordan studied music under his father and showed promise in horn playing, especially clarinet and saxophone. Due to World War I vacancies, young Jordan joined his father’s band himself. Soon, he was good enough to join his father in a professional traveling show—touring Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri by train, instead of …

Jordan, Wilbert Cornelius

Wilbert Cornelius Jordan started the Oasis Clinic in Los Angeles, California, in 1979. This clinic treated some of the first patients who suffered from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), before the disease had even been clinically observed. Over the next two decades, Jordan treated more than 3,000 clinically diagnosed HIV/AIDS patients. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000. A Los Angeles native, Wilbert C. Jordan was born on September 11, 1944, and grew up in Arkansas. He attended Marian Anderson High School in Brinkley (Monroe County) before entering Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) for his final year, graduating in 1961. He graduated from Harvard University in …

Josenberger, Mame Stewart

Businesswoman and activist Mame Stewart Josenberger started her career as an educator but, after her husband’s death, assumed control of a variety of businesses. She also served as president of the Arkansas Association of Colored Women and was on the advisory board of The Crisis, the renowned publication of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), in addition to involvement with a variety of local, state, and national organizations. Mame Stewart was born on August 3, 1872 (although some sources say 1868), in Owego, New York, to Virginia natives Frank Stewart and Mary Elizabeth Turner Stewart. After attending the Owego Free Academy in New York, Stewart earned a BA in education at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, …

Joshua, Ernest Parnell

Ernest Parnell Joshua Sr. was an entrepreneur and founder of J. M. Products, Incorporated, which grew to become the largest black-owned company in Arkansas. The multimillion-dollar manufacturer of ethnic haircare products was one of the largest in the country. Joshua was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. Ernest P. Joshua was born on November 3, 1928, in northern Pulaski County. He was the son of Morris “Mars” Joshua and Mable Byrd Joshua. His mother died during his early teen years, and he was raised by his father. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and was discharged in 1949. He married Thelma Lee Ready, a childhood acquaintance, that same year. …

Joyner, Alfredrick Alphonso (Al)

Alfredrick Alphonzo (Al) Joyner is a track and field star who won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles for the triple jump, the first American in eight decades to win the event and the first African American. He attended Arkansas State University (ASU), where he later returned as a coach, and was the winner of the prestigious Jim Thorpe award, honoring the best American field athlete at the Olympics. He married track legend Florence Griffith, who came to be known as “Flo Jo” after her marriage to Joyner. Al Joyner Jr. was born on January 19, 1960, in East St. Louis, Illinois, to Alfred and Mary Joyner, both then in their teens. Alfred Joyner Sr. worked …

Juneteenth

Juneteenth is a celebration held during the month of June in Arkansas and throughout the nation to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas in 1865 to mark the date when the news of the emancipation of the slaves reached the state. Since 2005, the third Saturday in June has been officially considered “Juneteenth Independence Day” in Arkansas. Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the actual emancipation of the slaves came on different dates in different regions. In Galveston, Texas, for instance, it was on June 19, 1865, that a regiment of Union soldiers informed the residents that all former slaves were free. June 19 became a day of celebration …