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

L. C. and Daisy Bates Museum

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and her husband, Lucious Christopher Bates, lived at 1207 W. 28th Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the desegregation of Central High School in 1957–58. They had purchased the land and built the house in 1955 while they were publishing the Arkansas State Press newspaper and while she was the president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Bates House is not far from Central High School, and the home served as a safe place for the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to attend Central, to prepare for school and to return to afterward. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall visited the …

Lacey, Nathan (Lynching of)

On October 16, 1911, an African-American man named Nathan Lacey was lynched in Forrest City (St. Francis County) for allegedly attacking the wife of his employer, Tom Cox. Mrs. Cox is probably Elizabeth Cox, who in 1910 was living in Franks Township with her husband Tom and their one-year-old son, Thomas. There were three African-American men by the name of Nathan Lacey or Lacy listed in St. Francis County in 1910. The first was Nathan Lacy Jr., born in Mississippi around 1881, who was a widower working as a farm laborer in Madison Township. He had three children the age of eight and under. Nathaniel Lacy, born in Mississippi around 1885, was single and living with his mother, Angeline Lacy, …

LaNier, Carlotta Walls

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The oldest of three daughters, Carlotta Walls was born on December 18, 1942, in Little Rock to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Her father was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, and her mother was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing. Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as the desire to get the best education available, Walls enrolled in Central High School as a sophomore. Some white …

Leavy, Calvin James “Slim”

Calvin James “Slim” Leavy, vocalist and guitarist, recorded “Cummins Prison Farm,” a blues song that debuted on Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart on May 2, 1970, and stayed for five weeks, reaching No. 40. It was also the No. 1 song on the Memphis, Tennessee, station WDIA. Leavy was the first person charged under a 1989 Arkansas “drug kingpin law” targeting crime rings. Calvin Leavy was born on April 20, 1940, in Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties), the youngest son of fifteen children born to the musical family of Johnny Leavy and Cora James Leavy. Both parents sang in the church choir at Mount Lake Baptist Church in Scott, and several family members played musical instruments. Leavy started out singing …

Lester, Ketty

Ketty Lester is a singer and actress best known for her chart-topping single “Love Letters,” as well as her appearance in the cult classic film Blacula (1972). Lester was a regular on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives and was especially known for her long-running role on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson in Hope (Hempstead County) on August 16, 1934. She was one of fifteen children born to a farm family. Her interest and talent for music led to her singing at church and in school choirs. She won a scholarship to San Francisco City College in California, where she studied music. In San Francisco, she began singing professionally at …

Lewis, David Levering

David Levering Lewis is a Pulitzer Prize–winning American historian best known for his works on the African-American experience in the twentieth century. He has written biographies of two of the most important figures in the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. and W. E. B. Du Bois, as well as a reader on the Harlem Renaissance. In 1999, Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant.” David Lewis was born on May 25, 1936, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the son of John H. Lewis, an educator and principal of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and Urnestine (Bell) Lewis, who taught high school math. Lewis attended parochial school in Little Rock and then continued his education in Ohio and …

Lewis, Henry Jackson

Henry Jackson Lewis, who was born into slavery, has been called the first black political cartoonist. His drawings appeared in publications across the nation. H. J. Lewis was born in Water Valley, Mississippi, in 1837 or 1838. As a child, he fell into a fire, maiming his left hand and blinding his left eye. Nothing further is known about his youth, but by 1872, he was living in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where he worked as a laborer in the mid- to late 1870s. By 1879, he was selling drawings of city and Arkansas River scenes to the national publication Harper’s Weekly, and he later sold similar drawings to Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. On October 25, 1882, a Pine Bluff …

Lewis, Kristin Allison

Opera singer Kristin Lewis of Little Rock (Pulaski County) is recognized for her richly hued voice capable of subtle emotional inflection. Based in Vienna, Austria, since 2005, Lewis has established herself in the opera houses of Europe as a lirico-spinto soprano specializing in Verdi’s heroines. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2019. Kristin Lewis was born in Little Rock in 1975 to the Reverend Bettye Lewis and Dr. Raphael Lewis. Lewis credits her mother as one of her earliest musical influences, as Rev. Lewis played organ for church and encouraged Kristin in her musical pursuits. After graduating from high school, Lewis followed her older sister, Tamara Lewis, to the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) in Conway (Faulkner …

Lewis, Sanford (Lynching of)

At midnight on March 23, 1912, a mob hanged Sanford Lewis from a trolley pole in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). He had been suspected of shooting Deputy Constable Andy Carr, who sustained a fatal wound above the eye. Although the Arkansas Gazette refers to this as the first lynching in Sebastian County, it was actually the first lynching of an African American there. The murder of a white man named James Murray in the county on December 6, 1897, was described in many media outlets as a lynching. Deputy Constable Andy Carr was probably the Andy Care [sic] listed on the census as living in Ward 4 in Fort Smith in 1910. Living with him were his wife, Della, and …

Lightfoot, Claude M.

Claude Lightfoot was an Arkansas-born Communist who became involved in politics after moving to Chicago, Illinois. A frequent candidate for public office in Chicago from the 1930s to the 1950s, Lightfoot represents the impact of the Great Migration out of Arkansas and both the possibilities and limitations of black liberation in northern cities. Claude M. Lightfoot was born on January 19, 1910, in Lake Village (Chicot County). His grandmother, who separated from her husband, acquired a farm of her own and raised her twelve children to adulthood. Shortly after Lightfoot’s birth, his parents moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where his father worked for a railroad company and his mother as a domestic worker, while young Claude stayed with his …

Lightfoot, G. P. F. (Lynching of)

In December 1892, African-American Baptist minister G. P. F. Lightfoot, referred to in most accounts as “Preacher Lightfoot,” was murdered by a group of African Americans in Jackson County in retaliation for taking their money and promising them nonexistent passage to Liberia. Interest in immigrating to Africa started early in the United States. The Back-to-Africa movement dates back to 1816, when the American Colonization Society (ACS) was established to help free blacks resettle in Africa. The Republic of Liberia was established in 1847 and was recognized by the U.S. government in 1864. Following the Civil War, many newly freed Arkansas slaves became interested in the movement, especially those in majority-black counties in the Arkansas Delta. The Liberian Exodus Arkansas Colony …

Lincoln High School (Star City)

Lincoln High School was a school for African Americans located on the northwestern side of Star City (Lincoln County) at 507 Pine Street. The school, which took its name from the county, was established in 1949 following the consolidation of black schools in the communities of Cornerville, Cole Spur, Star City, Bright Star, Sneed, Richardson, Bethlehem, Mount Olive, Saint Olive, and Sweet Home. None of these schools went beyond the eighth grade, leaving a large segment of Lincoln County’s African-American students with no local high school to attend. Charles R. Teeter was the superintendent, and Ruth Teal was hired as Lincoln’s first principal. In the first school year of Lincoln’s existence (1949–50), only grades one through nine were offered. Each …

Lindsey, Donnie Lee, Sr.

Donnie Lee Lindsey, longtime bishop within the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Arkansas and noted businessman, founded the regionally famous Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Donnie Lee Lindsey was born in Bluff City (Nevada County) on April 17, 1924, to Newton Lindsey and Anna Lindsey. His father was a sharecropper. By the 1930 census, he had one brother and four sisters. The family moved to the Maumelle (Pulaski County) area when Lindsey was four years old. In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lindsey described himself as a rebellious youth who dropped out of school, only returning at age seventeen to attend the …

Linton, Henri

Henri Linton has been recognized as one of the most talented artists working in the state of Arkansas. He has also served as chair of the art department at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Henri Linton was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 1944. After discovering his artistic talents early, he soon began painting and visiting museums. To buy art supplies, he took on odd jobs such as painting signs and shining shoes. After entering a national art contest as a teenager, he won a four-year scholarship to the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. Linton earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Boston University and a master’s degree in art from the University of Cincinnati …

Liston, Sonny

aka: Charles Liston
Charles “Sonny” Liston was a noted boxer who briefly reigned as Heavyweight Champion after a first-round knockout against Floyd Patterson. However, his career was marred by criminal activity and, later, accusations of mob connections and throwing fights. Sonny Liston was born on May 8, probably 1932, to Tobe and Helen (Baskin) Liston, African-American sharecroppers in rural St. Francis County. He was one of many children—one account lists twenty-two siblings and half-siblings. Liston was raised on heavy farm work, many beatings, and with virtually no schooling. At the age of thirteen, he ran away to St. Louis, Missouri, following his mother, who had left earlier. There, he became a thug, committing various muggings and robbery. Soon caught (his crimes were inept, …

Little Africa (Polk County)

Little Africa was an all-black community that lay near Board Camp Creek in Polk County east of the county seat of Mena. For a few decades, it was home to many of the county’s African Americans, but the community did not survive the changing economy and growing racial hostility of the county’s white population. The name “Little Africa” was common among informally organized all-black communities in the state and nation. The first African American to stake out a homestead in the area that would become Little Africa appears to have been Nelson Ray in 1875. He was followed by others such as Thomas Moore (who filed for a homestead in 1884), Cicero Cole (1899), William Ray (1901), and Frank Hill …

Little River County Race War of 1899

The Little River County Race War occurred in March 1899 in southwestern Arkansas and entailed the murder of at least seven African Americans throughout Little River County. The reported impetus for this race war was the murder of a white planter by a black man, but white fear of “insurrection” on the part of black residents quickly manifested itself into a campaign of violence and terror against African Americans. During the last half of the nineteenth century, lynchings were widespread in Arkansas, especially in the southern part of the state. A number of factors contributed to this racial animus. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the black population of Arkansas increased greatly, mostly due to recruiters who canvassed the …

Little Rock Convention of Colored Citizens (1865)

With only a month remaining in 1865, not long after the Civil War ended, African-American leaders and their white allies and guests met in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Arkansas met from Thursday, November 30, through Saturday, December 2. Conventions of African Americans, led by free blacks, had been held frequently in cities in the North in the three decades before the outbreak of the Civil War. Continuing in that tradition, the Colored Convention in Little Rock was an organized effort by African Americans in Arkansas to make their commitment to the duties and rights of full citizenship known to white political and economic leaders, even in the state’s uncertain new postwar reality. …

Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year. Before transferring to Central, the Nine attended segregated schools for black students in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, and Gloria …

Little Rock School Desegregation Cases (1982–2014)

aka: Little Rock School District, et al v. Pulaski County Special School District et al.
From 1982 until 2014, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Western Division, handled Little Rock School District, et al. v. Pulaski County Special School District et al. At least six federal district judges presided over the case during this span of time. In 1984, the district court ruled that three school districts situated in Pulaski County were unconstitutionally segregated: the Little Rock School District (LRSD), the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), and the North Little Rock School District (NLRSD). One reason for the ruling was that the population of Little Rock was approximately sixty-five percent white in 1984, while seventy percent of Little Rock School District students were black. Those who brought the case feared …

Little Rock Uprising of 1968

What became known as the Little Rock Uprising of 1968 was triggered by the controversial killing of inmate Curtis Ingram at the Pulaski County Penal Farm. A subsequent community rally protesting the circumstances surrounding the killing and its investigation ended in violence. Three nights of unrest followed until Governor Winthrop Rockefeller imposed countywide curfews that finally brought the crisis to an end. The events ultimately led to changes in the previously discriminatory way that grand juries—which provided oversight for investigations at the penal farm—had been selected in Pulaski County. In August 1968, eighteen-year-old Curtis Ingram, who was African American, was arrested for a traffic violation and later charged with drug offenses. He was sent to the penal farm to pay …

Livingston, Abe (Lynching of)

Although apparently only one Arkansas newspaper covered it, in late August 1884 an African-American man named Abe Livingston was hanged in Desha County for allegedly robbing and threatening a white man named William Kite. A search of public records revealed no information on either Kite or Livingston. According to an August 26 article in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Daily Independent, which was reprinted a week later in the Batesville Guard, Livingston was a “dangerous negro” who, sometime earlier in 1884, had robbed Kite. He was arrested at the time and put in jail in Arkansas City (Desha County). At some point in July, he escaped from jail. While he was free, he allegedly made several attempts to kill Kite and also …

Livingston, Frank (Lynching of)

Former soldier Frank Livingston was burned alive at age twenty-five near El Dorado (Union County) on May 21, 1919, for the alleged murder of his employer. Livingston’s lynching was among several similar incidents in Arkansas involving returned African-American World War I–era servicemen. At the time of the 1910 census, Frank Livingston was living with his parents, Nelson and India Livingston, and his three brothers in Tubal Township, Union County. Although the census record indicates that Frank was born around 1893, subsequent draft records give his birthdate as November 1, 1892, in Shuler (Union County). Nelson Livingston and his two older sons, Ruf and Frank, were working as farmers on the “home farm.” Frank Livingston’s parents could read and write, but …

Lockwood, Robert, Jr.

Robert Lockwood Jr. was a blues guitarist celebrated for his progressive, jazz-like style, his longevity, and his role in many major events in the development of the blues. He was the only person who learned guitar directly from the legendary Robert Johnson, who often lived with Lockwood’s mother during Lockwood’s formative years. These factors have made a paradox of Lockwood’s career. Although one of the most distinguished musicians of his time, Lockwood never prospered commensurately with his reputation. He was best known as an accompanist to more flamboyant stars, especially Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter Jacobs. Robert Lockwood Jr. was born on March 27, 1915, in Turkey Scratch, on the line between Phillips and Lee counties, twenty-five miles west of Helena (Phillips …

Long III, Dallas Cutcher

Dallas Long, born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), is an Olympic gold and bronze medalist who was consistently ranked as one of the top shot put competitors in the world. Dallas Crutcher LongIIIwas born on June 13, 1940, in Pine Bluff, the son of Dallas Long Jr. and Connie Long. Raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where his father practiced medicine, he played football and threw the shot put at Northern Phoenix High School. As a high school senior in 1958, Long established a national high school record of 21.10 meters in the twelve-pound (5.44 kilograms) shot put, and tossed the sixteen-pound (7.26 kilograms) shot put 18.60 meters. At the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) national track and field championships, he finished second to …

Lonoke County Lynching of 1910

On April 4, 1910, Frank Pride and Laura Mitchell were lynched near Keo (Lonoke County) for allegedly murdering Pride’s wife and Mitchell’s husband, Wiley. The lynch mob was composed entirely of African Americans, one of a number of such lynchings in Arkansas. According to historian Karlos Hill, such lynchings were the result of African Americans’ lack of faith in the white judicial system. The lynchings often occurred in close-knit plantation societies and were an attempt to enforce community morals. Most, as in this case, occurred in domestic situations. There is almost no information available on Frank Pride or Laura and Wiley Mitchell. Newspaper accounts indicate that Pride was fifty years old, and Laura Mitchell ten years younger. Frank Pride was …

Lonoke County Race War of 1897–1898

The situation in Lonoke County was dire for African Americans during the latter half of 1897 and early 1898. In June 1897, a black normal (teacher-training) school was ransacked and one of the teachers severely whipped. In September, that same teacher was found dead. In December, Oscar Simonton, an African-American merchant, was attacked and his store ransacked. In February the following year, notices were placed on the doors of black residents warning them to leave the county on pain of death. This was closely followed by the burning of black homes and schoolhouses. Trouble had flared up several times in the county dating all the way back to Reconstruction. Many of the reports on the 1898 events refer to a …

Lowery, Henry (Lynching of)

The January 26, 1921, lynching of Henry Lowery stands out for its barbarism, as well as the national and international attention it received, happening at a time when the U.S. Congress was debating anti-lynching legislation. The brutal murder of Lowery was used in a national campaign to pass such legislation, though this proved unsuccessful. Henry Lowery was an African-American tenant farmer in Mississippi County. Lowery is reported to have disputed a matter of payment with a local planter named O. T. Craig, whose land was adjacent to that of Lee Wilson, owner of the largest cotton plantation in the South. On Christmas Day of 1920, Lowery, forty years old at the time, became intoxicated, according to reports, and decided to …

Lucas, John Gray

John Gray Lucas’s life was representative of the broad changes that occurred in the patterns of race relations in Arkansas and the South during the latter half of the nineteenth century. From the end of the Civil War until the early 1890s, African Americans could obtain an education and then enter politics as independent, forthright champions of their race’s interests. After that point, as historian J. Morgan Kousser observed, “most blacks would have to emigrate to the North, choose other professions, or settle for the role of white-appointed race leader, with all constraints that role imposed on their statements and actions.” Lucas served in the Arkansas General Assembly and advocated for the rights of African Americans during his tenure in …

Lynching

Lynching was an extra-legal form of group violence, performed without judicial due process. Scholars enumerating cases of lynching consider only those cases in which an actual murder occurs, though some states had laws against the crime of “lynching in the second degree,” in which death did not result to the victim. Lynchings, especially in the American South, have typically been perpetrated on marginalized groups—predominately African Americans, but also Jews, immigrants, homosexuals, and criminals. In his 1999 dissertation on lynching, Richard Buckelew documented 318 lynchings in Arkansas, 231 of which were directed against black victims, but additional research since then has increased the number. According to the traditional view, prior to the Civil War, most lynchings were carried out by individuals …