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

Madhubuti, Haki R.

aka: Donald Luther Lee
Haki R. Madhubuti is a renowned African-American writer, poet, and educator. The author of twenty-four books, he became a major contributor to the black literary tradition beginning in the mid-1960s. He has received the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, as well as an American Book Award, and his books have sold over three million copies. A proponent of independent black institutions, Madhubuti is the founder, publisher, and chairman of the board of Third World Press, the oldest continually operating independent black publisher in the United States. Haki Madhubuti was born Donald Luther Lee on February 23, 1942, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and raised in Detroit, Michigan; he has one sister. His father, …

Magee, Leach (Lynching of)

On June 4, 1887, an African-American man named Leach Magee (sometimes referred to as Zach Magee) was hanged in Clarendon (Monroe County) for allegedly assaulting a woman named Mrs. J. M. Park, a relative of Sheriff J. W. B. Robinson. Neither Mrs. Park nor Leach Magee appear in any public records for Monroe County. In 1880, a single man named James W. B. Robinson, age twenty-four, was farming in Pine Ridge Township. County records indicate that he was sheriff in Monroe County from 1886 until 1890. He apparently later moved to El Paso, Texas, where he died in 1928. The first account of the alleged assault appeared in the Arkansas Gazette on June 3. It said that, on June 2, …

March Against Fear (1969)

aka: Walk Against Fear (1969)
For four days between August 20 and 24, 1969, Lance Watson (alias Sweet Willie Wine), leader of Memphis, Tennessee, black power group the Invaders, led what he called a walk against fear across eastern Arkansas. The walk became an iconic episode in the state’s civil rights history and the stuff of local folklore. The protest inspired an award-winning long-form poem by Arkansas native C. D. Wright, One with Others [a little book of her days], in 2010, a testimony to how long the episode has lingered in the collective memory. Born and raised in Memphis, Watson joined the U.S. Army at seventeen. After receiving a discharge, he fell into a life of crime, which led to two stretches in jail. …

Marianna Boycotts of 1971–1972

In the early 1970s, African Americans in the rural Delta community of Marianna (Lee County), lacking representation in any of the town’s governmental councils, undertook a series of boycotts in an effort to end Marianna’s continuing segregation and gain the legal and educational equality that earlier Supreme Court rulings and federal legislation had promised. The multi-faceted effort included a boycott by the Marianna High School’s African-American basketball players as well as economic boycotts of white merchants—all measures seeking to combat the town’s continued refusal to abide by the laws of the time mandating equal rights and opportunities for all. At the time of the boycotts, Marianna and Lee County were sixty percent black, but many stores refused to give the …

Marion Lynching of 1910

On March 18, 1910, two African-American men, Robert (Bob) Austin and Charles Richardson, were lynched in Marion (Crittenden County) for allegedly assisting in a jailbreak. The victims were taken from jail by a mob and hanged in front of the Crittenden County Courthouse. There is very little known about the two victims. At the time of the 1900 census, Bob Austin was living in Jasper Township with his stepfather, Bennie Ross, and his mother, Henriette. Bennie was a farmer who was renting his farm, and nineteen-year-old Bob was a farm laborer. The men could neither read nor write, although Henriette could do both. Census records provide no information about Charles Richardson. According to the Arkansas Gazette, a jailbreak occurred on …

Martin, Mahlon Adrian

Mahlon Adrian Martin was the first African-American city manager in Arkansas. He was later the chief fiscal administrator for Governor Bill Clinton and president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. As director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration in Clinton’s second administration, Martin held the highest state government office ever achieved in Arkansas by an African American. Mahlon Martin was born on July 19, 1945, the son of George Weldon Martin, a postal worker, and Georgietta Rowan Martin, who worked for many years at a Little Rock (Pulaski County) department store. He had two brothers and a sister. He graduated in 1963 from the all-black Horace Mann High School. Martin wanted to be a professional baseball player and received …

Martin, Roberta Evelyn

aka: Roberta Evelyn Winston Martin Austin
Roberta Evelyn Winston Martin Austin was one of the most significant figures during gospel music’s golden age (1945–1960). A performer and publisher, she reached iconic status in Chicago, Illinois, where she influenced numerous artists (such as Alex Bradford, James Cleveland, and Albertina Walker) and had an impact on an entire industry with her innovation and business acumen. Roberta Evelyn Winston was born in Helena (Phillips County) on February 12, 1907, one of six children of William and Anna Winston, proprietors of a general store. She began studying piano at age six. Her family relocated to Cairo, Illinois, before she was ten, after arriving in Chicago in 1917, Winston played for various church functions, working with Thomas A. Dorsey, the “Father …

Mason, Charles Harrison

An outstanding preacher and the founder of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination of the twentieth century, Charles Harrison “Bishop” Mason ordained both black and white clergy in the early 1900s, when few did so. Mason was baptized, licensed, ordained in Arkansas, and he preached his first sermon in Preston (Faulkner County). Charles Mason was born on September 8, 1866, on the Prior Farm near Bartlett, Tennessee. His parents, tenant farmers Jeremiah “Jerry” Mason and Eliza Mason, had been converted to Christianity while they were slaves and attended the Missionary Baptist Church. Mason had two brothers and one sister. When Mason was twelve, a yellow fever epidemic forced his family to move from Tennessee …

Mason, James W.

aka: James Mason Worthington
James W. Mason of Chicot County was the first documented African-American postmaster in the United States. He later served as a delegate to the 1868 Arkansas constitutional convention and was a state senator. James W. Mason was born in Chicot County in 1841. His father was Elisha Worthington (1808–1873), the wealthiest landowner and largest slaveholder in Chicot County. Mason’s mother was one of Worthington’s slaves, whose name is unknown. Worthington apparently carried on a longtime, public relationship with this woman. (He did, however, marry Mary Chinn of Kentucky in 1840, but she returned to Kentucky only six months later, claiming that he was an adulterer, and the marriage was annulled.) Mason’s full name, which rarely appears in any public record, may have …

Massie, Samuel Proctor, Jr.

Samuel Proctor Massie Jr. overcame racial barriers to become one of America’s greatest chemists in research and teaching. As a doctoral candidate during World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project with Henry Gilman at Iowa State University in the development of uranium isotopes for the atomic bomb. In 1966, the U.S. Naval Academy appointed him as its first black faculty member. Massie’s research over fifty years led to the development of drugs to treat mental illness, malaria, meningitis, gonorrhea, herpes, and cancer. Chemical and Engineering News in 1998 named him one of the top seventy-five chemists of all time, along with Marie Curie, Linus Pauling, George Washington Carver, and DNA pioneers James Watson and Francis Crick. Samuel Massie …

Mathis, Deborah Myers

Deborah Mathis is an acclaimed journalist and author who has been a reporter and columnist for newspapers and a television reporter and anchor. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. Deborah Myers was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 24, 1953. Her father, Lloyd H. Myers, was a businessman and Baptist minister, while her mother, Rachel A. Helms Myers, was an educator. She has several brothers and sisters. Myers attended Gibbs Elementary, Rightsell Elementary, and Westside Junior High, graduating from Little Rock Central High in 1971. She got her start in journalism at the Central school newspaper as the first female and first African-American editor. Rather than leave home to go to college, …

Maudelle: A Novel Founded on Facts Gathered From Living Witnesses

Maudelle: A Novel Founded on Facts Gathered from Living Witnesses, written by James Henery Smith and published by Mayhew Publishing Company of Boston in 1906, is reputed to be the first novel written by an African American residing in Arkansas. Smith was a prominent Little Rock (Pulaski County) dentist, a leader in the black community who spoke in opposition of the proposed Separate Coach Act of 1891, and the father of Arkansas composer Florence Smith Price. Maudelle is a novel about miscegenation, focusing on the “illicit commingling” between a U.S. Senator from Kentucky, George Morroe, and his slave Mary. Their child, Maudelle, becomes orphaned after a series of melodramatic events: the stabbing of Morroe; his deathbed request to be married …

Mays, Richard Leon

Richard Leon Mays was an early civil rights attorney during the struggles to integrate public facilities and end bias in Arkansas courts and law enforcement. He was in the first group of African Americans to be elected to the Arkansas General Assembly in the twentieth century and became the second African American to be a justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court. Governor Bill Clinton appointed him to the court in 1979. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. Richard L. Mays was born on August 5, 1943, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the younger of two sons of Barnett G. Mays and Dorothy Mae Greenlee Mays. Although the family lived in an integrated neighborhood on …

McClain, Doc (Lynching of)

Doc McClain (whose name is sometimes rendered Dock McLain or McLane) was lynched in Ashdown (Little River County) on May 13, 1910, for allegedly stabbing wealthy young farmer Ernest Hale. According to the 1900 census, farmer Doc McClain (whose age was not given) was living in a rented home in Franklin (Little River County) with his wife Mary (aged thirty) and their two children, Lizzie (seven) and Ezekil (three). They had been married for ten years. Neither Doc nor Mary could read or write. According to numerous accounts, Doc McClain stabbed Ernest Hale in a store sometime in April 1910. Hale survived the attack and was hospitalized. At the time, it was feared that he would die. Local citizens threatened …

McConico, J. H.

aka: John Hamilton McConico
John Hamilton McConico was an African-American educator, newspaper editor and publisher, businessman, national grand auditor for the Mosaic Templars of America, and a civil rights pioneer. His business and civil rights leadership included membership in the National Negro Business League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association. J. H. McConico was born on December 25, 1877, in Livingston, Alabama, to Jessie McConico, a preacher, and Mattie McConico. His sister, Fannie, was four years his senior. After McConico completed the available public school courses, his family sent him to Agricultural and Mechanical College in Normal, Alabama. In 1898, McConico graduated from the department of printing with a literary emphasis. After graduation, he worked …

McCoy, Rose Marie

Rose Marie Hinton McCoy broke into the white, male-dominated music business in the early 1950s to become a highly sought-after songwriter whose career lasted over six decades. More than 360 artists have recorded her tunes, including Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, and Sarah Vaughan. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame in 2018. Marie Hinton was born in Oneida (Phillips County) on April 19, 1922, to Levi Hinton and Celetia Brazil Hinton. She and her older brother and sister attended the area’s two-room elementary school, went to church regularly, and worked on the forty-acre farm their parents rented. Though Oneida was located in the Mississippi Delta, often referred …

McCracklin, Jimmy

aka: James David Walker
Jimmy McCracklin was a renowned blues musician, singer, music industry entrepreneur, and songwriter. His hundreds of songwriting credits include his own recording of “The Walk,” which was a Top 10 hit for him in 1958, and “Tramp,” which was a Top 5 rhythm and blues (R&B) hit twice in 1967, first for Lowell Fulson and then as a duet by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. McCracklin steadfastly claimed to have composed, uncredited, his friend B. B. King’s blues standard “The Thrill Is Gone,” although that claim remains contested. McCracklin is characterized as having played West Coast blues, a style associated mainly with African-American musicians who, like McCracklin, migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area of California during the 1940s. However, …

McDonald, Harry Pelot

Harry Pelot McDonald was a doctor, medical missionary, civil rights activist, and humanitarian in the second half of the twentieth century. A leader of the Fort Smith (Sebastian County) branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), McDonald advocated for the African-American community by fighting for desegregation and increased employment opportunities. Harry Pelot McDonald was born on September 1, 1923, in Sumter, South Carolina. He was the youngest son of Adelaide Palmer McDonald and Samuel James McDonald. Samuel McDonald worked for the railway postal service and taught at Claflin University, in addition to serving as president of the Sumter NAACP. Adelaide McDonald was a homemaker and music teacher. Harry grew up in Sumter and was educated …

McFerrin, Robert, Sr.

Robert McFerrin Sr. was an African-American baritone opera and concert singer who became the first black male to appear in an opera at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York City, his debut following by less than three weeks the well-publicized breaking of the color barrier by contralto Marian Anderson. However, McFerrin’s career at the Met was brief, being limited to ten performances in three seasons over three years. Although he sang in European opera houses and performed concerts extensively, he failed to attain major prominence. He is best remembered as the father of singer and conductor Bobby McFerrin, with whom he sometimes performed. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1995. Robert McFerrin was born on March …

McGehee Lynching of 1894

On September 22, 1894, Luke Washington, Richard Washington, and Henry C. Robinson were lynched in McGehee (Desha County) for allegedly murdering local merchant H. C. Patton and robbing his store. One of the interesting aspects of this case is that the African-American population of McGehee (then known as McGehee Junction) reportedly took an active part in the three men’s lynching. On September 20, 1894, Patton locked his store, which was located on the edge of a cotton field some distance from the depot in McGehee, and proceeded along the walkway to his bedroom. There, Robinson and the two Washingtons allegedly killed him with a club. Although Patton was armed with a pistol, he was unable to use it in time. His attackers then …

McGraw, Patricia Washington

Patricia Washington McGraw, a scholar, professor, and author, has made a significant impact throughout the country and the world as an educator and African-American cultural preservationist. Patricia Washington was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William and Ruth Washington, natives of Danville (Yell County), on May 6, 1935. While she was growing up in a time of school segregation and Jim Crow laws, her parents instilled in her the value of education and the importance of embracing her African-American heritage. In 1953, she graduated from all-black Dunbar High School in Little Rock. McGraw graduated from San Francisco State College in California in 1957 and earned a master’s degree in American literature from the college in 1967. She was the …

McIntosh, Robert “Say”

Robert “Say” McIntosh is a restaurant owner, political activist, and community organizer distinctly tied to the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area and Arkansas politics. A political gadfly during the 1980s and 1990s, McIntosh was responsible for many political protests that were statewide news during the time. Say McIntosh was born in 1943 in Osceola (Mississippi County), the fifth of eleven children. In 1949, he and his family moved to the Granite Mountain area of Little Rock. McIntosh attended Horace Mann High School but dropped out in the tenth grade. He spent much of his early life learning the restaurant business, which led him to establish his own eatery, serving home-style cooking and his famous sweet potato pie. “The Sweet Potato …

McIntyre, Samuel (Lynching of)

On April 23, 1919, an African-American man named Sam McIntyre was hanged near Forrest City (St. Francis County) for allegedly murdering another black man, John Johnson, the previous February. According to the February 10, 1919, edition of the Arkansas Gazette, on February 6, Johnson was shot through the window while playing checkers with a friend at his home on the Graham farm. McIntyre was arrested after the killing, along with U. L. “Hub” Lancaster (a white man) and Rube McGee (a black man). According to the report, “Johnson was a witness against Lancaster and McIntyre in several liquor cases, one case of assault to kill and another case charging burglary and grand larceny.” He was to testify when the case …

McKissic, James Henry (Jimmy)

Jimmy McKissic was a world-renowned pianist from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) who spent much of his life in France but performed throughout the world, including more than two dozen events at Carnegie Hall in New York. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. James Henry McKissic was born on March 16, 1940, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Reverend James E. McKissic and Rosa Daniels McKissic; he had five brothers and five sisters, including one sister who was adopted. Growing up in Pine Bluff, McKissic was playing the piano by the age of three. He played in his father’s church and for other local congregations as a youth; his mother taught him until he …

Mercer, Christopher Columbus, Jr.

Christopher Columbus Mercer Jr. was an advisor to Daisy Bates during the 1957 desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. As field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), his legal background helped Bates understand and respond to the flood of litigation against the NAACP. Christopher Mercer was born Castor Mercer Jr. on March 27, 1924, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), to Castor C. and Tarvell Linda Mercer; his mother soon changed his name. His father worked as a mechanic for the St. Louis Southwestern (Cotton Belt) Railroad. His mother owned a dry-cleaning business. He has one brother and one half-brother. Mercer received his AB in social services from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical & Normal College …

Military Farm Colonies (Arkansas Delta)

As the Federal army moved across Arkansas during the Civil War, thousands of newly freed slaves attached themselves to military units and eventually began to amass in Union strongholds. Helena (Phillips County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) were just two of the towns where Union commanders struggled to provide for this massive influx of refugees. As more freedmen arrived at Helena after it fell to Union forces in 1862, military officers worked to alleviate the strain these civilians put on the supply lines. Eventually, a program that saw some success in Tennessee and Mississippi was adopted by the commanders at Helena. Realizing that the freedmen were an untapped source of labor, Union officers east of the Mississippi River leased abandoned …

Miller, Abraham Hugo

The Reverend Abraham Hugo Miller was an African-American businessman, a legislator during Reconstruction, and a church and educational leader in Helena (Phillips County). During Reconstruction, he served in the Arkansas General Assembly as a representative from Phillips County. At the peak of his business operations, he was considered the wealthiest black man in Arkansas. Abraham Miller was born a slave in Colt (St. Francis County) on March 12, 1849. He was the son of Boyer Miller, who was born in Virginia in 1827; the name of his mother is unknown, though his stepmother was Henrietta Miller. During the Civil War, Miller moved with his mother to Helena. Like his father, he became a drayman, which involved hauling cotton, flour, meat, …

Miller, Asbury Mansfield

Asbury Mansfield (A. M.) Miller was an African American who served for many years as an educator in Batesville (Independence County). A. M. Miller, the son of Randal and Pollie Miller, was born on February 4, 1893, in Perla (Hot Spring County). His father, a native of Mississippi, worked in a sawmill there. Miller graduated from Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and he later did graduate work at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). During World War I, he worked as a waiter at Fort Logan H. Roots in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). On May 25, 1921, he married Ethel O. Walter in Clark County. At around this time, he worked …

Miller, Eliza Ann Ross

Eliza Ann Ross Miller was an African-American businesswoman and educator, as well as the first woman to build and operate a movie theater in Arkansas. She was the wife of prosperous Helena (Phillips County) businessman, state legislator, and church leader Abraham Hugo Miller. After her husband’s death, she continued his business operations while also providing leadership in the Helena school system. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999. Eliza Ross was born in Arkadelphia (Clark County) on September 6, 1869, to George and Sarah Ross. On June 15, 1887, she married Abraham H. Miller in Arkadelphia. The couple had eight children, five of whom survived into adulthood. Abraham Miller, who had been successful in real …

Minton, Clifford E.

Clifford E. Minton was a prominent Arkansas-born African American who spent a lifetime dedicated to social services. He is best known in Arkansas for his work with the Urban League of Greater Little Rock (ULGLR), especially with gaining employment for African Americans during the buildup of defense facilities for World War II. Clifford E. Minton was born on July 24, 1911, in Des Arc (Prairie County), the elder of two sons of Frank Minton and Jessie Carter Minton. His father was a skilled machine operator and millwright at the Bowman Hoop Plant. He credits his realization of racial inequality with such early experiences as seeing the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) march by the African Methodist Episcopal Church while he and …

Mitchell v. United States

Mitchell v. United States et al., 313 U.S. 80 (1941), came on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, challenging discriminatory treatment of railroad accommodations for African-American passengers on interstate train coaches passing through Arkansas, where a state law demanded segregation of races but equivalent facilities. The Supreme Court had held in earlier cases that it was adequate under the Fourteenth Amendment for separate privileges to be supplied to differing groups of people as long as they were treated similarly well. Originating in Arkansas in April 1937, the suit worked its way through the regulatory and legal system, finally ending up on the calendar of the Supreme Court in 1941. The circumstances surrounding the matter began after the only African American …

Mitchell, Bobby

Robert Cornelius (Bobby) Mitchell played professional football for the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins before becoming a scout for the Redskins. He is the only athlete born in Hot Springs (Garland County) to have been selected to the National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame. Bobby Mitchell was born in Hot Springs on June 6, 1935, to the Reverend Albert Mitchell and Avis Mitchell. He became a four-sport standout at Langston High School in Hot Springs. The local media referred to Mitchell as “Mr. Touchdown” due to the talents he exhibited on the high school gridiron. In 1953, the senior-packed Langston team, coached by Fred Mason, took the Negro State Football Championship, going undefeated in conference play. Mitchell was …

Mitchell, Charles (Lynching of)

On November 2, 1884, Charles Mitchell was murdered near Richmond (Little River County) for the alleged murder of a prominent farmer’s wife, Kate Waddell. The incident made news not only in Arkansas, but also in Texas, the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), and Michigan. At the time of the 1880 census, forty-year-old Charley Mitchell—an African-American or biracial man—was living in Johnson Township of Little River County with his wife, Isabella, and their two sons, William (thirteen) and Mitchel (eleven). The census lists no occupation for Mitchell, but his two sons were working as servants. According to an October 31 article in the Arkansas Gazette, Mrs. Waddell, “an estimable woman,” was murdered on October 29 “by a notorious negro by the name …

Mitchell, Elton (Lynching of)

On June 13, 1918, an African-American farm worker named Elton Mitchell (referred to in some reports as Allen Mitchell) was hanged by a mob in Earle (Crittenden County). Newspaper reports give different dates for Mitchell’s murder, including June 22, June 13, and June 14, but the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic reported on June 14 that the murder took place on Thursday, June 13, so that is the most probable date. Mitchell’s personal history is a bit confusing, with public records placing him in several adjacent counties in northeastern Arkansas and northwestern Mississippi. At the time of the 1900 census there was an Etten Mitchell, age ten, living in Tyronza (Poinsett County) with his parents, Andrew and Parthenia Mitchell, and five …

Mitchell, Juanita Jackson

Juanita Jackson Mitchell was a pioneering African-American attorney whose many accomplishments included being the first black woman to practice law in Maryland. Born in Arkansas, she grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. There, she became a civil rights attorney, as well as the matriarch of one of Maryland’s most politically influential black families. Juanita Elizabeth Jackson was born on January 2, 1913, in Hot Springs (Garland County) to Keiffer Albert Jackson and Dr. Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson. Keiffer Jackson was an exhibitor of religious and educational films, which he showed across the country, and he and his wife were apparently in the midst of one of the exhibition tours when their daughter was born, but as soon as they were able, …

Moncrief, Sidney

Sidney Alvin Moncrief is one of the greatest basketball players ever to come out of Arkansas. While playing guard for the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) basketball team from 1975 to 1979, Moncrief was named Southwest Conference Most Valuable Player and went on to help lead the Razorbacks to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament and ultimately to the NCAA Final Four in 1978. After college, Moncrief was picked in the first round of the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, where he went on to be a five-time NBA All-Star and earn the praise and respect of such NBA luminaries as Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. He was inducted into …

Monroe County Lynching of 1893

In January 1893, five men were lynched in Monroe County near Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) for allegedly murdering Reuben Atkinson, his housekeeper, and her child, and then torching Atkinson’s house to cover up the crimes. Census and other public records yield no information on either Atkinson or his alleged murderers. According to the Arkansas Gazette, on January 7 a “prosperous farmer” named Rube Atkinson went to sell his cotton. He returned to his farm on January 8, and the following morning neighbors awoke to find that Atkinson’s house had burned down. When they went to inspect, they found three bodies in the ruins, which were later identified as those of Atkinson, his housekeeper, and her child. Authorities arrested several African …

Montague, Raye Jean Jordan

Raye Jean Jordan Montague was an internationally registered professional engineer (RPE) with the U.S. Navy who is credited with the first computer-generated rough draft of a U.S. naval ship. The U.S. Navy’s first female program manager of ships (PMS-309), Information Systems Improvement Program, she held a civilian equivalent rank of captain. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2013 and the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018. Raye Jordan was born on January 21, 1935, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Rayford Jordan and Flossie Graves Jordan. She attended St. Bartholomew School before moving to Merrill High School in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), graduating in 1952. She attended Arkansas AM&N (now the University of Arkansas at …

Monticello Academy

Monticello Academy in Drew County was under the sponsorship of the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), or the “Northern” Presbyterian Church, which first began opening schools for freed slaves in the South in the 1860s. However, it was not until the 1880s, when a new presbytery had been established in the state and numbers of African Americans from the eastern states were resettling there, that the board felt confident enough to begin its work in Arkansas. The academy was started in 1891 by the Reverend C. S. Mebane, who had come to Monticello (Drew County) in 1888 as the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church there. He was closely aided in his work …

Moore, Edward, Jr.

Edward Moore Jr. is a retired vice admiral who served in the U.S. Navy. At the time of his retirement, he was the highest-ranking African American in the navy. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999. Edward Moore Jr. was born on February 18, 1945, in New York City. He is the eldest child of Edward Moore Sr. and Freddie Mardell Hayes Moore, with two brothers and a sister. The family eventually moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County), where Moore graduated from Horace Mann High School in 1963. On April 2, two months before his high school graduation, Moore enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve. The day after his high school graduation, he departed Little …

Moore, Frank

Frank Moore was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder and sentenced to death following the Elaine Massacre of 1919; his name was attached to the U.S. Supreme Court case of Moore v. Dempsey. After brief trials, the so-called Elaine Twelve—six who became known as the Moore defendants and six 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. Born in Gold Dust, Louisiana, in Avoyelles Parish, on May 1, 1888, Frank Moore was the son of sharecroppers James Moore and Mary Philips Moore. In 1917, Moore reported on …

Moore, Rudy Ray

African-American comedian, singer, film actor, and film producer Rudy Ray Moore was known as “king of the party records” because of the popularity of his comedy albums. He released many comedy albums in the 1960s and 1970s and was best known for the character Dolemite, which he developed in his standup routine and portrayed in two films, Dolemite and The Human Tornado. Rudy Ray Moore was born on March 17, 1927, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The oldest of seven children, he often sang in church and developed a taste for performance. After his mother married, he lived briefly in nearby Paris (Logan County) before moving back to Fort Smith. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of fifteen …

Morris, Elias Camp

Elias Camp Morris was an African-American minister who, in 1895, became president of the National Baptist Convention (NBC), the largest denomination of black Christians in the United States. Recognized by white Arkansans and the nation as a leader of the black community, he often served as a liaison between black and white communities on both the state and national level. He was also an important leader in the Arkansas Republican Party. Morris was born a slave on May 7, 1855, in Murray County, Georgia, the son of James and Cora Cornelia Morris. In 1864–1865, he simultaneously attended grammar schools in Dalton, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. From 1866, he attended school in Stevenson, Alabama, and in 1874–1875, he attended Nashville Normal …

Morrison, Lee (Lynching of)

On September 27, 1868, an African-American man named Lee Morrison (sometimes referred to as Morsen or Morson) was lynched near Helena (Phillips County) in retaliation for a number of murders he was presumed to have committed, including that of deputy sheriff Joseph W. Maxey, and the wounding of Sheriff Bart Y. Turner the previous March. There is no information on Lee Morrison or anyone of a similar name available in public records. Sheriff Turner, born around 1840 in Tennessee, had been in Phillips County since at least 1860, when he was living in Big Creek Township. Joseph W. Maxey had been in the county since at least 1850, when he was working as a druggist and living in the household …

Morton, Herwald “Hal”

Herwald “Hal” Morton was a member of the U.S. Foreign Service, spending most of his career working in the U.S. Information Agency (USIA). In a career spanning over thirty years—and which culminated in his earning the rank of Career Minister—he lived in five different countries while visiting more than 100 as a representative of the United States. He is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Hal Morton was born on July 19, 1931, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the youngest of Rachel and James Morton’s five children. He grew up in Little Rock and was the valedictorian of Dunbar High School’s Class of 1948. (He later recalled getting his first job as a ten-year-old, lying about his …

Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center (MTCC) opened on September 20, 2008, as the first publicly funded museum of African-American history and culture in Arkansas. The MTCC derives its name from the Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), which was at its height one of the largest black fraternal societies in the United States. The museum stands at the corner of 9th Street and Broadway in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the site of the National Headquarters of the Mosaic Templars of America. The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center began with the efforts of a group of Little Rock citizens who worked to save the Mosaic Templars of America headquarters, opened in 1913, from destruction. The group, the Mosaic Templars Preservation Society, wished to …

Mosaic Templars of America

The Mosaic Templars of America (MTA), an African American fraternal organization offering mutual aid to the black community, was founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1882 and incorporated in 1883 by two former slaves, John Edward Bush and Chester W. Keatts. Taking its name from the biblical character of Moses, the organization offered illness, death, and burial insurance to African Americans at a time when white insurers refused to treat black customers equally. The name metaphorically linked the organization’s services to African Americans and the oppressive conditions of the Jim Crow South to Moses’s leadership during the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. At its peak in the 1920s, the organization had an estimated …

Mosely, Julius (Lynching of)

On July 13, 1892, Julius Mosely, an African-American man accused of raping his stepdaughter, was lynched near Halley (Desha County) by a mob of fellow black residents. While the majority of lynchings in the South were perpetrated by white mobs against blacks, in a very small number of cases, lynchings were carried out either by mixed-race mobs or by mobs of African Americans. William Fitzhugh Brundage speculates that perhaps African Americans doubted that the all-white legal system would deal properly with crimes occurring within the black community. In addition, such lynchings often took place in cases of family-oriented crimes like incest. Interestingly, Brundage finds that such black-on-black violence was most prevalent in the Mississippi Delta regions in Mississippi, Arkansas, and …

Mosley, Lawrence Leo “Snub”

Lawrence Leo “Snub” Mosley was a jazz trombonist, composer, and band leader originally from Little Rock (Pulaski County). Nicknamed “Snub,” Mosley had a career that spanned more than fifty years, which included stints in the 1930s with Claude Hopkins, Fats Waller, and Louis Armstrong. Mosley is probably best remembered today as creator of his own unique instrument—the slide saxophone—which combined an upright saxophone and mouthpiece with a trombone mouthpiece and slide.  Snub Mosley was born on December 29, 1905, in Little Rock. Encouraged by his grandfather, he took an interest in the trombone and played in the band at M. W. Gibbs High School in Little Rock. His tendency to improvise on sheet music and (as Mosley put it) “swing” drew …

Myers, Amina Claudine

Arkansas native Amina Claudine Myers is a noted pianist, singer, educator, recording artist, and composer who gained prominence in Chicago, Illinois, and New York City beginning in the 1970s. She has had a long career in jazz, choral/orchestral music, and theater, and is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame. Amina Claudine Myers was born on March 21, 1942, in Blackwell (Conway County). She was raised by her great-aunt, Emma Thomas, and by her uncle, who gave her music lessons early in her life. She studied classical piano at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Morrilton (Conway County). She moved to Dallas, Texas, in 1949 and kept studying piano. She played for …