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

Nahziryah Monastic Community

aka: Purple People
Nahziryah Monastic Community is a remote esoteric spiritual center located in rural Marion County in the Ozark Mountains. The African-American commune was built by the Reverend Nazirmoreh K. B. Kedem in the mid-1990s on a 100-acre parcel of land as a survivalist compound in preparation for Y2K. By the early 2000s, Kedem had begun to advertise the place as a spiritual retreat center. His initiates had to take strict vows of silence and abstinence under the “Nazir Order of the Purple Veil.” Initiates were required to wear purple clothing, so they were referred to by outsiders as “The Purple People.” Followers agreed to relinquish all possessions, past relations, and birth names. They were prohibited from speaking, except when spoken to …

Nash, Bob J.

Bob J. Nash is a businessman and consultant who has assisted political, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. Most notably, he served in the administration of Governor Bill Clinton in the 1980s and then was part of the administration of President Clinton in the 1990s. Bob Nash was born on September 26, 1947, in Texarkana (Miller County). He graduated from Washington High School in Texarkana and then earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) in 1969. Nash went on to receive a master’s degree in urban studies from Howard University in Washington DC in 1972. For the next two years, Nash held jobs in municipal government in Washington and in Fairfax, Virginia. Returning …

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

aka: NAACP
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded on February 12, 1909, and is America’s oldest civil rights organization. The first local branch in Arkansas was established in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on July 4, 1918. The president was John Hamilton McConico, and the fifty founding members included many of the city’s leading African-American figures of the time, including Joseph Albert Booker, Aldridge E. Bush, Chester E. Bush, George William Stanley Ish, Isaac Taylor Gillam, and John Marshall Robinson. The state was the site of one of the national organization’s early court triumphs: In the case of Moore v. Dempsey (1923), NAACP lawyers won a reprieve from the death penalty for six African-American men on the …

Ne-Yo

aka: Shaffer Chimere Smith Jr.
Ne-Yo is one of the most prominent and active Arkansas-born recording artists and songwriters performing in the early twenty-first century. Initially known for songs he wrote for other artists, Ne-Yo began releasing solo rhythm and blues (R&B) albums of his own in 2006. Shaffer Chimere “Ne-Yo” Smith Jr. was born on October 18, 1982, in Camden (Ouachita County) to Lorraine and Shaffer Smith. Smith displayed his songwriting acumen at a young age, writing his first song at the age of five. After his parents separated, he relocated with his mother to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he spent the remainder of his formative years. His mother worked in a variety of jobs before becoming a bank manager, though music was a …

Neal, Hemp (Lynching of)

An African-American man named Hemp Neal was lynched on November 5, 1878, outside of Clarksville (Johnson County) for allegedly raping a young white woman. This was the first recorded lynching in Johnson County. The identity of Neal is difficult to determine. His name is also given as Hamp Neal, or simply as Neely, in various reports. The Clarksville Herald, in an article reprinted in the Arkansas Gazette, described Neely (the name it gave him) as a “burly negro…who is a newcomer to our neighborhood.” The Arkansas Democrat reported his name as Hemp Neal, specifying that he was about twenty-five years old and “came here last March from Louisiana.” He apparently worked on the farm of one Dr. Adams, two miles …

Neal, Olly, Jr.

Olly Neal Jr. headed up a community health clinic in Marianna (Lee County) in the 1970s, became the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas, and served as a circuit court judge and on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Historian Grif Stockley described him as a civil rights activist, political agitator, Arkansas Delta advocate, and a “black devil incarnate to many of Marianna’s whites.” Olly Neal Jr. was born on July 13, 1941, on a farm eleven miles west of Marianna in the rural New Hope community to Ollie Neal and Willie Beatrice Jones Neal. Neal grew up poor in a home with no electricity. His parents impressed upon him and his twelve siblings the importance of education. Neal’s father …

Neely, Amos (Lynching of)

In mid-August 1898, a twenty-three-year-old African-American man named Amos Neely was lynched near Sheridan (Grant County) for an alleged assault on a white woman. The victim of the assault was a “Mrs. Reinhart,” sometimes referred to in newspapers as Rhinehart, Reinhardt, or even Kinehart. Records indicate that there were several Reinharts living in Grant County at the time, and it is impossible to identify her. The lynching victim’s name was reported as Amos Neely, but no trace of him can be found in Grant County records. Neely allegedly committed the assault in April 1898. On April 13, the Arkansas Democrat reported that he had been jailed in Sheridan the previous Saturday (April 9) and that he confessed the following day. …

Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959

aka: Wrightsville Fire of 1959
On March 5, 1959, twenty-one African-American boys burned to death inside a dormitory at an Arkansas reform school in Wrightsville (Pulaski County). The doors were locked from the outside. The fire mysteriously ignited around 4:00 a.m. on a cold, wet morning, following earlier thunderstorms in the same area of rural Pulaski County. The institution was one mile down a dirt road from the mostly black town of Wrightsville, then an unincorporated hamlet thirteen miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Forty-eight children, ages thirteen to seventeen, managed to claw their way to safety by knocking out two of the window screens. Amidst the choking, blinding smoke and heat, four or five boys at a time tried to fight their way …

Nelson, Bud (Lynching of)

Sometime between October 27 and November 1, 1926, Bud Nelson was shot near Tarry (Lincoln County) for the alleged murder of twenty-four-year-old planter Ed Henderson in neighboring Jefferson County. According to accounts published in the Arkansas Gazette and the Cleveland County Herald, Ed Henderson was riding his horse past the house of Ed Young, who was a black tenant on the land of Ed’s father, John H. Henderson. According to the Cleveland County Herald, Ed Henderson was looking for some mules that had strayed. He asked Nelson, who was sitting on a cotton bale across the road from Ed Young’s house, about the mules. The Herald stated that Ed Henderson was a very popular young man “and was always known …

Nelson, Dan T. (Lynching of)

Dan T. Nelson was lynched by a mob of African Americans in Lincoln County on November 13, 1893, for allegedly murdering Ben Betts. Unlike most lynchings in Arkansas (and the United States), several of the perpetrators of this crime were actually tried and sent to jail, perhaps because the mob was composed entirely of African Americans. According to an account published in the Arkansas Gazette, on November 7, Ben Betts, an African American, accompanied a relative to Dan Nelson’s home near Varner (Lincoln County) to help that relative collect a rent bill from Nelson. Betts and Nelson got into an argument, and Betts ordered Nelson out of the house. Nelson emerged from the dwelling, armed with a hatchet and carrying …

Nevada County Race War of 1897

On May 29, 1897, white employees of the Sayre Lumber Company near Prescott (Nevada County) set fire to a cabin where ten of the company’s African-American workers were sleeping. When the black laborers attempted to flee, the mob fired shots at them. No one was killed, and, due to the diligence of a private detective, indictments were actually brought down in the case (although the accused were eventually acquitted). According to the New York Times, “bad blood had existed among the white and colored laborers of the lumbering district of that section for some time past, and frequently efforts have been made by the employees of the Nevada County camps to run the negroes off, but always without avail.” On …

Nighthawk, Robert

aka: Robert Lee McCollum
Robert Nighthawk was among the most remarkable slide guitarists in blues history, widely admired among his peers and the southern audiences he spent his life entertaining. Nighthawk influenced a generation of bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Earl Hooker, and supposedly Elmore James. He was the archetype of the rambling bluesman, roaming all over the South with frequent trips to the North, though he chose Helena—present-day Helena-West Helena (Phillips County)—as his home base. This rambling nature and his decision to remain in the South likely explain why Nighthawk never achieved greater fame. Robert Nighthawk was born Robert Lee McCollum in Helena on November 30, 1909, to Ned and Mattie McCollum. He was one of three children. His was …

Norful, Smokie

aka: Willie Ray Norful Jr.
Smokie Norful—a popular pastor in Chicago, Illinois, and a Grammy Award–winning gospel singer—spent most of his developing years in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and is one of the most commercially successful gospel recording artists to have emerged from Arkansas. Born Willie Ray Norful Jr. in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 31, 1975, to the Reverend W. R. Norful and Teresa Norful, Norful is the oldest of three boys. Like so many other African-American gospel singers, he found church to be a nurturing environment in which his musical skills could be honed. At a 2012 taping of the Trinity Broadcast Network’s flagship program, Praise the Lord, Norful joked before a studio audience about growing up as a “P. K.” (preacher’s kid) …

Norman, Will (Lynching of)

On June 19, 1913, twenty-one-year-old Will Norman was lynched in Hot Springs (Garland County) for the alleged assault and murder of Garland Huff, the daughter of Judge C. Floyd Huff. In 1910, C. Floyd Huff was living in Hot Springs with his wife, Octavia, and four children: William (thirteen years old), Garland (eleven), C. Floyd Jr. (ten), and Robert E. C. (six). According to some reports, Will Norman had been employed by the Huffs for about two years prior to 1913. Little other information is available regarding him. According to newspaper reports, on June 19, Norman dragged Garland Huff into a closet. When she resisted his advances, he beat her, crushing her skull in five places. He then locked her …

North Little Rock Six

The North Little Rock Six were six African-American students who attempted to desegregate North Little Rock High School on September 9, 1957. Two years earlier, the North Little Rock School Board voted to begin integrating classes at the twelfth-grade level; however, after Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus publicly stated opposition to the integration of Little Rock Central High School and summoned the Arkansas National Guard to the school on September 2, 1957, the directors of the North Little Rock School Board put a halt to their integration plan. Seven seniors from the all-black Scipio Jones High School initially registered to attend North Little Rock High for the 1957–58 school year, but only six students attempted to enroll. They were Richard …

Northern Ohio School

Until the mid-twentieth century, the majority of Arkansas children were taught in one-room schoolhouses, most of which were located in rural areas. Many of these schools have been destroyed, but several remain. The Northern Ohio School, a one-room schoolhouse for rural African-American students, is the only remaining one-room African-American schoolhouse in Parkin (Cross County). As a result of the expanding lumber industry, the population of Parkin grew in the first decade of the twentieth century; the town was incorporated in 1912. The primary employers were local sawmills, one of which was the Northern Ohio Cooperage and Lumber Company. It formed in 1906 as an amalgamation of smaller sawmills: the Parkin Cooperage Company and the Northern Ohio Company. The gathering of …

NYA Camp Bethune

aka: Camp Bethune
National Youth Administration (NYA) Camp Bethune was part of a New Deal program that provided opportunities for literacy and critical advantages for young black women from across the state of Arkansas during the Great Depression. Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal (AM&N) College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), incorporated the camp site. The camp marked the network of regional and national political activism among African Americans who negotiated community and citizenship in the first half of the twentieth century. The Federal Emergency Relief Appropriation (FERA) Act created the NYA in 1935. The agency funded part-time work for students between the ages of sixteen to twenty-five, as well as worked to promote public …