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

Ray, Mary Lee McCrary

Mary L. Ray spent thirty-seven years educating African Americans. She applied the self-help approach she learned at the Tuskegee Institute to formal education in private and public schools, and then in informal education as the first African-American female employee of the “Negro” division of the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service—that is, the first black home demonstration agent in the state. Mary Lee McCrary’s birth year and early life remain a mystery. During the late nineteenth century,  as African Americans faced increased assaults to their civil liberties, many turned to capitalism, another American ideal, as visible evidence of citizenship. McCrary apparently embraced this approach. She learned the self-help philosophy from one of the most celebrated advocates of the approach, Booker T. Washington, …

Rector, Rickey Ray (Execution of)

Rickey (or Ricky) Ray Rector was the third death row inmate to be executed in Arkansas after the reinstatement of capital punishment in the state in 1990. He was executed despite concerns over his ability to understand the difference between life and death or the consequences of his actions. On March 22, 1981, Rector entered Tommy’s Old Fashioned Home-style Restaurant in Conway (Faulkner County), where he had previously been denied entrance to a private party. Rector fired several shots, killing Arthur Criswell and wounding two others. Two days later, Rector entered his mother’s home while the police were there questioning his mother and sister. Rector shot and killed Robert Martin, a Conway police officer, before running outside and shooting himself …

Reed (Desha County)

Reed of Desha County is a small community on U.S. Highway 65, six miles north of McGehee (Desha County). It was established as a predominately African-American community in the mid-twentieth century. Much of the impetus for the creation of Reed lay in the emergence of Mitchellville (Desha County), which arose following World War II when the government provided land north of Dumas to returning soldiers. Mitchellville became something of a model black community, its leaders working with white leaders from Dumas to get proper sewer, water, and street improvements. African Americans around McGehee and Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) were thus motivated by a desire to govern themselves and follow Mitchellville’s example. In 1961, they incorporated the town of Reed in an …

Reed, Eddie

Eddie Reed was a cancer researcher, medical oncologist, and leader in public policy addressing disparities in healthcare in the United States. Reed is a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Eddie Reed was born on December 17, 1953, the son of Floyd and Gennora Reed, who raised a family of eighteen children on a farm near Hughes (St. Francis County). Reed and his siblings received their early education in Hughes’s public schools, and all received a college education and had distinguished careers as lawyers, doctors, teachers, and public servants. Reed attended Philander Smith College, a historically black institution in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he achieved academic distinction. In the summer following his sophomore year, he was chosen …

Reed, Pearlie Sylvester

Pearlie Sylvester Reed spent more than a quarter century of his career working in agriculture, serving four major regions of the United States and initiating sweeping progressive and anti-discrimination policies in the 1990s. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. Pearlie S. Reed was born in Heth (St. Francis County) on June 14, 1948. He was one of eighteen children of Floyd L. Reed and Gennora Reed. Reed attended school in the nearby town of Hughes (St. Francis County) and graduated from the segregated Mildred Jackson High School. As a student at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), Reed began his career in agriculture in 1968 as an intern in …

Reeves, Bass

Arkansas native Bass Reeves was one of the first black lawmen west of the Mississippi River. As one of the most respected lawmen working in Indian Territory, he achieved legendary status for the number of criminals he captured. Bass Reeves was born a slave in Crawford County in July 1838. His owners, the William S. Reeves family, moved to Grayson County, Texas, in 1846. During the Civil War, Bass became a fugitive slave and found refuge in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma) amongst the Creek and Seminole Indians. Reeves is believed to have served with the irregular or regular Union Indians that fought in Indian Territory during the Civil War. After the Civil War, Reeves settled in Van Buren (Crawford County) …

Reynolds, Dan (Lynching of)

In late December 1888, Dan Reynolds, an African American, was beaten and left for dead near Coffee Creek (Phillips County) by nine other African-American men who apparently disapproved of his relationship with a local black woman. The Arkansas Gazette referred to this incident as “one of the most atrocious crimes ever committed in this or any other country.” Coffee Creek is located in Big Creek Township, and Dan Reynolds had been living there for almost twenty years. He is listed in the 1870 census as a farm laborer, living with his wife, Vester (or Vesta) who was thirty-nine. By 1880, they had a ten-year-old daughter named Eliza. According to a report published in the Arkansas Gazette on January 15, 1889, …

Rhodes, Emma Kelly

Emma Kelly Rhodes is a prominent educator and social activist who has established a series of nonprofit education centers across Arkansas. Using her own life as an example, she worked to increase access to education, especially for those who have dropped out of high school. Rhodes has sought to give these people the education and training necessary to allow them to recast their lives. Emma Kelly was born on May 9, 1937. Growing up in a family of fourteen, she was a tenth-grade dropout at age fifteen, a mother at sixteen, and a widow at twenty-nine. Despite all this, she reared and educated seven children, each of whom earned at least a degree from a technical college, with a number …

Rice, Glen Anthony

Glen Anthony Rice was a professional basketball player from Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Rice played for the Miami Heat (1989–1995), the Charlotte Hornets (1995–1998), the Los Angeles Lakers (1998–2000), the New York Knicks (2000–2001), the Houston Rockets (2001–2003), and the Los Angeles Clippers (2003–2004). His son, Glen Jr., also became an NBA player. Although often billed as being from Flint, Michigan, Glen Anthony Rice was born on May 28, 1967, in Jacksonville. When Rice was a few months old, the family moved to Benton (Saline County), where the Rice family lived in Benton’s Ralph Bunche Community. While in Benton, Rice attended both Angie Grant and Howard Perrin elementary schools. When Rice was twelve, the Rice family moved to Flint, Michigan, where …

Rice, J. Donald

J. Donald (Don) Rice Jr. is founder, president, and chief executive officer of Rice Financial Products Company in New York, the only minority-owned derivatives firm in the nation. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2003. James Donald Rice Jr. was born on August 22, 1958, to the Reverend James Donald Rice Sr. and Ellen Rice. He has an older sister, Donnellda. In 1962, his family moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Hot Springs (Garland County). His father founded and served as the pastor of Roanoke Baptist Church and was president of the Hot Springs chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ellen Rice funded and operated the first Head Start …

Richard Allen Institute

The Richard Allen Institute in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) was founded in 1886 by the Reverend Lewis Johnston and his wife, Mercy. By 1887, they were being assisted by Anna E. Grenage. Rev. Johnston remained in charge of the school until his death in 1903. It was named in honor of Richard Allen, secretary of the Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA). The institute was one of the earliest Presbyterian schools for African Americans founded in Arkansas. While the Board of Missions for Freedmen began opening schools for freed slaves in the South as early as the 1860s, work in Arkansas did not begin in earnest until the 1880s, when a new presbytery …

Richardson, Nolan

Nolan Richardson is one of the most famous coaches to have served the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) Razorbacks basketball program. Richardson won nearly 400 games at UA using his unique style, known as “forty minutes of hell.” Nolan Richardson was born on December 27, 1941, in El Paso, Texas. He lived only a short distance from Mexico and grew up in a predominantly Mexican El Paso neighborhood. Richardson was three when his mother died, and, as his father was an alcoholic, Richardson was raised by his grandmother. While playing basketball at Bowie High School, Nolan caught the eye of legendary coach Don Haskins and was recruited to play collegiately at Texas Western College (now the University …

Ricks, G. W. and Moses (Lynching of)

In June 1898, prosperous African-American farmer G. W. Ricks and his son, Rev. Moses Ricks, were lynched in southern Monroe County for the alleged assault of a white farmer’s wife. According to historian Terence Finegan, whose A Deed so Accursed is a study of lynching in South Carolina and Mississippi, prosperous African Americans were occasionally lynched because their success threatened the notion of white superiority. Census information both illuminates and confuses the story. In 1870, there was a black farmer named Jim Ricks living in Monroe County’s Duncan Township. He was twenty-seven years old, and living with him were his wife, Miriam, and several other family members, all of them too old to be the Rickses’ children. Ricks was a …

Rideout, Conrad Alfred

Conrad Alfred Rideout was an African-American man whose travels and controversial activities stretched from Florida and Arkansas to Seattle, Washington, to Africa and then back to the United States. His identity seemed to balance perilously on the border between activist and con man. With Rideout having left behind a trail of unverifiable claims and a legacy of unfulfilled hopes, the effort to chronicle his life becomes a lesson in separating fact from fiction. Little is known about Rideout’s early years. According to one source, he was born in Ohio, and he apparently stayed in the Midwest through college, as he is alternately reported to be a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or the non-existent University of …

Roaf, Andree Yvonne Layton

Andree Yvonne Layton Roaf was an Arkansas attorney and jurist. A 1996 inductee to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, Roaf distinguished herself in the fields of biology, law, and community service. Andree Layton was born on March 31, 1941, in Nashville, Tennessee. The daughter of William W. Layton, a government official, and Phoebe A. Layton, an educator, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and in White Hall and Muskegon Heights, Michigan. She had two sisters. She graduated from high school in Muskegon in 1958. Originally intending to pursue a career in the biological sciences, she attended Michigan State University and received a BS in zoology in 1962. While an undergraduate, she met, and subsequently married in July 1963, another …

Roaf, William (Willie)

Willie Roaf became one of the greatest football players in Arkansas sports history and one of the best offensive linemen ever in the National Football League (NFL). He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. William Roaf was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 18, 1970, one of four children of dentist Clifton Roaf and attorney Andree Layton Roaf. (Andree Roaf was the first African-American female member of the Arkansas Supreme Court and the second woman ever to serve in that capacity.) Though he played football at Pine Bluff High School, graduating in 1988, he was not recruited by any major colleges. After he was told that he would need to gain more weight …

Roberts, Roy

Roy Roberts, a native of Magnolia (Columbia County), rose through the ranks of the automotive industry from management trainee to vice president of General Motors Corporation (GM), only the second African American to hold such a high position in the corporation. He was a pioneer in the field, and by the end of his over twenty-year leadership career with GM, he was one of the most powerful executives in the automotive industry. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2000. Roy Stewart Roberts was born in Magnolia on March 26, 1939. He was one of ten children of Turner Ray Roberts and Erma Lee Livingston Roberts. His father worked at several jobs, and his mother was …

Roberts, Terrence James

Terrence James Roberts made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed integration of the formerly all-white high school. Terrence Roberts, the eldest of seven children, was born on December 3, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to William and Margaret Roberts. His father was a World War II naval veteran who worked at the Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital in North Little Rock (Pulaski County), and his mother ran a catering service from home. Roberts was a sophomore at Horace Mann High School when he volunteered to integrate Little Rock’s Central High …

Robertson, Frank (Lynching of)

There is much confusion about the lynching of alleged arsonist Frank Robertson, which occurred in late March 1903. Newspapers from the time give a variety of dates for the event, ranging from March 26 to March 28. Many of the reports were datelined Lewisville (Lafayette County), although other newspapers called it New Louisville or New Lewisville; this would be the present-day Lafayette County seat of Lewisville, which was referred to as “New Lewisville” after the town moved closer to the railroad line in the late nineteenth century. Adding to the confusion, when the U.S. Congress issued an apology in 2005 for its historical inaction on lynching, its report said that Robertson’s lynching occurred on March 27 just across the Louisiana–Arkansas …

Robinson, Fatima

Fatima Robinson was described in the New York Times as “one of the most sought-after hip-hop and popular music choreographers in the world” and was once named by Entertainment Weekly as one of the 100 most creative people in the world of entertainment. Her dance choreography has been featured in numerous music videos, movies, and television shows. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2004. Fatima Robinson was born on August 29, 1971, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). At four years of age, she left Arkansas with her mother, Kadijah Furqan, and two younger sisters, moving to Los Angeles, California. She graduated from high school at age sixteen and started to work in her mother’s hair …

Robinson, John Marshall

John Marshall Robinson was a prominent physician, civic leader, and co-founder and president of the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA). As a physician, Robinson performed pioneering medical surgery and was involved with a number of medical institutions and organizations in Little Rock (Pulaski County). As a politician, Robinson was the main voice in the state demanding equal black participation in the Arkansas Democratic Party between 1928 and 1952. Born on July 31, 1879, in Pickens, Mississippi, John Robinson was one of eight children of Isabell Marshall and Amos G. Robinson. Robinson attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. While in Nashville, Robinson met and married India Cox. Robinson’s only …

Robinson, Willis (Lynching of)

On December 18, 1918, an African-American man named Willis Robinson was hanged by a mob in Newport (Jackson County) for allegedly murdering police officer Charles Williams and wounding Chief of Police Gus C. Martin. Reports indicate that Robinson was a resident of Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the 1910 census listed nineteen-year-old Willis W. Robinson as living in Owen Township with his parents, Charley and Martha Robinson. According to newspaper reports, by December 1918, Robinson, who was described by the Arkansas Democrat as “a very large black negro, weighing about 240 pounds,” was living with his wife at 1003 Jones Street in Little Rock. Robinson was reportedly well known to local authorities. In defiance of a 1917 Arkansas statute forbidding …

Rodgers, James Ronald, Sr.

James Ronald Rodgers Sr. was the nation’s first African American to be appointed manager of a major commercial airport, the first black head of a major independent city agency in Little Rock (Pulaski County), and the state’s first black commercial loan officer. James Rodgers was born on March 15, 1947, in Little Rock to Homer and Ruth Rodgers. The fifth of six children, he spent his childhood in the Tuxedo Courts housing development south of Roosevelt Road. Rodgers grew up working with his mother, brothers, and sister for his father’s janitorial service. After graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1965, Rodgers attended Little Rock University—now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR)—for a year and a half. In …

Rosenwald School (Delight)

The Rosenwald School, located on Arkansas Highway 26, is a one-story, wood-frame building erected between Delight (Pike County) and Antoine (Pike County) in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era public relief program. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 17, 1990. Three schools were built in Pike County between 1923 and 1927 with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund to serve the county’s African-American children. The Rosenwald Fund had been created by a Sears, Roebuck and Company executive to help construct educational facilities for minority children in the South; a total of 389 school buildings would be constructed in thirty-five Arkansas counties with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund. One of those buildings, …

Rosenwald Schools

Julius Rosenwald was one of the most significant figures in Southern black education. Although Rosenwald was a successful businessman, his philanthropic work has always overshadowed his financial success. His involvement in providing grants to build schools for African Americans across the South, including Arkansas, contributed greatly to the creation of better educational opportunities for Arkansas’s African-American population. Rosenwald was born on August 12, 1862, in Springfield, Illinois, to Jewish immigrant parents. He never finished high school or attended college but went into the clothing business instead. His philanthropy began with the support of Jewish immigrants, which surely came from his family’s heritage, and then expanded to include African Americans after he was influenced by Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, Up From …

Rudd, Daniel

Daniel A. Rudd was a lay leader within the Catholic Church during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who used his own experience and influence to usher in a sense of black consciousness among Catholics in the United States and to advocate for the equality of all African Americans. He published the American Catholic Tribune, organized the first Negro Catholic Conferences, and developed relationships with some of the most influential black and Catholic leaders in Arkansas. Daniel Arthur Rudd was born on August 7, 1854, in Bardstown, Kentucky. He was the eleventh of twelve children born to Robert Rudd and Elizabeth (Eliza) Rudd, who were enslaved to two different owners—Robert to Richard and Margaret Rudd and Eliza to Charles …

Rush, Bobby

aka: Emmett Ellis Jr.
Bobby Rush, known as the “King of the Chitlin’ Circuit,” is an award-winning blues artist whose music also parlays elements of southern soul, funk, and rap into a genre he calls “folkfunk.” Bobby Rush was born Emmett Ellis Jr. on November 10, 1935, near Homer, Louisiana, to Emmett and Mattie Ellis; however, the 1940 census lists him as three years old. The son of a minister, Rush was influenced by his father’s guitar and harmonica playing, and he first experimented with music by tapping on a sugar-cane syrup bucket and playing a broom-and-wire diddley bow. In 1947, his family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), where his music career began. He headed a band at a local juke joint behind a sawmill, …

Russ, Carnell (Killing of)

The killing of African American Carnell Russ by white Star City (Lincoln County) police officer Charles Lee Ratliff on May 31, 1971, highlights many matters surrounding race, civil rights, and law enforcement in Arkansas at the time. The case involved hostile and aggressive white policing, skewed all-white or mostly white juries, the lack of black police officers and black jurors in areas heavily populated by black residents, judges with questionable impartiality, unconcerned federal agencies, and the procedural intricacies and bureaucracy of the criminal justice system. Importantly, it led to a change in federal policy over how civil rights cases would be handled in the future. Carnell Russ was pulled over by state trooper Jerry Green at around 5:45 p.m. on …