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

Taborian Hall

Built at 800 W. Ninth Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County) between 1916 and 1918 by local African-American contractor Simeon Johnson, Taborian Hall is the last remaining original building on the Ninth Street “Line,” which was once the center for black businesses and culture in Little Rock. Originally known as Taborian Temple, the Classical structure was built for the Knights and Daughters of the Tabor, a black fraternal insurance organization. More than 1,500 fraternal members came to the grand opening in 1918. Also in 1918, the first floor informally became the Negro Soldiers Club for black soldiers stationed at Camp Pike (now Camp Joseph T. Robinson). Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Taborian Temple housed many black-owned businesses, including offices for Dr. J. V. …

Tate Plantation Strike of 1886

In 1886, the Knights of Labor engaged in two strikes in Arkansas. The first of these strikes, the Great Southwestern Strike, involved railroad workers from Texas to Illinois. It began in March and ended in failure by May. The second strike occurred in July at the Tate Plantation in Young Township of Pulaski County, nine miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County) on the Arkansas River. While this strike also proved unsuccessful, and much briefer, it remains significant because all of the strikers were African Americans, and it foretold efforts at black farm labor activism that would continue in Arkansas well into the twentieth century. Formed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1869, the Knights of Labor spread across the nation during …

Tate, John “Big John”

During the mid-1970s and early 1980s, John “Big John” Tate gained notoriety as a successful amateur and professional boxer. As a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, Tate won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division. In 1979, Tate defeated Gerrie Coetzee to claim the World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight title. The WBA is an internationally recognized professional boxing organization. John Tate was born in West Memphis (Crittenden County) on January 29, 1955. The second of Bonnie Archer’s seven children, Tate did not know his father (Lavon Tate) and grew up in poverty. Tate struggled academically and left school in the seventh grade. Illiterate and unskilled, he toiled in a variety of …

Tate, Sonja Patrice

Sonja Patrice Tate, who played basketball at Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County) from 1989 to 1993, is one of the finest female athletes in the state’s history. As of 2014, she remains the scoring leader in basketball at ASU, with 2,312 points. In addition, Tate holds the single-season scoring record, with 820 points during the 1992–93 season. She has the top five single-game scoring performances at ASU. Tate also is the only ASU women’s player to have scored forty or more points in a game, a feat she accomplished five times. She returned to ASU prior to the 2012–13 basketball season to serve as an assistant coach for the women’s team. Sonja Tate was born on September 7, …

Tatum, Reece “Goose”

Reece “Goose” Tatum excelled at two sports, baseball and basketball, but is most famous for his basketball career with the Harlem Globetrotters. Known as “Goose” for his comic walk and for his exceptionally wide arm span, he is remembered more for his comic antics in games than for his athletic ability and accomplishments, which were considerable. Reece Tatum was born on May 3 or 31, 1921, in El Dorado (Union County) or Hermitage (Bradley County)—sources differ on his birth date and birthplace. His father, Ben, was a part-time preacher and part-time farmer who also worked at the local sawmill, while his mother, Alice, raised their seven children, of whom Reece was the fifth, and also served as a domestic cook. He …

Taylor Sisters (Lynching of)

Two African-American women known only as the Taylor sisters were killed on Sunday, March 17, 1907, in McKamie (Lafayette County) while they were detained on charges of murderous assault against Ella Roton and her married daughter, Nora Ogelsby. According to some counts, there were only eight women ever lynched in Arkansas, all of them African American, and so this case constitutes a quarter of all such murders in the state. According to the Arkansas Gazette, the two sisters were aged twenty and fifteen. The likeliest pair of women in the area are sisters Suffronia and Lela Taylor, born in 1885 and 1890, respectively. They appear on the 1900 census, living in Steele Township, but not thereafter. The Roton family (the …

Taylor, George Edwin

George Edwin Taylor was a native of Arkansas and the first African-American standard-bearer of a national political party to run for the office of president of the United States. George Edwin Taylor was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 4, 1857, to Bryant (Nathan) Taylor, a slave, and Amanda Hines, a “free Negro” woman; he had eleven siblings, none of whom are known by name. Nothing is known about his parents, except Amanda Hines was forced to leave Arkansas in 1859 in compliance with the state’s Free Negro Expulsion Act, signed into law on February 12, 1859. She fled with infant Taylor to Alton, Illinois, a major center of the Underground Railroad. Little is known about Taylor’s time …

Taylor, Jermain

aka: Lecester Jermain Taylor
Lecester Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor began boxing at the age of thirteen and has risen through the amateur and professional ranks to become one of the best boxers in the sport today. He won a bronze medal for boxing in the 2000 Olympics and became the undisputed middleweight champion in 2005, holding that title for two years and then regaining it in 2014, only to be stripped of it the following year. Jermain Taylor was born on August 11, 1978, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Taylor’s father abandoned the family when Taylor was five years old, leaving his mother, Carlois, with Taylor and his three younger sisters. Taylor’s mother had to work long hours to support the family, leaving him to …

Taylor, Johnnie Harrison

Johnnie Harrison Taylor was a popular gospel and rhythm and blues singer, known as the “Philosopher of Soul,” whose recording career spanned forty-six years. His single, “Disco Lady,” was the first single ever to be certified platinum. He was added to the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1999. Johnnie Taylor was born in Crawfordsville (Crittenden County) on May 5, 1934. The official date of his birth was not revealed until after his death; he had long claimed to be four years younger. The youngest of three siblings, he was raised by his grandmother in West Memphis (Crittenden County). She was religious and made sure he attended church regularly. He made his church singing debut at age six, and inspired …

Taylor, Marion

Marion Taylor Jr. was the first African-American officer in the Arkansas State Police, serving as a public service spokesman and an instructor at the state police academy. Marion Taylor Jr. was born on January 18, 1940, in Dermott (Chicot County) to Marion Taylor Sr. and Bessie White Taylor. His father supported the family with employment at Missouri Pacific Hospital and Our Lady of Nazareth Nursing Home, and the family attended St. Bartholomew Catholic Church in Little Rock (Pulaski County). A 1957 graduate of Horace Mann High School, Taylor earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock and an MS in education at what is now Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia (Clark County). Taylor served …

Taylor, Samuel Shinkle

Writer and educator Samuel Shinkle Taylor was one of only two African-American interviewers for the Arkansas Federal Writers’ Project 1936–1938 collection of oral history narratives from ex-slaves. He also wrote and compiled Survey of Negroes in Little Rock and North Little Rock, served as a minister and professor, and was an associate editor for the Arkansas State Press from 1949 to 1956. Samuel Taylor was born on November 21, 1886, to the Reverend Marshall W. Taylor and Catherine Hester Taylor in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father was the first black editor of the Southwestern Christian Advocate and author of A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies. Taylor’s father died in 1887, and his mother moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Taylor …

Terry, Clark

Trumpeter and flugelhornist Clark Terry inspired audiences in a jazz career that spanned more than seventy years and included work with some of the biggest names in American music. Terry was one of the most recorded musicians in the history of jazz and performed for eight U.S. presidents and served as a jazz ambassador for State Department tours in the Middle East and Africa. Terry moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 2006 and was active in musical activities associated with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), along with mentoring music students from around the world. He died in 2015 at the age of ninety-four. Clark Terry Jr. was born on December 14, 1920, to Clark Terry Sr. …

Tharpe, “Sister Rosetta”

aka: Rosetta Nubin Tharpe
Arkansas native Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label (Decca), and an early crossover from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by numerous musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Arkansan Johnny Cash. Rosetta Tharpe was born in Cotton Plant (Woodruff County) on March 20, 1915, to Katie Bell Nubin Atkins—an evangelist, singer, and mandolin player for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC)—and Willis Atkins. She went by the first names Rosa, Rosie Etta, and Rosabell, and used both her father’s last name and her mother’s maiden name, Nubin. She began performing at age four, playing guitar and singing …

Thomas C. McRae Memorial Sanatorium

aka: Alexander Human Development Center
The Thomas C. McRae Memorial Sanatorium in Alexander (Pulaski and Saline counties) was established in 1931, in the midst of the Jim Crow era of racial segregation, to treat African-American victims of tuberculosis (often called “consumption” at the time). It was the first facility of its kind in Arkansas. It was opened twenty-two years after the Arkansas State Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Booneville (Logan County), which treated only white patients. In 1968, following the integration of the state’s sanatoriums, the Alexander site became the Alexander Human Development Center. In 2011, the facility was closed. The bill that created the McRae Sanatorium was introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly in 1923. It had strong support from the Arkansas Tuberculosis Association, particularly from …

Thomas, Jefferson Allison

Jefferson Allison Thomas 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 desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Jefferson Thomas was born the youngest of seven children on September 19, 1942, in Little Rock to Mr. and Mrs. Ellis Thomas. Thomas was a track athlete at all-black Horace Mann High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) when he chose to volunteer to integrate all-white Central High School for the 1957–58 school year as a sophomore. The Nine were harassed daily by some white students, and Thomas’s quiet demeanor made him a …

Thomas, Wade (Lynching of)

On December 26, 1920, a gambler and petty thief named Wade Thomas was lynched in Jonesboro (Craighead County) for the alleged shooting of Elmer “Snookums” Ragland, a white police officer. Thomas, also known as “Boll Weevil,” was a Jonesboro native but had recently returned from “up North.” According to the Arkansas Gazette, he was known as a “‘bad’ and impudent negro,” who had formerly served time in the Arkansas penitentiary for highway robbery. According to Jonesboro historian Lee A. Dew, Thomas made his living by playing craps and engaging in petty thievery. Dew recounts that Ragland had arrived in Jonesboro from Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) not long before he was killed. The Gazette reported that he was an “efficient and …

Thompson, Alex (Lynching of)

On April 23, 1903, a young African-American man named Alex Thompson was hanged in Gurdon (Clark County) for allegedly attacking a local doctor (named Cuffman) with a knife. There is no record of a man named Alex Thompson living in Clark County during this period. The 1900 census, however, does list a doctor named Cuffman who was living there. He is listed in the census as George A. Cuffman, but subsequent marriage and census records indicate that he was probably John Henry Cuffman. At the time of the census, he was thirty-six, single, and living in a boarding house. Later that year, on June 28, he married Mary Euella Littlejohn in Gurdon. The Arkansas Gazette reported that trouble had been …

Thompson, Green Walter

Green Walter Thompson was a major African-American political leader and businessman in Little Rock (Pulaski County) from the end of the Civil War until his death. Green Thompson was born Green Elliott, a slave on the Robert Elliottt farm in Ouachita County. Nothing is known of his early life, though his tombstone lists a birth date of August 15, 1847. A birth year of 1848 is estimated from documents accumulated later in his life. The 1880 census records him as a “mulatto,” so it is likely a white man fathered him. His mother eventually married a slave named Thompson, and Green Elliott took his stepfather’s name. While a teenager, he married a slave named Dora Hildreth; they soon had a …

Thompson, Roosevelt Levander

Roosevelt Levander Thompson was a very accomplished Arkansan who achieved many things during his short lifetime and is recognized as one of the most gifted people to have attended Yale University. Roosevelt Thompson was born on January 28, 1962, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to the Reverend C. R. Thompson and Dorothy L. Thompson. He attended Little Rock Central High School and participated in many of Central’s activities. During his freshman year, he decided he wanted to pursue a career in public service. By his junior year, his teachers were already talking to him about becoming a Rhodes Scholar. He was involved in school plays, the school newspaper, and various academic groups, and he was named the All-Star player on …

Thornton, Flanigan (Lynching of)

On April 19, 1893, an African-American man named Flanigan (sometimes referred to as Flannagan or Flannigan) Thornton was hanged in Morrilton (Conway County) for allegedly murdering constable Charles Pate. While there are no records for Flanigan Thornton in Arkansas, he may have been the ten-year-old living with his parents Hyram and Chasity Thornton in Desoto County, Mississippi, in 1880 and working as a farm hand; this would have made him twenty-three at the time of the lynching. Charles Pate was born in White County, Arkansas, but by 1891, when he married Alice Phelps, he was living in Conway County. According to newspaper accounts, the alleged murder happened on April 4 near Menifee (Conway County) station, about fifteen miles from Morrilton. …

Thurman, Sue Bailey

Author, lecturer, historian, and editor Sue Bailey Thurman was a pioneer in civil rights and equality long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her contributions in her advocacy, writings, and speeches helped lay a foundation that many others have built upon. Sue Elvie Bailey was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on August 26, 1903, one of ten children of educators Rev. Isaac Bailey and Susie Ford Bailey. Her parents emphasized education, religious instruction, and missionary work. They helped to found the forerunner of what became Morris Booker Memorial College in Dermott (Chicot County), a private college funded by African-American Baptists throughout the state. She completed her high school studies at Spellman College in Atlanta, Georgia, …

Tollette (Howard County)

Tollette is a largely African-American town on State Highway 355 in southwestern Howard County. In the 2010 census, the population of Tollette consisted of 232 African Americans, seven whites, and one Native American. Caddo lived in the area long before the first European explorers arrived. The Caddo were eventually moved to Indian Territory, now the state of Oklahoma. In 1837, Robert Baber and Matthew Gray both acquired land in the area around what would become Tollette. Baber had arrived in Hempstead County in about 1824; his son Daniel would serve in the Confederate army during the Civil War, and afterward Daniel Baber helped found the town of Athens (Howard County). Tollette is named for the two oldest sons of Stephen …

Tompkins, Rosie Lee

aka: Effie Mae Martin Howard
Rosie Lee Tompkins was the assumed name of Effie Mae Howard, a widely acclaimed African-American quiltmaker whose prodigious talents catapulted her to the forefront of contemporary art. As New York Times critic Roberta Smith put it, “Tompkins’s textile art [works]…demolish the category.” Effie Mae Martin (Effie Mae Howard was her married name) was born in Arkansas on September 6, 1936, to Sadie Bell and MacCurey Martin. The oldest of fifteen half-siblings, she grew up picking cotton and helping her mother piece quilts in rural Gould (Lincoln County), where poverty forced the family to use every available scrap of cloth. Howard never completed high school. She moved to Richmond, California, in 1958 and took courses in nursing at various local institutions, …

Trent, Alphonso E. “Phonnie”

Alphonso E. “Phonnie” Trent was a nationally renowned jazz pianist and “territory” band leader from Fort Smith (Sebastian County). (“Territory” bands were those that traveled outside the large eastern markets, such as New York City.) He led the Alphonso Trent Orchestra, a group of young African-American musicians who toured the country, made several recordings, and had a lengthy engagement at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, Texas. During that engagement, the band became the first group of black musicians to be featured on regional broadcasts over WFAA radio in Dallas. Alphonso Trent was born in Fort Smith on October 24, 1902, the son of E. O. Trent and Hattie S. Smith. Trent’s father was one of the first African-American graduates of Ohio State University. …

Trickey, Minnijean Brown

Minnijean Brown Trickey made history as one 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 desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Minnijean Brown, the eldest of four children of Willie and Imogene Brown, was born on September 11, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Her mother was a homemaker and nurse’s aid during the crisis, and her father was an independent mason and landscaping contractor. She is the sister of the late Bobby Brown, who was the president of Black United Youth (BUY) in Arkansas in the late 1960s. Although all of the Nine experienced …

Tuggle, Browning (Lynching of)

Twenty-eight-year-old jitney (vehicle for hire) driver Browning Tuggle was lynched in Hope (Hempstead County) on March 15, 1921, for allegedly attacking a white woman. According to the 1910 U.S. census, Tuggle, then eighteen, was living in Hope with his widowed mother, Minnie. Both were native Arkansans. At the time, Tuggle was working in a factory as a handle grinder. On February 26, 1919, Tuggle married Alice Harris. At the time of the 1920 census, they were living in Hope with their daughter, Vadaleen. Both Browning and Alice could read and write. He was working as a jitney driver, and she was a washerwoman. On March 14, 1921, an unidentified middle-aged white woman arrived in Hope to visit her daughter, who …

Turner Bell, Debbye

aka: Debrah Lynn Turner
Debrah Lynn (Debbye) Turner Bell, who grew up in Jonesboro (Craighead County), was crowned Miss America 1990. After her reign as Miss America, she became a veterinarian, has appeared on national television, and is a motivational speaker on youth-related and Christian topics. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1994. “Debbye” Turner was born on September 19, 1965, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Gussie Turner and Frederick Turner Jr., who was stationed there in the military. As a child, she set her goal to become a veterinarian but recognized the financial challenges ahead, especially after her parents’ divorce. Living in Jonesboro with her sister, Suzette, and her mother, who became an academic counselor at Arkansas State University …

Turner, William (Lynching of)

Nineteen-year-old William Turner was lynched in Helena (Phillips County) on November 18, 1921, for allegedly attacking a young white girl. According to newspaper accounts, it was the first lynching in Helena. Early on the morning of November 18, Turner allegedly attacked a teenaged girl as she was walking to her job at the telephone exchange. He was arrested and placed in the jail, which adjoined the courthouse. According to the Arkansas Gazette, local citizens, in a state of “suppressed excitement,” began to gather near the courthouse during the afternoon. In an attempt to protect Turner from harm, two deputy sheriffs put him into a car shortly after dark to take him to jail in nearby Marianna (Lee County). They were …