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

Van Buren Schools, Desegregation of

The desegregation of Van Buren (Crawford County) schools produced several national headlines and is one of Arkansas’s most intriguing episodes of compliance with—and defiance against—the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas school desegregation decision. In 1954, the Van Buren School District had 2,634 white students and eighty-seven African-American students. Black students attended a segregated elementary school, and after graduation they were bussed over the Arkansas River to the segregated Lincoln High School of Fort Smith (Sebastian County). After Brown, with assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nineteen parents sued for the entry of twenty-four black students into Van Buren’s white high school, the first case of its kind …

van Zandt, Elliott C.

Elliott van Zandt was a pioneering figure in international athletics. A physical education instructor, he served in the U.S. Army in World War II. Afterward, he remained in Europe, and at a time when the national athletic landscape in the United States was still hampered by segregation, van Zandt (who was African American) became a critical figure in the development of national programs for a number of different sports, especially basketball, in countries across the European continent. He coached a number of different teams and sports, serving as the Olympic coach for multiple national teams while also teaching both players and coaches around the world. Elliott C. van Zandt was born in 1915 in Hot Springs (Garland County) to Una …

Velvatex College of Beauty Culture

In 1926, M. E. Patterson of Little Rock (Pulaski County) incorporated Velvatex College of Beauty Culture, then known as Velvatex Beauty College, which was the state’s only approved beauty school for people of color. (A history produced by the school, however, lists its beginning operation year as 1929.) The school was founded after Patterson, who had often done hairdressing in her home kitchen, chose to teach others the skills of the trade in a more formal educational setting—and to help men and women become entrepreneurs. Patterson dubbed the school “Velvatex” because she believed African-American hair emulated the feel of velvet. By the height of the Great Depression, many black-owned industries had taken a hit, but beauty salons were plentiful throughout …