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

W. F. Branch High School

Located in west Newport (Jackson County) on Arrington Avenue, W. F. Branch High School served as the town’s high school for black students until its closure in 1970. After the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision in 1954, some school districts in Arkansas, such as Charleston (Franklin County), Hoxie (Lawrence County), and Fayetteville (Washington County), desegregated successfully. In 1957, the attention of the nation focused on desegregation at Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The federal government allowed school districts to utilize the Freedom of Choice plan, which allowed for more gradual integration. In Newport, for example, the all-black Branch High School and the all-white Newport High School operated separately within the same district. In …

Wainwright, Larry (Murder of)

The 1967 murder of Larry Wainwright, an African-American teenager, near his home in the black neighborhood of Morning Star rocked the city of El Dorado (Union County) and remains an important civil rights–era cold case. This was not the first time Morning Star had been subjected to racist violence. Whites would regularly drive through the neighborhood and throw bottles or bricks at the black men, women, and children, seriously injuring them. Wainwright’s parents, Melvin and Louise Wainwright, and the African American community of Morning Star mourned the loss but also rallied in the wake of Wainwright’s death, ensuring that the murder was publicized beyond Union County and El Dorado. Although national attention was lacking, newspapers such as the Northwest Arkansas …

Wair, Thelma Jean Mothershed

Thelma Jean Mothershed Wair made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the African-American students involved in the desegregation of 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. Mothershed was a junior when she entered Central. Despite the fact that she had a cardiac condition since birth, she had a near perfect record for attendance. Thelma Mothershed was born on November 29, 1940, in Bloomberg, Texas, to Arlevis Leander Mothershed and Hosanna Claire Moore Mothershed. Her father was a psychiatric aide at the Veterans Hospital, and her mother was a homemaker. She has three sisters and two brothers. …

Walker, Dock (Execution of)

Dock Walker was a thirty-four-year-old African American man hanged at Texarkana (Miller County) on June 27, 1884, for the shotgun slaying of a friend. Dock Walker was born enslaved in North Carolina but moved with his brother to Monroe, Louisiana, after emancipation, and the two established a farm there on the Ouachita River. Walker’s brother “made a hellish assault upon a highly respectable white lady” and was burned at the stake, after which Walker moved to Miller County around 1882 with a “pal,” Lucius Grant. The pair settled about twelve miles from Texarkana. According to the Arkansas Gazette, Walker “had a pretty good reputation when sober, but when under the influence of whisky, was very quarrelsome and inclined to fight.” …

Walker, John Winfred

John Winfred Walker was a lawyer who emerged from segregated schools and society in southwestern Arkansas to wage a sixty-year war on discrimination in Arkansas’s education systems, public institutions, and workforce. Walker’s name became synonymous with civil rights in Arkansas after the initial legal battle from 1957 to 1959 to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Once out of Yale University’s law school in 1964, Walker took over the long-running school-integration lawsuit in Little Rock and also filed scores of lawsuits in federal courts to force recalcitrant school districts across Arkansas to put black and white children in the same classrooms or coequal learning environments. Other suits by Walker and his young partners in one of the …

Walker, Nick (Execution of)

Nick Walker was a young African American man who was hanged in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on March 23, 1883, for the murder of a romantic rival the year before. Nick Walker was born into slavery near Dallas, Texas, around 1859. He said he never knew either of his parents but at some point moved to a place near Camden (Ouachita County) where an aunt lived, staying there until 1878. He eventually moved to Little Rock and worked for the Iron Mountain Railroad. He became enamored of a prostitute named Susan Robinson in Argenta (now North Little Rock in Pulaski County), whom he knew from Ouachita County. Robinson was also involved with a man named Tom Jenkins (sometimes referred to …

Walker, William “Sonny”

William “Sonny” Walker was an educator and civil rights activist who went on to serve in positions in local, state, and federal government, becoming the first person of color to serve in the cabinet of a southern governor. Sonny Walker was born on December 13, 1933, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). His parents were the Reverend James David Walker and Mary Coleman Walker; they later divorced, and his father married Nettie Harris. Early influences in his life included the Boy Scouts of America, gospel choir, drama and speech organizations, and community education through social and sports activities at Merrill High School; Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff); and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. …

Wallace, John (Reported Lynching of)

Beginning in the 1880s and increasingly as Jim Crow laws were instituted across the South, newspapers across the United States began to expand their coverage of Southern lynchings. In addition, publications like the Chicago Tribune and organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama began to keep annual lists of lynchings. In her 1895 book The Red Record, Ida B. Wells-Barnett also attempted to include a comprehensive list of lynchings. Not all of these lists, upon further analysis, were accurate, and more recent lynching lists often also include certain erroneous accounts. Further examination of newspaper reports shows that subsequent articles, particularly local to the site of the lynchings, later corrected …

Walnut Ridge Race War of 1912

The Walnut Ridge Race War of 1912 was an instance of violent nightriding (also known as whitecapping) in which a group of white vigilantes attempted to drive African Americans from the city of Walnut Ridge (Lawrence County). They did not succeed in making Walnut Ridge an all-white town, but they did manage to drive Black laborers from certain local industries, which was often the aim of nightriders, who were frequently poor whites who wanted those jobs for themselves. In early April 1912, notices signed “Kit Karson and Band” were posted in Walnut Ridge ordering local African Americans to leave the city. A committee of white citizens responded to this threat by posting their own warnings to the band in question, …

Ward, John [Medal of Honor Recipient]

John Ward was an African-American U.S. Army scout born in Arkansas who received a Medal of Honor for his actions in a battle with Comanche Indians in Texas in 1875. John Ward was born in Arkansas in 1847 (the exact location is unknown), and his parents were either both black and Seminole or they were African Americans who lived among the Seminole; given his birth date, he may have been born during the forced removal of the Seminole from the southeastern United States. The Ward family was among several hundred black and Seminole people from the Seminole Nation in the Indian Territory who received permission to immigrate to northern Mexico in the late 1840s, where the African Americans were safe …

Warden, Granville (Murder of)

The 1883 murder of an African American man named Granville Warden at Duncan Station (Monroe County) appears as a lynching on the Equal Justice Initiative’s website and several other lynching inventories. The murder itself may not actually qualify as a lynching, however, depending upon the definition employed. Two men were eventually convicted of being directly involved, and then only on charges of intimidating a witness. But the case itself is notable since it brought up crucial questions of state and federal jurisdiction. In 1880, twenty-six-year-old farm laborer Granville Warden was living in Pine Ridge Township in Monroe County with his wife, Fanny, whom he had married in June 1879. Also in the household were three young children: Salena, Louisa, and …

Ware, Ed

Ed Ware was one of twelve African-American men accused of murder following the Elaine Massacre of 1919. 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 (so called using Ed Ware’s name)—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. Ed Ware was born in Mississippi on March 7, 1882, to William Ware and Ann Ware. He moved to Arkansas City (Desha County) around 1910. Ed Ware was employed as a farmhand in the region. On September 12, 1918, he registered for …

Ware, Jim and Jack (Lynching of)

On July 14, 1895, brothers Jim and Jack Ware, who allegedly assisted Wiley Bunn in the murder of Allen Martin, were lynched in Hampton (Calhoun County). The Ware family had been living in Calhoun County for some time. In 1870, Moses and Easter Ware were living in Jackson Township. Among their children were two sons, fifteen-year-old James (Jim) Ware and thirteen-year-old Jack. Moses and James Ware were working as laborers. They were still in Jackson Township in 1880. Jack, along with James and James’s wife, Susan, were still living with their parents. Moses was farming, and both James and John were working as laborers. In 1880, fourteen-year-old Willey (Wiley) Bunn was living in Jackson Township with his parents, Drew and …

Warfield, William Caesar

William Caesar Warfield was a noted African-American bass-baritone concert artist who had an extensive career that included major roles in two Hollywood films as well as stints on stage and on television. Probably no one ever performed “Ol’ Man River” from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat more times than Warfield, who performed it in several languages. William Warfield was born on January 22, 1920, to Robert Warfield and Bertha McCamery Warfield in West Helena (Phillips County). He spent only a few years in Arkansas; however, because of a strong family background in Arkansas and Mississippi, he described himself as “an Arkansas boy from tip to toe.” His multiracial ancestry included a paternal grandfather who appeared in photographs to be a white man …

Warren, Joyce Elise Williams

Joyce Elise Williams Warren was the first Black female judge in the Pulaski County system and the first in Arkansas. She has also authored A Booklet for Parents, Guardians, and Custodians in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases (2000), which has been translated into Spanish and has been widely distributed in Arkansas and other states. She has appeared in several training videos and other videos concerning juvenile and domestic relations law and related issues. Joyce Elise Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on October 25, 1949, one of two children of Albert Lewis Williams Jr. and Marian Eloise Longley Williams, both teachers. She attended Gibbs Elementary School and was one of ten Black students who integrated West Side Junior …

Warren, Nathan

Nathan Warren was one of the few free black businessmen in antebellum Arkansas, as well as a noted musician and the founder of the state’s first African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) congregation. Nathan Warren was born into slavery in 1812 in Versailles, Kentucky, on the Crittenden Plantation. John Crittenden, brother of Robert Crittenden (and later Kentucky governor, U.S. congressman, and U.S. attorney general), was likely Warren’s father. Robert Crittenden brought Warren to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1819, around the time Crittenden was appointed by President James Monroe as the first secretary of the Arkansas Territory. Crittenden and Warren lived at the present-day site of the Albert Pike Hotel on 7th Street, between Scott and Cumberland streets, in a large …

Warren, Will (Lynching of)

Will Warren, an African-American man, was murdered in rural Garland County on January 15, 1916, as the result of an apparent quarrel with some young white boys. After murdering Warren, a white mob burned down his house and a local black church. Warren is described in newspaper reports as being one of the leading figures in a black settlement located between Buckville (Garland County) and Cedar Glades (Garland County). Determining the exact identity of Warren is difficult, as no report on his murder includes his age, occupation, or other identifiers. However, there was a Willie Warren, then nineteen years old, listed on the 1910 census in neighboring Montgomery County working as a farm laborer. Willie Warren lived in Fir Township, …

Warriors Don’t Cry

Melba Pattillo Beals’s Warriors Don’t Cry, published in 1994, is a first-person account of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Melba Pattillo was born on December 7, 1941, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Lois Marie Pattillo, PhD, and Howell Pattillo. In 1957, she was one of the Little Rock Nine, nine Black students who volunteered to integrate Central High School. She spent her senior year, when Little Rock’s high schools were closed during what is known as the Lost Year, at a high school in California. After her marriage and divorce, Melba Pattillo Beals earned a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1973, and …

Washington County Lynching of 1856

aka: Randall (Execution of)
A mob of white citizens lynched two enslaved Black men, Aaron and Anthony, outside the city limits of Fayetteville (Washington County) on July 7, 1856. Racial terror lynching was a reality across the state, including northwestern Arkansas, during the antebellum period. On the night of May 29, 1856, according to hearsay evidence, Aaron and Anthony attempted to rob and then attacked their enslaver, James Boone, at the door of his home in Richland Township. A third Black man, Randall, enslaved by Peter Mankins and the minor children of David Wilson Williams, was also reported to be involved. By the next morning, enslaved housekeepers were said to have found Boone injured near the entry of his home. Despite the lack of …

Washington County Lynching of 1860

An enslaved man was lynched by a white mob in Fayetteville (Washington County) on May 4, 1860, for the murder of his owner. Jacob Mullis was an Indiana farmer who, by 1850, was living in Washington County’s Mountain Township with his wife Emily and their two children; the 1850 census lists him as sixty-four years old and her as twenty-five and reports that he owned $1,000 worth of real estate. An 1889 account in one of the Goodspeed histories noted that “it was rumored…that he had been a well-to-do farmer in Indiana, and he had left a wife and several children, and that he had eloped with a servant girl.” By 1860, the couple had seven children, the youngest an …

Washington Executions of 1902

Two African American men, Tom Sims and Dee Noland, were hanged on July 25, 1902, at Washington (Hempstead County) for first-degree murder; they were two of six men executed on that same date in Arkansas. On November 20, 1901, two Black women, Nancy Jeton and daughter Tabitha Jeton (sometimes called Betty or Bitha), were at their Spring Hill (Hempstead County) home when someone fired a shotgun load of buckshot through their door, killing them both. Tom Sims (sometimes spelled Simms) and his cousin Elmore Williams were accused of shooting the women. Williams’s mother Tilda allegedly sent her son to kill Tabitha Jeton “because Tilda’s husband was intimate with her,” while paying her nephew Sims six dollars to assist in the …

Washington, George (Lynching of)

In the spring of 1871, an African American named George Washington was lynched in Baxter County for allegedly assaulting a young girl. The girl’s father is variously referred to as James or George Calvin, with the surname sometimes given as Galvin. He lived on the White River south of Mountain Home (Baxter County). Public records reveal nothing about these people. The 1870 census lists no adult George or James Calvin or Galvin in Baxter County, or even in the state of Arkansas. The same is true in neighboring counties in Missouri. There was also no African American named George Washington listed in Baxter County. In his account of the lynching, Vincent Anderson quotes an article from the Baxter County Citizen, …

Watson State Park

In 1937, Dr. John Brown Watson, the first president of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College (now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), donated 100 acres of land southwest of Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) for a state park. This would be one of the first public parks for African Americans in the South, where schools, recreational facilities, and other institutions were off limits to them throughout the century-long Jim Crow era of segregation. The park was named for the benefactor, Watson, a Black academic who was born in Texas but educated at the elite Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and Morehouse College in Atlanta. Arkansas’s honor in being early to create a park for African Americans was short-lived, …

Watson, Edomae Boone

Edomae Boone Watson was a prominent African-American civic and education leader in Jonesboro (Craighead County). In addition to being an educator in Jonesboro’s segregated and then integrated school system, she also played a pivotal role in developing the Head Start program in Jonesboro. She served in state and national organizations to secure funding to provide early-childhood education opportunities for low-income children in Jonesboro. Edomae Boone was born on April 2, 1907, near Augusta (Woodruff County). She obtained a high school diploma from Shorter College, then in Little Rock (Pulaski County), one of the few places in Arkansas that provided diplomas to black students. She received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal School in Pine …

Watson, Hattie Rutherford

aka: Harriet Louise Gertrude Rutherford Watson
Harriet Louise Gertrude (Hattie) Rutherford Watson was an educator, librarian, and prominent member of the social and education communities in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). She and her husband, John Brown Watson, were activists for the African American community during the early twentieth century. Hattie Rutherford was born November 23, 1885, in Rome, Georgia, as part of the Black elite in the postbellum era. She was the elder daughter of Samuel W. and Mary Anne Lemon Rutherford. Her father founded the National Benefit Life Insurance Company in 1898. Rutherford acquired an elementary education in the public schools of Atlanta and a high school diploma at Spelman Seminary. She completed her college work at Spelman College and was the only graduate from …

Watson, John Brown

John Brown Watson was president of Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College (AM&N), now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), from 1928 until his death in 1942. Watson was a member of the first generation of African Americans born after the Civil War and representative of that demographic among his cohorts, identified as what Professor Willard B. Gatewood Jr. called “aristocrats of color.” Watson was born near Tyler, Texas, on December 28, 1869, to Crystal and Frank Watson; he was named for the antebellum abolitionist John Brown. Educated near his home, Watson passed the county teacher examination in 1887 and taught  for two years. He entered Bishop College at Marshall, Texas, in 1891 at the seventh grade level and …

Webb, John Lee

John Lee Webb was a well-known African-American contractor and philanthropist in Hot Springs (Garland County). John L. Webb was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on September 17, 1877, to the Reverend B. L. Webb, who was a Baptist minister, and his wife, Henrietta Webb. The couple had ten other children. John Webb’s family was not wealthy, so he had to provide for many of his own wants. Webb began studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1897 at nineteen years old and was spoken of highly by the wife of Booker T. Washington, founder of the institute. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War, serving from April 25 to August 12, 1898. After the war, he returned to Tuskegee and finished …

Weldon, Casey Bill

Casey Bill Weldon was one of the most talented, yet enigmatic, blues slide guitarists of the early twentieth century. Known as the “Hawaiian Guitar Wizard,” Weldon exhibited a range of material encompassing rag, hokum, and blues, though the majority of his more than 100 recorded songs are considered blues. Though he had a solid body of recordings and played with some well-known performers and bands of his day, much of his life is still shrouded in mystery. Casey Bill Weldon was born on February 2, 1901, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County), according to blues legend Big Bill Broonzy; some sources list his birthdate as July 10, 1909. Little is known of his youth, but as a young man he eventually …

Wells, Elias (Lynching of)

On November 20, 1902, an African American man named Wells was lynched in Wynne (Cross County) for allegedly attempting to cut the throat of Max Campbell, a conductor on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad. Accounts vary as to Wells’s first name. Several newspapers call him Lige, while others give his name as Isaac. He is listed as Lige at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Alabama. Newspapers reported that Wells was from Augusta (Woodruff County), and there is some information available in public records that indicates that Wells’s first name may have been Elias. The 1900 federal census lists twenty-two-year-old Elisa Wells (male) living in DeView Township in Woodruff County. He was literate, working as …

Wells, Ira James Kohath

A pioneer in education and journalism, Ira James Kohath Wells was a gifted scholar, businessman, and humanitarian with humble rural beginnings. Ira J. K. Wells was born in Tamo (Jefferson County) on July 1, 1898, to William James Wells and Emma Brown Wells. When he was young, half of his leg was amputated after he injured it trying to hop on to a moving freight train. For the rest of his life, he had a wooden prosthetic leg. He finished his secondary education at Branch Normal College in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County)—now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB)—and then went on to earn a degree in business from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1923. Even as a student, …

Wesley, John (Execution of)

John Wesley, an African American man, was hanged at Arkadelphia (Clark County) on March 23, 1901, for raping a young white woman the previous year. The public furor around Wesley’s crime led the Arkansas General Assembly to make executions of rapists public instead of limiting the audience to twenty-five people. Josie Cleveland, aged seventeen, worked as a telephone operator in Arkadelphia. After her shift ended on December 3, 1900, she was walking home when a Black man grabbed her as she was passing a cemetery and dragged her into the graveyard. There, for “nearly two hours….She fought like a tigress, though the negro choked her horribly and lacerated her flesh considerably.” Her father, “having become alarmed at the lateness of …

West Ninth Street (Little Rock)

aka: West 9th Street
West Ninth Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County) emerged as a predominately African American neighborhood during the Civil War. In 1863, the Federal army, which occupied Little Rock, began constructing log cabins in the area for freed slaves. After the war, many stayed and settled there. By 1870, what was originally known as Little Rock’s West Hazel Street was renamed West Ninth Street. More African Americans settled west of Mount Holly Cemetery between 9th and 12th streets. As the population grew, a five-block section along West Ninth Street, between Broadway and Chester, became the center of the Black business district. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, African Americans created fraternal organizations, one of the most prominent of which …

West, John (Lynching of)

On July 28, 1922, a laborer named John West was shot to death near Guernsey (Hempstead County) after an argument at a work site over a shared drinking cup. The Arkansas Gazette gives the cause for the lynching as “impudence.” According to the Gazette, on the morning of July 28, John West, an African American recently arrived from Kansas, was working on a paving gang in Hope (Hempstead County). He had an argument with the foreman on the job, Andrew Worthing, another Kansan, who was white. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Bisbee (Arizona) Daily Review, the argument concerned West’s attempt to use the crew’s common drinking cup. When challenged by Worthing, West declared that “he was as …

Wheeler, Lloyd Garrison

Lloyd Garrison Wheeler was a prominent and trailblazing African-American lawyer, political figure, and businessman in Illinois and Arkansas. Lloyd G. Wheeler was born in Mansfield, Ohio, on May 29, 1848. His father was active in the Underground Railroad, but when Ohio passed a law making the harboring of slaves illegal, the family relocated to Chatham, Canada, where Wheeler received his early education. When his mother died, he returned to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. There, he worked at a variety of jobs, including on the railroad and as a shoe black. Throughout this period, his greatest ambition was a career in law. He became the first black mail carrier in Chicago while studying law in the office of …

White, Hayes (Execution of)

Hayes White was an African American man hanged at Marion (Crittenden County) on June 10, 1881, for shooting the sheriff of Crittenden County to death. Hayes White was arrested on April 20, 1881, for burglarizing a store in Crawfordsville (Crittenden County). Although he was unarmed when arrested, a friend apparently slipped him a pistol the next day, and he escaped after a shootout in which two lawmen were wounded. A deputy informed Sheriff W. F. Beattie in Marion, who rode to White’s cabin and, “upon entering the door…was fired on from within, the ball striking him in the mouth and he fell back dead.” The Osceola Times reported that the deputy “ran like a quarter horse, throwing his gun away …

White, Isom (Execution of)

Isom White, who was hanged at Helena (Phillips County) on July 31, 1891, was one of two African American men executed for the murder of Prince Maloy, a “well to do colored planter.” Prince Maloy, age fifty-nine, and his wife Matilda, fifty-one, lived on Island No. 64 in Phillips County’s Mooney Township south of Helena with their son William, eighteen. Maloy hired local men, including Isom White and his stepson Henry Young, to work in his fields, and their relationships could be tense—a newspaper report said that, a few weeks before Christmas 1890, they got into an argument, “and but for the prompt interference of Molloy’s [sic] wife they would have killed the old man.” Maloy was known to keep …

Whitfield, Ed

Edward Leroy Whitfield was a leader in one of the most notable civil rights protests of the 1960s, a takeover by Black students of the student union at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He has spent his life as a civil rights and labor activist and teacher. Ed Whitfield was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on June 25, 1949, to Robert Ellis Whitfield Sr. and Winifred McLemore Whitfield. His father was a janitor, then mail handler, at the Federal Building in Little Rock. His mother was a schoolteacher and part-time administrator at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Whitfield was the youngest of four children, having two brothers, Robert Jr. and Richard, and one sister, Winifred. Whitfield’s paternal great-grandfather, …

Whitman, Essie Barbara

Essie Barbara Whitman was a member of the renowned Whitman Sisters Company. The group of African-American sisters, who were entrepreneurs as well as entertainers, developed their own musical, dance, and comedy performing arts company. From 1901 to 1943, the group performed throughout the United States, becoming the longest-running and highest-paid act on the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit. Essie Whitman was born on July 4, 1882, in Osceola (Mississippi County) to the Reverend Albery Allson Whitman, who was a bishop in the Methodist Church, and Caddie A. Whitman; she was the second of four sisters who included Mabel (1880–1942), Alberta (1887–1963), and “Baby” Alice (1900–1969). Rev. Whitman, later known as the “Poet Laureate of the Negro Race,” is said to have taught …

Wiley, Bill (Lynching of)

In late August 1897, an African American man was lynched in Cleveland County for allegedly killing one man and wounding another at a picnic near Kendall’s mill. Newspaper accounts from the time are confusing as to his identity. Some identify him as Bill Wiley, others as Bill Wiley Douglass, Wiley Douglass, or Bill/Will/William Wyatt. All of these names have been used in various assembled lists of lynching events; public records provide no confirmation of any of them. For convenience, he will be referred to as “Wiley” in this article. The date of the lynching is also in question. The Arkansas Gazette gave three dates in three different articles:, Sunday, August 22; Monday, August 23; and Tuesday, August 24. The Pine …

William (Lynching of) [1836]

In late November 1836, a slave identified only as William was burned to death in Hot Spring County for allegedly murdering his owner, Thomas Huskey (sometimes referred to as Haskey), along with several other victims. Nothing is known about William, but a man named Thomas Huskey married Sarah Ward in Shelby County, Tennessee, in June 1835. A December 10 article in the South Branch Intelligencer of Romney, Virginia, gives details of the crime. Although their report indicated that William had been brought through Tennessee “a few days before,” this date was incorrect, as the Weekly Arkansas Gazette had already commented on the lynching on November 29. Apparently, Thomas Huskey had set out for Texas from Tennessee with another white man …

William (Lynching of) [1846]

On July 4, 1846, an enslaved man identified only as William was hanged by a mob in Columbia (Chicot County) for allegedly murdering Reece Hewitt, who was planter H. F. Walworth’s plantation overseer. In 1840, Reece Hewitt was living in Chicot County with another white male and thirty-seven enslaved people. Much more is known about his employer. Horace Fayette Walworth was an early landowner in Chicot County, having bought land in Point Chicot in 1828. In 1850, Walworth, originally from Mississippi, was living in Chicot County and owned real estate worth $104,000. The Times Picayune and Daily Picayune advertised Walworth’s two plantations for sale in November 1852 and January 1853. According to the 1856 diary of B. L. C. Wailes …

Williams, Albert (Lynching of)

On April 1, 1883, a seventeen-year-old African American named Albert Williams was lynched in El Dorado (Union County) for allegedly attacking the young daughter of John Askew. The only Albert Williams in the area at the time was the son of El Dorado farm laborer Carter Williams and his wife, Lou. He was approximately twelve years old in 1880; contrary to reports, this would have made him fifteen at the time of the lynching. John Askew was also living in El Dorado in 1880. He was a lawyer, and his household included his wife, Sarah, and a number of children, among whom was a five-year-old daughter named Tennessee. Although Williams’s alleged victim is not named, it is probable that it …

Williams, Edward (Reported Lynching of)

In January 1898, the Chicago Tribune reported on the August 26, 1897, lynching of an African American man named Edward Williams near Baxter (Drew County). He was being sought for allegedly assaulting a Black woman. This information appeared in Ralph Ginzburg’s book 100 Years of Lynchings and has more recently appeared on several online lynching lists. The date of this reported lynching is apparently incorrect, as the first news of it appeared in the Pine Bluff Daily Graphic on August 24, 1897. According to the Daily Graphic, “Ed Williams, a negro rapist, was strung up by a mob near Baxter, Ark., Monday morning.” Monday would have been August 23. Also on August 24, the Topeka State Journal published another report, …

Williams, Ernest (Reported Lynching of)

On June 21, 1908, the Arkansas Gazette reported that an African-American man named Ernest Williams was lynched at Parkdale (Ashley County) by a group of Black women. The report, if true, would be a unique event, with female-led mobs being rare to nonexistent, especially among African Americans lynching a fellow Black person. However, there are reasons to believe that this report was false and, instead, part of a larger pattern of slandering local emancipation celebrations. The report in the Gazette is datelined June 20 from Hamburg (Ashley County) and relays the following information: “A mob of enraged negro women dragged Ernest Williams, negro, to a telegraph pole on the outskirts of Parkdale, a town in this county, and lynched him …

Williams, J. Mayo “Ink”

J. Mayo “Ink” Williams was the first African-American producer at a major record label and the most successful record producer of music by black performers, particularly blues and jazz, from the 1920s through the 1940s. The son of Daniel and Millie Williams, J. Mayo Williams was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on September 25, 1894. He left Pine Bluff with his mother at age seven after his father was murdered in a shooting at the local railway station. After moving to Monmouth, Illinois, he attended public schools, where he excelled in academics and football. In 1916, he enrolled at Brown University, where he became a star athlete. In the early 1920s, Williams became one of the first black players in the National …

Williams, John (Lynching of)

On July 4, 1912, an African-American man named John Williams was lynched near Plumerville (Conway County) for allegedly murdering a deputy sheriff who was trying to arrest him. Although the Arkansas Gazette calls the deputy sheriff Paul Leisner, most other sources say he was Paul Nisler. Nisler, whose full name was likely Herbert Paul Nisler, was twenty-one years old at the time of his death. He had been in Conway County since at least 1900, when he was living in Plumerville with his parents, Sherman and Nannie Nisler. In 1910, he was still living with his parents (his father this time listed as Andrew S. Nisler) and working on a farm in Howard Township. He was described by newspapers as …

Williams, Lenny

Soul singer Lenny Williams is an influential rhythm and blues (R&B) artist who is best known for his time as the lead singer of funk band Tower of Power in the mid-1970s. He pursued a solo career after leaving the band. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2012. Leonard Charles (Lenny) Williams was born on February 6, 1945, in Little Rock (Pulaski County); his family later moved to Oakland, California. He learned to play trumpet in elementary school. He started singing in church and considered becoming a minister before deciding to pursue a career in secular R&B. Williams made connections with Bay Area musicians, the most notable being Sly Stone (who fronted the legendary R&B …

Williams, Leonard Lee (Killing of)

Leonard Lee Williams, a nineteen-year-old African American man, was killed on Sunday, August 17, 1969, at the Wagon Wheel Drive-In in Benton (Saline County) in an incident sparked by racial strife in the city. The following day, a group of Black citizens marched to city hall to demand justice. Mounting racial tensions were eventually eased through an emergency meeting of the city’s newly formed biracial committee. A grand jury handed down indictments to a number of individuals on various charges for their roles in the killing of Williams and the ensuing violence. According to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Times, published on August 18, 1969, Williams and a “girl companion” went for a late-night meal at the Wagon Wheel …

Williams, Robert (Execution of)

Robert Williams was a young African American man hanged at Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on July 15, 1891, for the shotgun slaying of a neighbor. Robert Williams, age twenty-three, left his home near Varner (Lincoln County) on November 11, 1890, to go to Pine Bluff on business. His wife accompanied him to the train depot, planning to travel ten miles to her father’s home on Bayou Bartholomew afterward. She ran into neighbor Albert Hayes, who gave her some whiskey and whom she asked for a ride to her father’s place. Hayes bought additional alcohol, and then got her “drunk and took advantage of her.” She later told Williams what had happened, and he confronted Hayes on November 23; the neighbor …

Williams, Robert Lee, II

Robert Lee Williams II was a leading figure in American psychology known for his work in the education of African-American children and in studying the cultural biases present in standard testing measures, especially IQ tests. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2011. Robert Lee Williams was born on February 20, 1930, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His father, Robert L. Williams, worked as a millwright and died in 1935; his mother cleaned houses. He had one sister. He graduated from Dunbar High School at age sixteen and attended Dunbar Junior College for a year before dropping out, discouraged by his low score on an IQ test. He married Ava L. Kemp in 1948. They had …