Race and Ethnicity: African American

K. Hall and Sons

K. Hall and Sons is a longstanding Black-owned business on Wright Avenue in the Central High School Neighborhood Historic District of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Originally founded as a produce store, it now also encompasses a restaurant and a wholesale food distribution business. The Hall family was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016. K. Hall and Sons was founded by Knoxie Hall Sr. and Estella Marie Crenshaw Hall. Knoxie Hall was born on September 13, 1924, while Estella Hall was born on November 24, 1927. They married on December 16, 1944, and went on to have seven children. Knoxie Hall owned and operated several different businesses, including a carwash and detail business and a farm. His experience operating …

Karlmark, Gloria Cecelia Ray

Gloria Cecelia Ray Karlmark made history as a member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The world watched as they braved constant intimidation and threats from those who opposed desegregation of the formerly all-white high school. Gloria Ray was born on September 26, 1942, in Little Rock, one of the three children of Harvey C. and Julia Miller Ray. By the time Ray entered Central High, her father was retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he had founded the Arkansas Agricultural Extension Service for Negroes, and her mother was a sociologist working for the state of Arkansas. Ray was a fifteen-year-old student at …

Kearney, James and Ethel

Thomas James (T. J.) Kearney (1906–2013), and his wife, Ethel Virginia Curry Kearney (1917–1982), were cotton sharecroppers. They were recognized for their contributions to childhood education and Christian service by the state of Arkansas; Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago, Illinois; President William J. Clinton; and the country of Israel. Of the couple’s nineteen children, eighteen were college graduates. A number of their children served the state of Arkansas and the U.S. government in leadership roles. T. J. and Ethel Kearney are members of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. T. J. Kearney was born June 25, 1906, to Thomas Clayton (T. C.) Kearney and Cynthia Davis Kearney in Lake Village (Chicot County). His parents were itinerant farmers. T. J. was …

Kearney, Janis

Janis Kearney was the publisher of the historic Arkansas State Press and later served as presidential diarist to U.S. president Bill Clinton from 1995 to 2001, the first such appointment in presidential history. After leaving Washington DC, she wrote several books and founded a publishing company. Janis Faye Kearney was born on September 29, 1953, in the small rural town of Gould (Lincoln County). She was the fourteenth of nineteen children born to sharecropper Thomas James Kearney and homemaker Ethel Curry Kearney, who also worked in the fields. By the time she was nine years old, Kearney was helping to care for her younger brothers and sisters as well as cooking for the large family. She spent evenings learning to …

Kees, Willie (Lynching of)

On April 29, 1936, a nineteen-year-old African-American man named Willie Kees was shot near Lepanto (Poinsett County) for allegedly attempting to attack a white woman. It was both the first recorded lynching in Poinsett County and the last recorded lynching in Arkansas. On April 18, Kees allegedly attacked the woman on a bridge just outside of town. She screamed, and two men came to her rescue. Kees was turned over to city marshal Jay May and put in jail. That night, May intercepted a mob that was coming to the jail to get Kees and dissuaded the citizens from doing so. He told reporters for the Arkansas Gazette that, because of the darkness, he was unable to identify anyone in the mob. Kees had …

Kendrick, Eddie Lee

Eddie Lee Kendrick was a self-taught artist who was inspired by the Arkansas landscape, his dreams, gospel music, and his Christian faith. Though Kendrick had drawn and painted all his life, his art was not well known until 1993, when three works were included in Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-Taught Artists from 1940 to the Present, an exhibition organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and curated by Alice Rae Yelen. Eddie Kendrick was born on September 20, 1928, on a farm near Stephens (Ouachita County), and he lived in Arkansas most of his life. He was the first of fifteen children born to farmers John Henry and Rutha Mae Kendrick. Kendrick helped in the annual slaughter …

Kennedy, Cortez

Mississippi County native Cortez Kennedy was considered one of the best defensive tackles to have played in the National Football League (NFL). After an eleven-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, he retired in 2000. In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Cortez Kennedy was born on August 23, 1968, in Osceola (Mississippi County). He spent his first eighteen years in the small town of Wilson (Mississippi County), where he was raised by his mother, Ruby, and stepfather, Joe Harris. With few activities available in the rural setting, Kennedy turned to football, becoming a star defensive player at Rivercrest High School. His promising …

Key, Lee (Lynching of)

On May 10, 1901, an African-American man named Lee Key was shot by a masked mob near Knoxville (Johnson County) for allegedly terrorizing other Black residents in the area. Newspaper reports described Key as “obstreperous,” “notorious,” and “troublesome.” According to the Arkansas Democrat, he had been terrorizing other African Americans and “making himself obnoxious in various ways.” He reportedly had shot and wounded another Black man in Knoxville several years earlier, and had served time in the state penitentiary for other crimes. On Friday night, May 10, a group of masked men went to Key’s house and called to him to come out. Key grabbed a shotgun, but before he could fire, a member of the mob shot him with …

King, Albert

aka: Albert Nelson
Albert King, one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, was one of the three so-called “Kings of the Blues”—the triumvirate of B. B. King, Freddie King, and himself. His style of single-string-bending intensity—the essence of blues guitar—is evident in the approaches of thousands of acolytes, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton. King was born Albert Nelson on April 25, 1923, on a cotton plantation in Indianola, Mississippi. He had twelve known siblings. His father, Will Nelson, an amateur guitarist, had a major impact on his music. Though he was mainly self-taught, he was inspired by Blind Lemon Jefferson. His singing in a family gospel group at a nearby church also influenced his music. He …

King, Frank (Lynching of)

On June 17, 1895, an African-American minister named Frank King was hanged in Portland (Ashley County) for allegedly shooting and seriously wounding one of his deacons, William Toney. Frank King may be the twenty-two-year-old man who the federal census shows married eighteen-year-old Sophia George in Ashley County in September 1887. According to one report, King, a Baptist pastor, was “on intimate terms” with William Toney’s wife. On Monday, July 16, when the two men met on the street, King allegedly pulled a pistol and shot Toney twice in the abdomen. King tried to escape but was captured and placed in jail in Portland. That same night, a mob of African Americans took King from the jail and “stealthily and quietly” …

Kirkendall, Mose (Lynching of)

On July 20, 1878, an African American named Mose Kirkendall was hanged in Boone County for allegedly attempting to rape a “Miss Walters,” a young white woman. This was reportedly the first lynching in Boone County. Although there was no Mose Kirkendall recorded as living in Boone County at the time of the 1870 census, there was a thirteen-year-old named Moses Kirkendale living in the household of farmer J. M. Moore and his wife, America, near Searcy (White County). There were other unrelated people living with the family, including fifteen-year-old A. Kirkendale, who may have been Moses’s brother. The alleged victim may have been Martha Walters, who was thirteen years old by the 1870 census and one of six children …

Kitts, James (Execution of)

James Kitts was hanged on July 25, 1902, at Arkansas City (Desha County) for the first-degree murder of a gambler; he was one of six men executed on the same date in Arkansas. On the morning of November 13, 1901, gambler James Johnson testified “in the mayor’s court of Arkansas City” against James Kitts, “a traveling ventriloquist and gambler,” for pulling a gun on a man, a crime for which Kitts was fined. Kitts got drunk later in the day and, around 9:00 p.m., went to Johnson’s “craps dive” and shot him to twice; Johnson “died instantly, shot through the heart.” Kitts fled to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he was captured thirteen days later and returned to Desha County for trial. …

KOKY

Called the “Greater Little Rock Ebony Station” at its inception in 1956, KOKY was the first radio station in Arkansas to be staffed by African Americans and to feature programming directed toward a black audience. Founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the station has featured on-air talent like Leo “Jocko” Carter and Al Bell. John M. McLendon was a thirty-three-year-old broadcaster from Jackson, Mississippi, who owned three radio stations in Mississippi, including WOKJ in Jackson; like KOKY, WOKJ’s target audience was African Americans. During the summer of 1956, McLendon was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a station in Little Rock called “Ebony Radio” until call letters could be established. At 9:00 a.m., October 8, 1956, …

Kountz, Samuel Lee, Jr.

Samuel Lee Kountz Jr. was a physician and pioneer in organ transplantation, particularly renal transplant research and surgery. An Arkansas success story, he overcame the limitations of his childhood as an African American in the Delta region of a racially segregated state to achieve national and world prominence in the medical field. Sam Kountz was born on October 20, 1930, in Lexa (Phillips County) to the Reverend J. S. Kountz, a Baptist minister, and his wife, Emma. He was the eldest of three sons. Kountz lived in a small town with an inadequate school system in one of the most impoverished regions of the state. He attended a one-room school in Lexa until the age of fourteen, at which point …

L. C. and Daisy Bates Museum

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and her husband, Lucious Christopher Bates, lived at 1207 W. 28th Street in Little Rock (Pulaski County) during the desegregation of Central High School in 1957–58. They had purchased the land and built the house in 1955 while they were publishing the Arkansas State Press newspaper and while she was the president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The Bates House is not far from Central High School, and the home served as a safe place for the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to attend Central, to prepare for school and to return to afterward. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall visited the …

Lacey, Nathan (Lynching of)

On October 16, 1911, an African American man named Nathan Lacey was lynched in Forrest City (St. Francis County) for allegedly attacking the wife of his employer, Tom Cox. Mrs. Cox is probably Elizabeth Cox, who in 1910 was living in Franks Township with her husband Tom and their one-year-old son, Thomas. There were three African American men by the name of Nathan Lacey or Lacy listed in St. Francis County in 1910. The first was Nathan Lacy Jr., born in Mississippi around 1881, who was a widower working as a farm laborer in Madison Township. He had three children the age of eight and under. Nathaniel Lacy, born in Mississippi around 1885, was single and living with his mother, …

Lafayette County Lynching of 1859

On May 23, 1859, an unidentified fugitive slave belonging to David E. Dixon of Lafayette County was hanged in Cass County, Texas, for allegedly murdering Dixon’s farm overseer, Thomas Crabtree. At the time of the 1860 census, Dixon (identified as Dickson) was a prosperous farmer in Roane Township and owned thirty-one slaves. His personal estate was valued at $31,390, and his real estate at $17,680. The sole available account of this lynching appears in the Northern Standard of Clarksville, Texas, on June 25, 1859. According to correspondence of G. W. J. of Boston, Texas, on May 20, Thomas Crabtree and one of the enslaved men got into an argument. The writer had no details of the dispute but asserted that …

Lakeview Resettlement Project Historic District

Founded by the Resettlement Agency as part of the federal New Deal programs during the Great Depression, the Lakeview Resettlement Project offered African American families an opportunity to purchase farmland and establish homes in Phillips County. Beginning in 1935, more than 5,600 acres of land were distributed to families, leading to the incorporation of the city of Lake View in 1980. The resettlement project was the first in the United States specifically designed and dedicated to combat the problems of landlessness for Black farmers in the rural South. The historic district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. Consisting of eighteen contributing structures, the district also contains a number of related but non-contributing buildings. Founded in …

LaNier, Carlotta Walls

Carlotta Walls LaNier made history as the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine, the nine African-American students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1957. The oldest of three daughters, Carlotta Walls was born on December 18, 1942, in Little Rock to Juanita and Cartelyou Walls. Her father was a brick mason and a World War II veteran, and her mother was a secretary in the Office of Public Housing. Inspired by Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger sparked the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, as well as the desire to get the best education available, Walls enrolled in Central High School as a sophomore. Some white …

Larkin, Hill (Lynching of)

On February 14, 1890, an African-American man named Hill Larkin (sometimes referred to as Hill Larker) was hanged in Camden (Ouachita County) for allegedly murdering a deputy sheriff named Ross and wounding or killing a deputy sheriff named Snead from Calhoun County. In 1880, forty-two-year-old Hill Larkin, a native of Mississippi, was living in Carroll Township, Ouachita County, with his wife, Parille. He was a farmer and could neither read nor write. Ross, sometimes identified as Tom Ross, was probably John Thomas Ross. In 1870, he was eleven years old and living with his parents, John J. and M. E. Ross, in Lafayette Township. John Thomas Ross died in Ouachita County on February 4, 1890, and is buried in Oakland …

Leavy, Calvin James “Slim”

Calvin James “Slim” Leavy, vocalist and guitarist, recorded “Cummins Prison Farm,” a blues song that debuted on Billboard’s rhythm and blues chart on May 2, 1970, and stayed for five weeks, reaching No. 40. It was also the No. 1 song on the Memphis, Tennessee, station WDIA. Leavy was the first person charged under a 1989 Arkansas “drug kingpin law” targeting crime rings. Calvin Leavy was born on April 20, 1940, in Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties), the youngest son of fifteen children born to the musical family of Johnny Leavy and Cora James Leavy. Both parents sang in the church choir at Mount Lake Baptist Church in Scott, and several family members played musical instruments. Leavy started out singing …

Lee County Executions of 1881

Two African American men convicted of murder, Isaac Green and John Harden, were hanged in Marianna (Lee County) on July 15, 1881, in what were the first judicial executions in Lee County. John Harden (or Hardin), age twenty, a native of Lewisburg, Tennessee, reportedly killed William Brown on August 21, 1879, at Barton (Phillips County). Harden suspected Brown was having an affair with his wife and struck him with a briar hook, “almost severing his head from his body,” with one newspaper stating that “one blow with the weapon was sufficient to take the life of the man he hated.” Harden’s trial was delayed for some time, but he was convicted in May 1881 and sentenced to hang on July …

LeSane, Henry (Execution of)

Henry LeSane was an African American sharecropper hanged at Marianna (Lee County) on May 16, 1902, for the ambush murder of a local farmer. John Greenwood, who was thirty-five at the time of the 1900 census, was a Black farmer who owned his home and lived in Lee County’s Union Township with his wife Hattie and their six children. Henry LeSane (sometimes spelled Lessing) was a twenty-two-year-old sharecropper who lived next door to Greenwood with his wife and daughter, likely renting from Greenwood. In late January 1901, Greenwood was driving a wagonload of cotton to the cotton gin at Oliver Owens’s farm when LeSane allegedly shot him in the back five times with a .44-caliber Colt pistol. “Greenwood was killed …

Lester, Ketty

Ketty Lester is a singer and actress best known for her chart-topping single “Love Letters,” as well as her appearance in the cult classic film Blacula (1972). Lester was a regular on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives and was especially known for her long-running role on the TV series Little House on the Prairie. Ketty Lester was born Revoyda Frierson in Hope (Hempstead County) on August 16, 1934. She was one of fifteen children born to a farm family. Her interest and talent for music led to her singing at church and in school choirs. She won a scholarship to San Francisco City College in California, where she studied music. In San Francisco, she began singing professionally at …

Levels, Jacob (Execution of)

Jacob Levels was an African American man hanged in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on June 21, 1878, for murdering another Black man the previous year. Jacob Levels was a single man, and Robert Swan’s wife cooked for him. On June 8, 1877, Swan “quarreled with his wife concerning her intimacy with Levels.” When Levels spoke up for the wife, Swan cut his cheek with a pocketknife. Levels went for a shotgun, but Swan fled. Two days later, Swan went to Levels’s house with another man and attempted to apologize, without success. On June 12, Swan went into Little Rock (he presumably lived outside the city) and told an acquaintance that he and Levels had reconciled, but that evening Levels went …