An exhibit on the role of African Americans in the Civil War in Arkansas will open Friday to mark the sesquicentennial anniversary.
The exhibit by the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center challenges historical narratives casting the Union Army as a savior of the state’s passive African American population, says spokeswoman Quantia Fletcher.
“African Americans actively fought for their freedom. I think a lot of times people think about the Civil War and they think about images of the Union Army, sweeping through the south and saving African Americans, and so this is definitely a story of them being actively involved in the struggle for their freedom," said Fletcher.
The exhibit called Freedom! Oh, freedom! Arkansas’s people of African Descent and the Civil War: 1861-1866, will include a 500 pound cotton bail representing what Fletcher says would have been a king crop for the 25 percent of African American Arkansans who lived and worked in the Delta region during the Civil War.
"They will also see clippings of owners looking for runaway slaves, and all of this is from Arkansas. We’re pulling in Arkansas history so you’re not going to see the ads from Mississippi or Alabama. These are the actual ads that would have been in the paper at the time of slavery,” said Fletcher.
Confederate soldiers surrendered the state to Union control in May of 1865. The northeastern part of the state was Arkansas’s final confederate stronghold.
A reception for the exhibit will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday.