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Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: Beulah Lee Sampson Flowers

An African American civil rights pioneer and teacher helped one of Arkansas’s most famous poets find her voice.

Beulah Lee Sampson was born in Hempstead County in 1883, the daughter of former slaves. Gaining her teacher’s license in 1902, she moved to Stamps in neighboring Lafayette County seven years later after marrying Alonza Flowers. She became a community leader and helped her son W. Harold Flowers found the Committee on Negro Organizations, a civil rights group.

But it was as a teacher that she helped Maya Angelou, who moved to Stamps and who had stopped speaking after being assaulted in St. Louis. She said Flowers told her “Your grandmother says you read a lot. … that’s good, but not good enough. Words mean more than is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

Their discussions helped the young poet regain her self-confidence. Beulah Flowers died in 1965 and is buried in Pine Bluff’s Bellwood Cemetery.

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