Arkansas Moments

Arkansas Moments is a special feature of UA Little Rock's Public Radio that explores the history of the civil rights movement in Arkansas with Dr. John A. Kirk, George W. Donaghey Distinguished Professor of History and director of UA Little Rock's Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

The Murder of Thomas D. Foster

Jan 30, 2016

On March 22, 1942, a white Little Rock military policeman shot dead Thomas B. Foster, a U.S. Army sergeant based at Camp Robinson. Foster, a twenty-five year old North Carolinian, was on a pass enjoying rest and recreation on West Ninth Street. When he saw two white military policeman rough-handling one of his men he intervened. Foster scuffled with one of the policeman and the two had to be pulled apart. The white policemen stood up and emptied his gun into Foster, who still lying on the ground.

The Lynching of John Carter

Jan 30, 2016

On May 4, 1927, Little Rock witnessed its worst episode of racial violence in the twentieth century. Thirty-eight year old John Carter was accused of attacking two white women on the outskirts of the city. A white mob hunted Carter down and hung him from a telegraph pole. Over two hundred bullets were shot into his dead body. The mob then took Carter’s body into the city, where they dragged it around the streets for several hours, gathering thousands of white residents along the way.

Marlon D. Green

Jan 30, 2016

Marlon D. Green, from El Dorado, Arkansas, flew B-26’s in the U.S. Air Force during World War Two. After the war, Green applied to a number of commercial airlines for a position but got nowhere. In 1957, he applied to Continental, this time leaving his race undeclared. Green suspected that, as an African American, it was his color that was preventing him from landing his dream job. He was the only African American in last six finalists and only one of two not hired. Green fought a legal battle that culminated in a favorable decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in 1963.

Milton Pitts Crenchaw

Jan 30, 2016

Little Rock’s Milton Pitts Crenchaw was one of the first of the famous Tuskegee Airmen who trained hundreds of African American pilots during the 1940s. An alum of Dunbar High and Junior College, Crenchaw attended Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute to begin a mechanical engineering degree. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Crenchaw became a flight instructor through the Civilian Pilot Training Program. After training African American pilots at Tuskegee, Crenchaw served as a flight instructor at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, Camp Rucker in Alabama, and Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Fred K. Darragh

Jan 30, 2016

White Little Rock businessman Fred K. Darragh spent World War Two flying cargo over the Himalayas from India to China. He remained a keen aviator as a civilian, flying solo around the world in 1962. Another thing Darragh gained from his wartime experiences was a commitment to social and racial justice through the influence of Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi. When Darragh returned to Arkansas after the war to run the family agribusiness, he became one of the first white businessmen in Little Rock to join the local interracial Urban League branch.

By 1964, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, only 24 of 226 biracial school districts in Arkansas had desegregated. Most of these districts were in the northwest half of the state with relatively small African American populations. Desegregation proved bittersweet for black teachers as black schools were closed and black teachers lost their jobs. Not until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were school districts obliged to integrate faculty as well as students.

African Americans Teachers Fight for Equality

Jan 30, 2016

In 1942, Sue Cowan Williams, head of the Dunbar High School English Department, and a member of the Little Rock Classroom Teachers Association, sued the school district for equal pay with white teachers. White teachers were paid an annual salary of $526 while black teachers were paid only $331 for doing the same work in the same school system. With the help of Thurgood Marshall, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund attorney, Morris won her case in the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals in 1945.

Desegregation in Higher Education

Jan 30, 2016

In 1948, Silas Hunt became the first African American student to enroll in a southern university in the twentieth century when he joined the University of Arkansas Law School at Fayetteville. The same year, Edith Mae Irby Jones desegregated the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, which is today the home of the UALR William H. Bowen Law School. African American undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Arkansas in 1955 when Billy Rose Whitfield, Maxine Sutton and Marjorie Wilkins joined the nursing program.

Bobby Brown and Black United Youth

Jan 30, 2016

In 1966, Stokely Carmichael popularized the slogan of “black power.” In the late 1960s, Little Rock’s Bobby Brown formed the city’s own black power group known as Black United Youth (BUY). According to Brown, BUY was “an eyeball to eyeball organization” dedicated to “direct confrontation with white people for making changes.” Among its membership, BUY included “schoolteachers [and] professional people” as well as “street people [and] gangsters” from local neighborhoods.

The Committee on Negro Organizations

Jan 30, 2016

On March 10, 1940, Pine Bluff attorney William Harold Flowers held a meeting in his hometown of Stamps, Arkansas, to found a new civil rights organization, the Committee on Negro Organizations. The Committee looked to bring together various black political, civic, fraternal, and religious organizations in a push for voter registration. Between 1940 and 1947 the number of eligible black voters in Arkansas rose from 1.5 percent to 17.3 percent.