Arkansas History

A women’s suffrage rally on the steps of the Arkansas state Capitol in 1917 celebrating passage of a bill to allow Arkansas women to vote in primary elections. Gov. Charles Brough can be seen standing in the front row, wearing a black tie and white jacket
Encyclopedia of Arkansas

An event taking place Friday in Helena will delve into the role Arkansas played in helping women get the right to vote in the U.S. The 19th Amendment was adopted in 1920 and the Delta Cultural Center is marking the 100th anniversary with a discussion of the women’s suffrage movement in the state.

Center Curator Drew Ulrich says it’s a complex history that eventually led to Arkansas ratifying the federal amendment. But, as was the case elsewhere in the country, there were racial and economic overtones.

A pair of Searcy County twins played a significant role in the folk revival of the mid-twentieth century.

Abbie Sherman Morrison and Absie Sheridan Morrison were born in 1876, the sons of a Civil War veteran who served in both armies but favored the Union, giving his sons the names of Yankee generals as their middle names.

Anyone who has driven up Highway 65 in Central Arkansas has doubtless noticed the work of African American stonemason Silas Owens.

Torii Hunter, born in Pine Bluff in 1975, had one of the greatest baseball careers of any Arkansan who played the game. A natural athlete, Hunter gravitated toward baseball after a home run in a Little League game at age 13 led to reporters interviewing him.

He was the first draft pick for the Minnesota Twins in 1993, playing with them until the California Angels wooed him away with a ninety million dollar contract in 2007. He later played two seasons with the Detroit Tigers before returning to the Twins.

A cross-dressing Confederate guerrilla pulled off a remarkable subterfuge to give his men a memorable Christmas present in 1864.

Howell A. “Doc” Rayburn, born in 1841, joined the Twelfth Texas Cavalry in October 1861, traveling to Des Arc the following March to board steamboats to cross the Mississippi.

Fred Marshall, born in Memphis and raised in Little Rock, was a talented musician, sculptor, inventor and educator, but is best know for his work on a classic Christmas cartoon.

Marshall, whose mother taught art at Arkansas Tech University, began playing piano at five and was playing bass and drums by the time he went to Little Rock Central High. As a teenager he played at jazz clubs on Ninth Street, remembering that he would hide behind his bass when police entered: “Not only was I underage, I was a white man playing in a black club.”

Cold War tensions led to a nuclear weapon test being named for the Natural State.

Following the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the Soviet Union announced in August 1961 that it would resume atmospheric testing after a three-year moratorium; the U.S. followed suit in October. The United States conducted thirty-six nuclear tests in the Pacific as part of Operation Dominic.

On December 22nd, 1956, Arkansas hosted the first national championship football game of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Arkansas beat efforts by three other states to land the event, in part because the Louisiana legislature passed a law banning integrated sporting events in the state.

The Little Rock Chamber of Commerce worked with the Aluminum Company of America and Reynolds Metals Company to raise the fifty-thousand dollar fee to pay the CBS television network for hosting rights to what would be known as the Aluminum Bowl.

The spring of 1937 witnessed some of the worst flooding in Arkansas history. January saw nearly thirteen inches of rain fall in Arkansas – eight inches above normal – and similar downpours in other states dropped 165 billion tons of water along the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys.

Two Arkansas National Guard units – the Two Hundred Sixth Coast Artillery and One Hundred Fifty Third Infantry Regiments – fought World War II in an often-overlooked arena of the Pacific Theater: Alaska.

Relatives of the Elaine 12 participated in the induction ceremony.
Kelly Connelly / KUAR News

Twelve African-American men wrongly accused of murder during the 1919 Elaine Massacre and later exonerated were inducted into the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail. Each man has a trail marker dedicated in his honor. U.S. Rep. French Hill, the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Dr. Christina Drale, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., along with community members and family members of the Elaine 12 spoke at an induction ceremony for the trail Tuesday.

Friday is the first observance of an Arkansas state holiday honoring publisher John H. Johnson. He created Ebony magazine in 1945 and Jet magazine in 1951. Johnson was the founder, chairman, and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company, which at one time was the largest black-owned publishing company in the world.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Battle Hymn Of The Suffragists

Oct 22, 2019

On August 6, 1890 the Arkansas Woman Suffrage Association held its annual meeting in the Hall of Representatives at Little Rock.

The meeting opened with a rousing rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

This choice of song is emblematic of the attitudes of Arkansas women at the heart of the suffrage battle. But there was another reason for the musical selection. This Civil War-Era song was written by Julia Ward Howe, an ardent suffragist and much sought-after speaker at women’s rights events.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association Grows

Oct 22, 2019

Although small when it formed, by February of 1889, the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association had grown significantly. The Little Rock chapter now boasted sixty-seven members including some gentlemen whose wives refused to join.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: The Early Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association

Oct 21, 2019

When Clara McDiarmid established the Arkansas Equal Suffrage Association in Little Rock in 1888, the organization was small but young and energetic.

Miss Ida Joe Brooks, then a professor of Mathematics at Little Rock University, described those early days of the movement in Arkansas.

“There were thirteen of us” in the original association, three of whom were under the age of twenty-one. Five women were not even residents of the city. It was not a formidable party,” Brooks commented.

“We are few in numbers, weak in influence, poor in purse, but valiant in spirit.”

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