Arkansas History

National Association of Black Veterans state commander Lisa  Moss photographs the historical marker for Frank Moore that unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery. Elaine massacre Elaine 12 twelve
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A historical marker was unveiled Friday at Little Rock National Cemetery noting where a black sharecropper is buried who helped bring a labor union to Phillips County in eastern Arkansas, leading to what would be the bloodiest racial uprising in state history. Frank Moore, a veteran of World War I, would be convicted for his alleged role in the deaths of five white men, and was later the namesake of a precedent-setting case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court that led to his release.

Rock Island
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An $880,000 federal grant is being awarded to Pulaski County to build part of a pedestrian and bicycling path that will link Little Rock and Hot Springs. The Southwest Trail will mostly be constructed on two former railroad right-of-ways.

David Monteith / KUAR News

The Arkansas Governor's Mansion celebrated its 70th anniversary Monday. Former Governors Mike Beebe, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Guy Tucker joined family members of other previous governors at the mansion.

The campaign to build the mansion began in 1944 with Mrs. Agnes Bass Shinn. Governor Sid McMath and his family became the mansion's first residents on February 3, 1950.

First Lady Susan Hutchinson unveiled this year's commemorative Christmas ornament, a glass replica of the mansion, to mark the anniversary.

Elizabeth Eckford Little Rock Nine
Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Elizabeth Eckford, who was one of nine black students to desegregate Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, recounted her experiences to a crowd Wednesday. She spoke in a lecture sponsored by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators at Little Rock’s Statehouse Convention Center.

Brought on stage in a wheelchair by a ranger with the National Park Service, the 78-year-old Eckford was greeted by silent visual applause; a stark contrast to the chaos she endured as a member of the Little Rock Nine.

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.”

On January 31st, 1897, the Arkansas Gazette reported on a “horrible monster” terrorizing Searcy County.

Called the gowrow based on its horrifying roar, the beast had been slaughtering cattle until a posse tracked it to its cave, littered with human and animal remains, and killed the beast with several volleys of rifle fire, but not before the twenty-foot long, fearsomely tusked gowrow ripped the leg from a posse member.

Woodruff County’s Anita Blackmon wrote more than one thousand short stories and several novels, including mysteries in the “had I but known” school.

Born in Augusta in 1892, Blackmon published her first short stories in 1922 under her married name, Mrs. Harry Pugh Smith, but she would publish her novels using her maiden name. Blackmon’s work was published in Love Story Magazine, Cupid’s Diary and Detective Tales, as well as in serialized versions in the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette.

A fake documentary shot for one hundred sixty thousand dollars in 1972 would gross more than twenty million and bring fame to a small south Arkansas town.

Little Rock Nine Central High
U.S. Army / Wikipedia

A weekend commemoration marked the turbulent integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. The event, held at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was called “Retracing the Footsteps of History Makers,” with members of the Little Rock Nine talking about what is was like attending the school.

Christina Shutt, executive director of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, with some of the artifacts featured in the "Hateful Things" exhibit.
Kelly Connelly / KUAR News

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock will open its newest exhibit, "Hateful Things," on Thursday. It features what is considered to be racist memorabilia that has been collected by Dr. David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. He has spent a lifetime researching, collecting, and understanding racist objects.

Standing inside the exhibit space, MTCC Executive Director Christina Shutt said viewing these items collectively makes a powerful statement. 

Deborah Baldwin
Sarah Kellogg / KUAR News

The Winthrop Rockefeller Charitable Trust has pledged $2.25 million to the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture. The funds will be managed by the University of Arkansas Foundation.

During a news conference on Tuesday, University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt announced that the gift is to support the Winthrop Rockefeller Collection and its other activities and collections in an effort to perpetuate continual support.

Flood control efforts in northeast Arkansas’s Sunken Lands yielded an engineering marvel: The Marked Tree Siphons.

Drainage District Number Seven in Poinsett County was formed in 1917 to help regulate flooding of the Saint Francis River. The Steep Gut Floodway, lock and sluiceway were completed in 1926, but seven years later forty feet of the sluiceway dropped and part of the levee collapsed when the fine sand at its base washed away.

At seven thousand acres, Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge offers a resting place for migratory birds as well as a permanent home for hundreds of species.

The area housing Holla Bend was created in 1954 when an Arkansas River flood control project straightened a section of the river and created an island between the old and new channels. It was turned over to the Department of the Interior three years later to serve as a wildlife refuge.

A pair of colleges in Arkadelphia have maintained a rivalry since 1895 with an annual football game dubbed “The Battle of the Ravine.”

Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State University are located across Highway 67 from each other, making their annual meeting the only game in the country where the visiting team walks across the street for the competition. Some of the scores have been one-sided, with Ouachita winning 66 to zero in 1919 and Henderson taking the 1932 game 62 to nothing.

Suffrage In Sixty Seconds: Susan B. Anthony Speaks In Little Rock

Sep 1, 2019

On Thursday, February 21, 1889, national suffrage leader Susan B. Anthony spoke at the Capital Theater in Little Rock. The following day, the Arkansas Gazette reported on the event.

Electing not to include or describe any of Anthony’s remarks, the writer claimed that “No very large percent of the women of America embrace Miss Anthony’s radical view [and]…It is a truth that suffrage is a boon not desired by a very heavy majority of the most refined and intelligent women of the country.

Susan B. Anthony is, perhaps, the most famous name in the American women’s suffrage movement, and with good reason. Born into a family of reformers, Anthony was active in the temperance movement and she was also an ardent and tireless abolitionist. But she was most passionate about gaining for women the right to vote.

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