Arkansas History

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Little Rock Central High School is now joining five other sites across the city as part of a national project highlighting historically significant locations in the civil rights era.

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail includes over 100 museums, churches, and other landmarks across 14 states and Washington, D.C. that played a role in the struggle for equal rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 60s.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a pioneering gospel singer and guitar player from Arkansas, will be among the 2018 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was born in the Woodruff County town of Cotton Plant in 1915 and achieved fame in the 1930s.  Tharpe was among six acts announced Wednesday for next year's induction ceremony and will be honored in the category Early Influences. 

Stephen Koch, host of the weekly feature Arkansongs, says given her influence, it’s an honor long overdue. He spoke with KUAR during All Things Considered.

Roy Reed
AETN

An Arkansas-born journalist and author who covered one of the key events of the civil rights era has died.

Roy Reed died Sunday night at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, according to his wife, Norma Reed. He was 87.

Roy Reed reported on the civil rights movement during the 1960s for the New York Times and in 1965 witnessed what became known as "Bloody Sunday" when police and others beat black marchers in Selma, Alabama.

John Rogers
Mark Friedman / Arkansas Business

A plea and arraignment hearing is scheduled for Monday in Pulaski County Circuit Court for former Arkansas sports memorabilia dealer John Rogers. He's facing state charges while awaiting sentencing next month on a federal wire fraud charge.

The new charges stem from the alleged theft by Rogers of three hard drives containing images valued at $364,167. In March he pleaded guilty in federal court after reaching a plea agreement that acknowledged he took part in an effort "to fraudulently obtain at least approximately $10 million" from investors, financial institutions and customers. Prosecutors say Rogers used a variety of schemes that included false pretenses, misrepresentations and lies.

The Johnny Cash Heritage Festival in Dyess takes place Thursday through Saturday, October 19-21.  In this interview, KASU News Director Johnathan Reaves talks with the Director of the Arkansas State University Heritage Sites Dr. Ruth Hawkins to learn why this year's celebration of Johnny Cash turned from just a music festival to more of a symposium/music festival.  Click on the Listen button to hear more.  

Ellis “CeDell” Davis, an Arkansas blues musician known for his slide guitar playing, died Wednesday night at the age of 91. The Helena native and long-time Pine Bluff resident had been in and out of hospitals in recent weeks due to heart related complications. Health problems dogged him throughout his life but also gave birth to the sound for which he became known.

Bill Clinton Little Rock Nine
Sarah Whites-Koditschek / Arkansas Public media

The surviving members of the Little Rock Nine and former President Bill Clinton marked the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School on Monday. The ceremony was replete with jabs at how far is left to go to achieve progress in the era of President Donald Trump and a state-controlled school district.

Tree Project Honors Arkansans Who Died In World War I

Sep 26, 2017
In 1919, this ring of holly trees was planted as a living memorial to honor Henderson students and a teacher killed during World War I.
www.hsu.edu

A new effort aims to provide a living memorial to the Arkansans who died during World War I.

A memorial tree project is underway by the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee in partnership with the state Forestry Commission. The goal is to place a tree in every county in Arkansas.

UCA / University of Central Arkansas

A preview of a scene from an opera depicting the desegregation of Little Rock's Central High School in 1957 is scheduled for Monday evening at the University of Central Arkansas.

The event is one of several commemorating the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of the school. UCA’s College of Fine Arts and Communication commissioned the opera, entitled “The Little Rock Nine,” which is being composed by Tania Leon. In an interview for KUAR’s Arts Scene program, Leon said she didn’t know much about the event when she was first approached to compose the opera.

The anniversary of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock has brought national attention to Little Rock and renewed interest in the nine students who made history this month 60 years ago, even as a number of Little Rock residents talk of re-segregation of the school district and the ongoing state control of the city's public schools.

World War I Sabin Howard
Sabin Howard

Work is progressing ahead of a ceremonial groundbreaking on Nov. 9 for a National World War I Memorial in Washington, DC commemorating the service of Americans in the military. The memorial likely won’t be completed as initially hoped in time for 100th anniversary of the end of the war, but substantial work should be visible by then.

Daniel Breen / KUAR News

Visitors to Little Rock's Central High School will now have a way to explore the school’s historic past. An app developed by the Central High Civil Rights Memory Project in partnership with the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, uses first-person accounts to narrate a walking tour of the school.

George West taught civics at Central High, and now serves as education outreach coordinator at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. He has seen firsthand the impact the project has had on students.

Former President Bill Clinton
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Former President Bill Clinton is to deliver the keynote address at a ceremony next month that will cap four days of events commemorating the 60th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School. The eight surviving members of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated the formerly all-white school in 1957, are also expected to take part.

A sunken ship may turn into a tourist site in eastern Arkansas. A paddle wheel steamboat called the Sultana caught fire in 1865, just days after the end of the Civil War. Over 1,200 Union soldiers died, making it the biggest maritime disaster in U.S. history.

The ship's wreckage currently rests underneath a soybean field in Marion where the Mississippi River once ran. Project Director Louis Intres tells KATV-TV that plans are in progress to build a 10,000-square-foot, $3 million Sultana Disaster Museum.

Michael Hibblen
Governor's Office

Gov. Asa Hutchinson shared his thoughts with a national audience on President Trump's response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. In an interview Friday on NPR's All Things Considered, the Arkansas Republican said the president needs to send a clear message that "white supremacy, neo-Nazism has no place in American values."

But Hutchinson also spoke against the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, saying it would be dismantling history.  

A monument to the women of the Confederacy on Arkansas's Capitol grounds.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Events in Charlottesville, Virginia have sparked discussions in Arkansas about the proper response to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, as well as renewed debate about the meaning of Confederate monuments. Take a listen to KUAR's interviews with state Rep. Bob Ballinger and pastor, judge, and author Wendell Griffen.

Democratic Party Of Arkansas Calls For Confederate Monument Removal

Aug 18, 2017
The Confederate soldiers monument at the state Capitol.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

The Democratic Party of Arkansas is calling for the removal of all Confederate monuments on public grounds. The state Legislature is not currently in session and no Democrats have volunteered themselves to lead any such effort. But the state party said in a statement that Confederate monuments only belong in museums and on private land.

“The time has come for these symbols of our past to be placed in museums and privately owned spaces rather than to continue to occupy public lands.

Christopher Columbus Pinta Nina
Great Lakes Today

Replicas of two ships used by explorer Christopher Columbus, which led to the European colonization of the Americas, are to visit Arkansas in October and November. The replicas of Niña and Pinta are traveling together around the U.S. to help people learn more about the voyage in 1492 that led to the discovery of what was called the New World.

But a recent stop along Lake Ontario in north-central New York drew protests from Native Americans who say the ships only tell half of the story.

Levon Helm
Kevin Kresse

A fundraising campaign has been launched to create a permanent memorial in east Arkansas for Levon Helm. The legendary drummer and singer, who was best known for his work with The Band, grew up in the Phillips County community of Turkey Scratch, helping his family pick cotton.

Plans are to finish restoring the sharecropper's house his family lived in, which has been moved to the nearby town of Marvell. A statue of Helm is also to be completed and placed downtown.

Several toddlers huddle under an oak tree on the Harrison town square pretending to burn something.

"P-wish," a little boy says.  "I’m going to light the fire up!”

Their parents stand a few feet away, with roughly 60 other Ku Klux Klan members holding placards as a gay pride parade goes by. The air vibrates with chants and counter-chants, some of the anti-LGBTQ shouts vulgar. The Klan protestors follow the pride procession for several blocks, converging on a local park where parade members are staging a small festival. Protestors are barred from the gated event so take up positions around the perimeter. Many are mothers pushing infants in strollers, children and teenagers, as well as single women, all members of the Christian Revival Center, operated by Pastor and Ku Klux Klan leader, Thomas Robb. 

The Arlington Hotel
www.arlingtonhotel.com

A group from Little Rock is acquiring the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs for an undisclosed amount of money.

The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record newspaper reported Monday that Sky Capital Group LP is buying the state's largest hotel from Southwest Hotels Inc., which has operated the hotel since 1954.

The Arlington Hotel has 478 rooms, along with a spa, a bathhouse, a convention center, ballroom and lobby bar. Sky Capital also operates the Four Points Sheraton in Little Rock.

Erin Fehr
Darcy Hagood / KUAR News


The Sequoyah National Research Center, a Native American archive and gallery on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is unveiling a new exhibit Tuesday. Entitled “Native Voices,” it examines the diverse and holistic ways many Native Americans approach illness and health.

Little Rock Nine 9
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, joined Tueday (May 23) with civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont to introduce legislation expanding boundaries of the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

This expansion would mean seven homes located near Little Rock Central High School would be included in the school’s national historic site designation and preserved by the National Park Service. The legislation is being introduced ahead of the city’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Nine in September.

Preserve Arkansas, which each year releases a list of 10 most endangered places, has released its list for 2017.  

From the group's press release:

Cemeteries, Burial Grounds, and Graveyards
Statewide

Copyright 2019 KUAR. To see more, visit KUAR.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Proposal Heads To Governor To End Arkansas's Dual King-Lee Holiday

Mar 17, 2017
arkansashouse.org

The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Friday to give final legislative approval to a bill that ends the official recognition of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on the same day. The House passed SB519 on a 66-11 vote, with five members voting present and 18 not voting.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

After several years and multiple failed attempts, a renewed effort to remove Arkansas’s celebration of Robert E. Lee from the state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. is headed for a final vote. An Arkansas House committee advanced the Senate-approved bill Tuesday evening on a voice vote. Arkansas is one of three states to mark King and Lee on the same day.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and State Senator David Wallace (R-Leachville) presenting the MLK/Lee Day bill in committee.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Martin Luther King Jr. Day would stand alone, separated from Arkansas’s dual observance with Robert E. Lee, under a proposal advanced by a Senate committee. On a voice vote Thursday, legislation passed to move the observance of Lee to October. Governor Asa Hutchinson led the cause to disjoin the Civil Rights leader and Confederate general.

“The fact is celebrating Martin Luther King on the same day as a Confederate general gives Arkansas a sense that you make a choice and this choice diminishes the contributions of Dr. King,” Hutchinson told committee members.

Governor Asa Hutchinson signed bill dinosaur
Governor's Office

It's a designation more than 65 million years in the making.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Friday signed a resolution designating the Arkansaurus fridayi as the state's official dinosaur. The move makes Arkansas the 10th state to have its own official dinosaur.

The dinosaur was first discovered in a gravel pit near Lockesburg in 1972 by Joe Friday, for whom it was named.

State Rep. Greg Leding proposed designating it as the state's official dinosaur at the encouragement of Mason Cypress Oury, a high school student in his district.

An annual music festival to celebrate the music of the Man in Black is literally being moved to the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home…or that is, next to the home.  

In 2011, Arkansas State University started the process of acquiring and restoring the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home in Dyess.  In order to raise funds for the project, the Johnny Cash Music Festival was held in Jonesboro. 

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