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.

jakirk@ualr.edu

Charles Mingus and Central High

May 1, 2017

In September 1957, the events surrounding the desegregation of Central High School became a focal point for national and international outrage at Little Rock’s treatment of black schoolchildren. Jazz musician Charles Mingus composed a song called “Fables of Faubus,” which lambasted the Arkansas governor, labeling him, among other things, a “Nazi Fascist supremist.” Columbia Records felt the lyrics too controversial and would only release the track as an instrumental on Mingus’s 1959 album Mingus Ah Um.

In September 1957, the events surrounding the desegregation of Central High School became a focal point for national and international outrage at Little Rock’s treatment of black schoolchildren. Reflecting on the episode, African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks wrote the poem “The Chicago Defender Sends a Man to Little Rock,” included in her 1960 collection The Bean Eaters. The poem vividly recounts the violence and hatred displayed by the white mob gathered at Central High, particularly the vicious beating of African-American newspaper reporter L. Alex Wilson.

South Pacific and Central High

May 1, 2017

In September 1957, the events surrounding the desegregation of Central High School became a focal point for national and international outrage at Little Rock’s treatment of black schoolchildren. This manifested itself in a number of ways. In a New York City suburb, a young actress walked on stage in the popular new Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

On April 13, 2017, UA Little Rock will host a conference to release the results of the fourteenth annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County survey on “Race, Ethnicity and Religion.” Beginning at 10:30 am in Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall, a panel of commentators will discuss the findings of the survey and answer audience questions. After lunch, beginning at 1:00 pm, the results of a Little Rock Congregations study by the UA Little Rock School of Public Affairs and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service will also be discussed.

Winthrop Rockefeller and the Death Penalty

Apr 2, 2017

In 1970, in his last act in office, Winthrop Rockefeller, the first Republican governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction, commuted the death sentences of all fifteen prisoners on death row, eleven of them African American. “My position on capital punishment has been clear since long before I became governor,” Rockefeller said. “I am unalterably opposed to it and will remain so as long as I live. What earthly mortal has the omnipotence to say who among us shall live and who shall die? I do not.

The Elaine Twelve

Apr 2, 2017

After the Elaine, Arkansas race massacre in 1919, in which perhaps more than 200 African Americans were killed, twelve black men were sentenced to death for their alleged role in events. The trials of the men were conducted in a local courthouse surrounded by an armed white mob; their appointed lawyers did not subpoena witnesses or allow their clients to testify; and many of the trails lasted less than an hour with the juries taking less than ten minutes to find them guilty.

W. Harold Flowers and the Wilkerson Case

Apr 2, 2017

William Harold Flowers, a Pine Bluff attorney, was a trailblazer for African American civil rights in Arkansas. Of the many cases that Flowers fought, the 1946 Wilkerson case had the most profound impact. In the case, two black men stood accused of killing two white men, an act that usually brought with it an automatic death sentence. However, Flowers managed to get their sentences commuted to jail terms. At the trial, Flowers successfully demanded that some black jurors sit in judgment on the case, the first time this had happened in the state since Reconstruction.

Raye Jean Jordan Montague

Mar 6, 2017

Raye Jean Jordan Montague was born in Little Rock in 1935. She was educated at Merrill High School and Arkansas Mechanical and Normal College in Pine Bluff. Although she wanted to study engineering, no Arkansas colleges awarded such degrees to African American women at the time, so she studied business instead. In 1956, Montague began a distinguished career with the US Navy as a digital computer systems operator.

Gertrude Hadley Jeannette

Mar 6, 2017

Gertrude Hadley Jeannette was born in Urbana, Union County, Arkansas, in 1914. She attended Little Rock’s Dunbar High School. Rather than going to Fisk University as planned, she eloped to New York City with Joe Jeanette II, a prizefighter and president of the Harlem Dusters motorcycle club.

Florence Beatrice Smith Price

Mar 6, 2017

Florence Beatrice Smith Price was born in Little Rock in 1887. She was taught piano by her mother and began composing pieces while in high school. Price went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she received degrees as an organist and piano teacher. Upon eventually returning to Little Rock, she established a music studio, taught piano, and continued to compose pieces; however, she was denied membership in the segregated Arkansas State Music Teachers Association. Price left Arkansas in 1927 for Chicago where she found more opportunities.

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