Arkansas Moments

Arkansas Moments is a special feature of UALR 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 UALR's Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

jakirk@ualr.edu

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote regardless of “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” In attempts to suppress the black vote, states have therefore had to devise mechanisms to indirectly rather than directly target black voters. Take, for example, the all-white Democratic Party primary elections. These prevented black voters from voting in the primaries based on the argument that they were private elections and therefore not subject to the Fifteenth Amendment.

Voter Suppression- Poll Tax

13 hours ago

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote regardless of “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” In attempts to suppress the black vote, states have therefore had to devise mechanisms to indirectly rather than directly target black voters. Take, for example, Arkansas’s adoption of a poll tax amendment in 1893. On the face of it, it was argued that a one-dollar poll tax would reduce voter fraud. In practice, it disfranchised large numbers of African American voters that could not afford even the nominal fee.

Voter Suppression- The Election Law of 1891

14 hours ago

The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to vote regardless of “race, color or previous condition of servitude.” In attempts to suppress the black vote, states have therefore had to devise mechanisms to indirectly rather than directly target black voters. Take, for example, Arkansas’s Election Law of 1891, which created standardized ballot papers, centralized control of the voting process, and introduced a secret ballot system. These measures meant that it was much more difficult for illiterate voters to cast their ballots.

John Carter's Descendants

14 hours ago

At a panel discussion on the 1927 lynching of John Carter held at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in February, a number of fascinating insights came to light. Most intriguing of all were those offered by George Fulton, Sr. and George Fulton, Jr., the grandson and great-grandson of John Carter. We learned that although Carter was 38 years old when he was lynched, his wife lived in Little Rock until she was 105 years old, passing in 2001. Neither George Sr. nor Jr. really knew about what had happened to their relative until recently.

John Carter Lynching Panel

14 hours ago

A remarkable panel discussion took place at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in February. The topic was the lynching of John Carter in Little Rock in 1927. The panel was remarkable because it featured relatives of those directly tied to the episode. There was a relative of Floella McDonald, the white girl whose murder created a tense racial atmosphere in the city. Sitting next to her was a relative of Lonnie Dixon, the 17 year-old African American who was executed for the murder of McDonald under dubious circumstances.

John Carter Lynching Projects

14 hours ago

Last fall I was contacted by two people working on the lynching of John Carter, the 38 year-old African American who was killed in west Little Rock in 1927. Stephanie Harp, who lives in Bangor, Maine, is writing a book on the subject. She is the great-granddaughter of one of the white sheriffs who may have been involved in the lynching. George Fulton, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, is making a documentary about the lynching. He is the great-grandson of John Carter, the lynching victim. Both emails came to me within a space of one week.

In April 1963, Jet magazine reported on the progress of Little Rock’s downtown desegregation. James Forman, executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, hailed the city as “just about the most integrated… in the South.” Ozell Sutton, associate director of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, said: “Before 1957, things were smooth because no one asked for much. There was no recognition of the dignity and worth of man, and a condescending relationship existed among whites for Negroes. The city was considered progressive then—by old standards.

Little Rock Desegregation- Baseball

14 hours ago

Fifty years ago, Dick Allen became the first African American player for the Arkansas Travelers baseball team. Allen came from the Philadelphia Phillies, where in 1960 he received the highest ever signing on bonus for a black player. Fearing a reaction from the local community, Little Rock newspapers did not herald Allen’s arrival. Little Rock White Citizens’ Council members picketed his first game with signs reading, “Don’t Negro-ize baseball.” Two hundred black fans out of a 7,000 crowd watched his debut. Allen hit two doubles.

Little Rock Desegregation- Downtown Beginnings

14 hours ago

Fifty years ago, in January 1963, Little Rock finally set in motion a process that would end segregation in its downtown businesses. Following renewed student sit-ins in November 1962, white businessmen and merchants decided that the time had come to act. A secret Downtown Negotiating Committee of four prominent white businessmen, two Philander Smith students, and two black community representatives, hammered out a timetable for change. On January 1, 1963, lunch counters in downtown Little Rock began to serve black customers on an equal basis. Downtown hotels desegregated their facilities.

This month at its commencement ceremony UALR will award an honorary doctorate to Marvell civil rights activist Gertrude Jackson. Black women like Jackson were often crucial in mobilizing local communities. Some, like Arkansas Delta sharecropper Carrie Dilworth, tied together successive generations of movements and organizing traditions within the span of one lifetime. In the 1930s, Dilworth organized and recruited for the interracial Southern Tenant Farmers Union. In the 1940s, she worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to register black voters.

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