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 and Chair of the UALR History Department. 

jakirk@ualr.edu

Arkansas General Assembly 1959

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1959, Act 14 made it illegal for a person to refuse to leave a place of business if requested to do so by the management for any reason. Act 81 created a bus seat numbering system for intra state bus journeys in an attempt to preserve segregation by seat assignment. Act 115 forbade any member of the NAACP from holding a government position.

Arkansas General Assembly 1958

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1958, Act 4 empowered the governor to shut down any integrated school district. Several other acts provided contingency measures for this. Act 10 ordered all people signing teaching contracts to disclose all groups that they were members of to their employers, with the aim of intimidating members of the NAACP.  Act 11 prevented all organizations from filing lawsuits that affected public education.

Arkansas General Assembly 1957

Apr 9, 2015

Starting in 1957, three successive Arkansas General Assemblies passed an ever-increasing and ever-more drastic set of pro-segregation measures. In 1957, Act 83 created a State Sovereignty Commission to protect the state from “encroachment…by the Federal Government.” Act 85 ordered all groups that received donations in the state to report them to the Sovereignty Commission, in an attempt to monitor the activities of civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Economics of Public Schools

Mar 16, 2015

The 1957 Little Rock school crisis was an economic disaster for the city. The negative headlines from calling out the National Guard to prevent the desegregation of Central High School reverberated around the world. The closing of Little Rock’s public high schools in 1958-1959 further alienated potential investors. The city lived to rue the economic costs of the long school crisis. Four years passed before another industry relocated to the city.

Firing Public School Teachers

Mar 16, 2015

At a Little Rock School Board meeting on May 5, 1959, segregationist members attempted to push through measures to remove anyone unsympathetic to their cause from the public school system. Blocking each of these measures, representatives of moderate business interests on the school board left the meeting so that there would be no quorum. However, the segregationist president of the school board ruled that the meeting could continue. Segregationists proceeded to make a series of decisions about the running of the schools system.

Little Rock Private School Corporation

Mar 16, 2015

In 1958, Gov. Orval Faubus presided over a segregationist Arkansas General Assembly that passed legislation to hold a referendum in a school district. The voters could choose to desegregate public high schools or to close them completely. Little Rock voted to close them completely. The morning after the announcement of the referendum result, Faubus pressured the school board into leasing the public schools to a Little Rock Private School Corporation for private operation.

First State Takeover of Little Rock School

Jan 29, 2015

In 1954, when the United States Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision was handed down, Orval Faubus was running against incumbent Francis Cherry for governor. Inevitably, the question of school desegregation arose on the campaign trail. Faubus insisted that school policy was best handled at a “local level” with local communities empowered to determine their own course of action.

Voting Rights since 1965

Jan 29, 2015

After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the first four African American legislators were elected to the Arkansas General Assembly in eighty years. In 1982 redistricting, one further house seat was added, filled by Irma Hunter Brown, the first African American woman in the General Assembly. A lawsuit in 1988 added another house seat filled by Ben McGee from Crittenden County, the first African American elected outside of Pulaski and Jefferson counties in the twentieth century.

Disfranchisement

Jan 29, 2015

The election law of 1891 began African American disfranchisement in Arkansas. Passed with the intention of combating electoral fraud, its measures proved disastrous for black political participation. The law centralized the electoral system under the control of the white Democratic Party. A secret ballot and a standardized ballot paper essentially introduced a literacy test. At the time, over a quarter of the population in the state could not read or write, including some 93,000 whites and 116,000 blacks.

Fifteenth Amendment

Jan 29, 2015

More African Americans were elected to the Arkansas General Assembly in the nineteenth century than have been elected in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. One hundred and forty-five years ago the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing equal votes regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Between 1868 and 1893, a total of eighty-four Africans Americans were elected: six in the senate, seventy-four in the house, and four in both chambers.

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