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

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.

The Bracero Program in Arkansas

Nov 21, 2014

In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the Bracero Program brought thousands of Mexican workers into the Arkansas delta to address labor shortages there. Though white landowners welcomed this, Juan Crown and Jim Crow existed side-by-side as Mexican workers suffered from and fought against the prevalent racial and ethnic discrimination in the region. Braceroes challenged discrimination and the economic exploitation that underpinned it.

Agricultural Extension Service and Race

Nov 21, 2014

Employed by the Agricultural Extension Service, home demonstration agents played a vital role in providing support to rural black families, despite the segregated and underfunded climate they operated in. Husband and wife team Harvey C. Ray and Mary McCrary Ray filled the positions as the first black U.S. Extension Service agent and first black home demonstration agent in Arkansas. Home demonstration agents were an early federally funded outlet for African American support and betterment in often-impoverished black families and communities.

Slavery in Arkansas

Nov 21, 2014

Even in the worst of conditions and in the worst of times in the Arkansas delta, African American slaves developed “cultures of resistance” to try to assert some control over their surroundings and the conditions that they faced. Slaves collaborated in slowdowns at work, took breaks when overseers were not looking, practiced “truancy” (that is, took brief runaway excursions), and usurped the authority of white mistresses in running households. Some took more drastic measures, such as running away to freedom across large distances or, more directly, by killing their masters.

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