Arkansas Moments

Winthrop Rockefeller on the Confederacy

Oct 7, 2016

Fifty years ago this November [2016], Winthrop Rockefeller was elected Arkansas’s first Republican governor in almost a century. To win the election, Rockefeller beat Arkansas’s leading segregationist Jim Johnson. Black votes were vital in Rockefeller’s victory. Rockefeller later proclaimed: “The old South is dead. This will infuriate the true believers in white supremacy.

Winthrop Rockefeller on Two-Party Politics

Oct 7, 2016

Fifty years ago this November [2016], Winthrop Rockefeller was elected Arkansas’s first Republican governor in almost a century. He strongly believed that two-party politics was essential to the state’s advancement and to breaking the yoke of white supremacy.

Winthrop Rockefeller on Muslims

Oct 7, 2016

Fifty years ago this November [2016], Winthrop Rockefeller was elected Arkansas’s first Republican governor in almost a century. In the oil business in the 1940s, he spent time in the Middle East. He later reflected: “I know it is difficult for us not to think of ourselves as superior to people who are as different from us in culture, background, customs and religion as the Moslems….[But] it is up to us to work together to bring about that rapport which will enable us to live together in peace and mutual respect.

The first immigrants to Arkansas were the many Native American Indians that occupied the land for thousands of years. They were descendants of people who crossed the Bearing Straits from Siberia to become the first peoples of what later became the United States. European Americans forcibly displaced Native Americans from the land in just the past two hundred years. You can find out more about immigration in Arkansas with the release of the thirteenth annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County survey.

African Americans were not immigrants to Arkansas. The vast majority of African Americans were originally brought to the state against their will as enslaved people. The vast majority of African Americans in the state today are decedents of enslaved people. There have been many migrations of African Americans into Arkansas and, in more recent history, mass migrations out of Arkansas. You can find out more about immigration in Arkansas with the release of the thirteenth annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County survey.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, the Bracero Program brought thousands of Mexican workers into the Arkansas delta to address labor shortages. Braceroes challenged the racial discrimination and economic exploitation they discovered there. More recently, northwest Arkansas has witnessed one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the United States, with many seeking employment in the poultry industry. You can find out more about immigration in Arkansas with the release of the thirteenth annual Racial Attitudes in Pulaski County survey.

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.