Black History Month Spotlight – Joseph Taylor Robinson Auditorium

IMG_7690The new Arkansas Civil Rights History Audio Tour was launched in November 2015. Produced by the City of Little Rock and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock allows the many places and stories of the City’s Civil Rights history to come to life an interactive tour.  This month, during Black History Month, the Culture Vulture looks at some of the stops on this tour which focus on African American history.

In March 1974, Little Rock hosted the second National Black Political Convention at the Joseph T. Robinson Auditorium and Camelot Hotel (now a Doubletree Hotel). The first convention was held in Gary, Indiana, in 1972, and garnered much publicity, producing a National Black Political Agenda that included demands for the election of a proportionate number of black representatives to Congress, community control of schools, and national health insurance. The Little Rock convention was co-convened by Congressman Charles Diggs of Detroit, Michigan; Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana; and poet Amiri Baraka. Plenary speakers included Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and comedian and activist Dick Gregory. Jesse Jackson was also in town for the convention. The convention featured a moving testimonial and tribute to local civil rights leader Daisy Bates at Central High School.

For many years, the lower Exhibition Hall of Robinson Auditorium hosted many concerts, dances and sporting events, popular with black audiences. However, because the large concert hall upstairs had segregated seating, Duke Ellington declined to play there in 1961. Louis Armstrong played to the first integrated audience in 1966 after the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended segregation in public facilities and accommodations.

The app, funded by a generous grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council, was a collaboration among UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, with assistance from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.