Black History Month Spotlight – Central High School Neighborhood

CHS neighborhoodThe 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.

The Central High School Neighborhood Historic District developed in the late 1880s, after a streetcar company built West End Park there in 1885. The area was a middle-class, interracial, mixed-use neighborhood with large homes and cottages and several schools and churches. Union and Capitol Hill schools educated the African American residents. St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church and school served an African American congregation. African American and white residents worked as clergymen, barbers, chauffeurs, mail carriers, clerks, and with the railroad and service industries. The neighborhood was also home to white and black lawyers, doctors, teachers and businessmen.

By 1894, West End Park included a baseball field, becoming home to the city’s first minor league baseball team, the Little Rock Travelers. Negro League teams, including the Little Rock Reds, Cadets, and Greys, also played there. In the late 1920s, the park site was chosen for the new Little Rock High School for white students. Quigley Stadium, the school’s football field, was built in 1936 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), replacing Kavanaugh Baseball Field. The neighborhood continues to have a vibrant mix of working class blacks and whites.

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.