Black History Month Spotlight – Old State House Museum

OSH logoThe 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 1836 Old State House, the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River, was a center of political activity for many years. During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces alternately occupied it. During Reconstruction, with many black men registering to vote, eight African Americans were delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention, held in this building.

The new constitution recognized the equality of all persons before the law, provided suffrage for freedmen, and required a system of free public education for blacks and whites (in separate schools.) By 1874, twenty black men were serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. In 1891, African American Senator George W. Bell and Representative John Grey Lucas gave inspiring speeches against the Separate Coach Law.

Now a museum, the Old State House exhibits include ones relating to African American history. “On the Stump: Arkansas Political History“ explains civil rights issues from statehood (1836) into the twentieth century. Its collections, which are searchable on-line, include quilts by black Arkansans, photographs by African American photographer Geleve Grice, and music by Louis Jordan. Portions of the Arkansas Slave Narratives, collected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1940s, are available on the web-site.

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.