On Anne Frank’s birthday – a look at the Anne Frank trees in Little Rock

Ninety years ago today, on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany.  Through her diary, she has inspired generations with her courage as her family was in hiding from the Nazis.  During the two years she and her family were in seclusion, she looked out and saw a white horse chestnut tree from her window.

In 2009, the Anne Frank Center USA announced an initiative to place saplings from the tree at various locations throughout the United States.  Little Rock became the only city to receive two saplings.  One to be placed at Central High School, the other to be placed at the Clinton Presidential Center.

The Clinton Foundation and the Sisterhood of Congregation B’nai Israel, in conjunction with the Anne Frank Center USA, joined together to create a powerful exhibit, The Anne Frank Tree, located on the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Park.  The permanent installation, which surrounds the Anne Frank Tree sapling, was dedicated on October 2, 2015.

Anne’s tree would outlive her by more than 50 years before being weakened by disease and succumbing to a windstorm in 2010. But today, thanks to dozens of saplings propagated in the months before its death, Anne’s tree lives on in cities and towns around the world.

The Anne Frank Tree installation at the Clinton Center consists of five framed, etched glass panels – arranged to evoke the feeling of being inside a room – surrounded by complementary natural landscaping. The two front panels feature quotes from Anne Frank and President Clinton. The three additional panels convey the complex history of human rights in Arkansas through descriptions of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957. These panels feature quotes from Chief Heckaton, hereditary chief of the Quapaw during Arkansas’s Indian Removal; George Takei, Japanese-American actor who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center in Desha County, Arkansas, in 1942; and Melba Pattillo Beals, of the Little Rock Nine.

In collaboration with the Clinton Foundation, Little Rock landscape architect Cinde Bauer and Ralph Appelbaum Associates, exhibit designer for both the Center and The National Holocaust Museum, assisted in the design of the exhibit. The installation has been made possible thanks to the support of the Ben J. Altheimer Charitable Foundation, TRG Foundation, and other generous partners.

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Journalist Ernie Dumas discusses his new book tonight (6/10)

Veteran journalist and political observer Ernie Dumas will talk about his new memoir The Education of Ernie Dumas. He’ll sign copies of the book both before and after his talk, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Dumas’s book traces the post-World War II evolution of Arkansas, beginning with the defeat of Governor Francis Cherry by Orval Faubus, the son of a hillbilly socialist, at the end of the Joseph McCarthy era, and leading up to Arkansas’s first president of the United States.

The book collects the mostly untold stories, often deeply personal, that reveal the struggles and tribulations of the state’s leaders—Cherry, Faubus, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, John McClellan, J. William Fulbright, Bill Clinton, Jim Guy Tucker, and others.

Schedule of events:

  • Doors open at 5:00 p.m.
  • Book Signing: 5:30 p.m.
  • Talk: 6:00 p.m.

Co-sponsored by the Clinton School of Public Service and Political Animals Club.

Dr. William Grant Still, born on May 11, 1895 – A leading 20th Century American composer

Long known as the Dean of African American composers, Dr. William Grant Still was a legend in his own lifetime. Though not born in Little Rock, he spent much of his youth in the city.

Dr. Still, who wrote more than 150 compositions ranging from operas to arrangements of folk themes, is best known as a pioneer. He was the first African-American in the United States to have a symphonic composition performed by a major orchestra.

He was the first African American to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US; the first to conduct a major symphony in the south; first to conduct a white radio orchestra in New York City; first to have an opera produced by a major company. Dr. Still was also the first African-American to have an opera televised over a national network

Dr. Still was born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi to parents who were teachers and musicians. When Dr. Still was only a few months old, his father died and his mother took him to Little Rock. Inspired by RCA Red Seal operatic recordings, his musical education began with violin lessons.  He graduated from Gibbs High School in Little Rock.

After his studies at Wilberforce University and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, he played in orchestras and orchestrated for various employers including the great W. C. Handy. For several years he arranged and conducted the “Deep River Hour” over CBS and WOR.  He also played in the orchestra for the 1921 musical Shuffle Along, which was the first Broadway musical to feature an all African-American cast and writing team.

In the 1920’s, Still made his first appearances as a serious composer in New York. Several fellowships and commissions followed. In 1994, his “Festive Overture” captured the Jubilee prize of the Cincinnati Symphony orchestra. In 1953, he won a Freedoms Foundation Award for “To You, America!” which honored West Point’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. In 1961, he received honors for this orchestral work, “The Peaceful Land”. Dr. Still also received numerous honorary degrees from various colleges and universities, as well as various awards and a citation from Arkansas Governor Dale Bumpers in 1972.

In 1939, Dr. Still married journalist and concert pianist Verna Avery, who became his principal collaborator. They remained together until Dr. Still’s death in 1978.  In a proclamation marking the centennial of Dr. Still’s birth, President Bill Clinton praised the composer for creating “works of such beauty and passion that they pierced the artificial barriers of race, nationality and time.”

In 1995, Dr. Still was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2016, the ballroom at Robinson Center was named in his honor. In 2018, Opera in the Rock performed Still’s opera Troubled Island.

Happy Birthday to Lottie Shackelford, who served as Little Rock’s 68th mayor

On April 30, 1941, future Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford was born. Throughout her career in public service she has been a trailblazer.

Active in community activities and politics, she ran for the City Board in 1974 and lost.  But she was appointed to the Little Rock City Board in September 1978 to fill a vacancy.

This made her the first African American woman to serve on he City Board, and indeed on any governing board for the City (during Reconstruction, there were at least six African Americans on the City Council, but they were all men.) She was subsequently elected to a full-term on the City Board in 1980 winning 55% of the vote over three male candidates.

She was subsequently re-elected in 1984 (unopposed) and in 1988 (with 60% of the vote).

In January 1987, Shackelford became the first female mayor of Little Rock when she was chosen by her colleagues on the City Board to serve in that position. She was Mayor until December 1988.  During that time, Mayor Shackelford invited the Little Rock Nine back to the City to be recognized for the 30th anniversary of their integration of Central High School.

From 1982 until 1992, she served as Executive Director of the Arkansas Regional Minority Purchasing Council.  She left that position to serve as Deputy Campaign Manager of Clinton for President.  She subsequently served on the Clinton/Gore transition team. She later served on the Overseas Private Investment Corporation from 1993 to 2003. She was the first African American to be in that position.

A graduate of Philander Smith College, she has also studied at the Arkansas Institute of Politics at Hendrix College and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Mayor Shackelford has also served on numerous boards including the Little Rock Airport Commission, Philander Smith College, Chapman Funds (Maryland) and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation (Arizona).  She has the longest tenure of any serving as Vice-Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Mayor Shackelford was in the first class of inductees for the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2015, she was inducted into the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

On final day of 2019 Arkansas Literary Festival, see the film GABO about Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabo: The Creation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez PosterA law-school dropout and political journalist who grew up in the poverty and violence of northern Colombia, Gabriel García Márquez became the (Nobel prizewinning) writer of globally celebrated, critically-acclaimed books…

Known as “Gabo” to all of Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez’s sensual, “magical” sensibility leads him to the forefront of the political struggles of the 1970s and 1980s including a pivotal and previously unknown role in negotiations between Cuban leader Fidel Castro and American President Bill Clinton and into the hearts of readers across the world.

This 2015 documentary was directed by Justin Webster.

The screening at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater today (April 28) starts at 2pm.

New exhibit: WASHED ASHORE opens at Clinton Center

Image result for clinton center washed ashore

The Clinton Presidential Center’s upcoming temporary exhibit, Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea, will debut on April 27, 2019. Washed Ashore is a family-friendly exhibit that will feature more than 20 giant sea life sculptures – made entirely of trash and debris collected from beaches. This exhibit poignantly illustrates the toll trash takes
on our oceans and waterways.

The incredible marine life sculptures will be accompanied by educational signage allowing visitors to learn about the fascinating species, environmental stewardship, responsible consumer habits, and how “every action counts” to help save our waterways.

Washed Ashore is a visual reminder of the disposable products that end up in our waters, and that each of us can take action to prevent further pollution. “Hope, creativity, [and] imagination will be required to meet the challenges that we face with our oceans,” said President Bill Clinton to the National Oceans Conference in June 1998. “But they are the traits that first enabled and inspired explorers to take to the sea. They are traits that allowed us to look at our inextricable ties to our environment and invent new ways to protect our natural wonders from harm in the last three decades. In the 21st century, these traits – hope, creativity, imagination – they must lead us to preserve our living oceans as a sacred legacy for all time to come.”

The Washed Ashore exhibit will be primarily displayed inside two of the Clinton Center’s
galleries. Visitors will see Eli the Eel, walk through the Reef at Risk, and be able to play the Styrofoam Drum Set. The exhibit will open to the public on April 27; a second phase featuring additional sculptures will open in June, when Priscilla the Parrot Fish, a 16-foot-long, 1,500-pound brightly-colored sculpture will greet visitors from the water fountains located outside the front doors.

“The sculptures are beautiful, truly works of art, but they are a poignant reminder that our oceans and waterways are precious resources that need our attention now more than ever,” said Stephanie S. Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation.

“From the student visitor to the grand parent, we hope that everyone who has the opportunity to enjoy Washed Ashore walks away with a renewed sense of awe and responsibility.”

Washed Ashore presents an opportunity to reflect on the Clinton administration’s efforts to safeguard essential bodies of water and promote environmental stewardship. “President Bill Clinton’s administration took strong action to protect our coasts and waterways,” said Terri Garner, director of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library. “He signed crucial legislation and issued key executive orders designed to improve water quality, protect wetlands and coasts, and reduce waste while increasing the use of recycled products.”

Women Making History – Jimmie Lou Fisher

Image result for jimmie lou fisherJimmie Lou Fisher served as a Constitutional officer in Arkansas longer than any other woman in the state’s history (twenty-four years).  Her twenty-two years as Treasurer is also the longest any person has served in that post. (And unless the term limits rules for Constitutional officers are changed, it is a record that is likely to stand.)

Born in Delight, she grew up in Paragould and graduated from high school in Vilonia. (Her father was a coach and school administrator who moved the family around as he took new jobs.)  She attended what is now Arkansas State University.

Interested in politics from an early age, in 1970, she was elected Greene County Treasurer. She held that position until 1979 when she was appointed by Governor Bill Clinton to be the Auditor of Arkansas. (He had appointed longtime Auditor Jimmie “Red” Jones to be Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard.)

Gov. Clinton had hardly picked her from obscurity.  She had been active in his successful race for governor in 1978. Previously she was vice chair of the Democratic State Committee and a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1976 to 1978 and a member of the Credentials Committee of the National Convention in 1976.

Since Fisher had been appointed, she could not run to succeed herself.  When longtime Treasurer Nancy Hall announced she would not seek re-election, Fisher jumped into that race. She easily won the race and was re-elected each time until term limits took effect in 2002.

After announcing her retirement from politics (where she had been respected by both Democrats and Republicans for her handling of state finances), Fisher was pressed into service to be the Democratic Party standard bearer in the race for governor against incumbent Mike Huckabee.

Though not the first woman to seek a major party’s nomination for governor, she was the first to be a major party nominee.  She ran a close election, but was defeated by Huckabee.

In 2013, she moved back to Greene County to be closer to some family members there.