Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: Duke Ellington refuses to play in segregated Robinson

Newspaper ad for the concert that was not to be

In August 1961, it was announced that Duke Ellington would perform in concert at Robinson Center.  He had previously played there in the 1940s and early 1950s.  His concert was set to be at 8:30 pm on Tuesday, September 5.

Due to the changes of times, the NAACP had a relatively new rule that they would boycott performers who played at segregated venues.  When it became apparent that Robinson would remain segregated (African Americans restricted to the balcony), the NAACP announced they would boycott any future Ellington performances if he went ahead and played Robinson.

The music promoters in Little Rock (who were white) petitioned the Robinson Auditorium Commission asking them to desegregate Robinson – even if for only that concert.  The Commission refused to do so.  Though the auditorium was finding it harder to book acts into a segregated house, they felt that if it were integrated, fewer tickets would be sold.

On September 1, 1961, Ellington cancelled the concert.

Robinson remained segregated until a 1963 judge’s decision which integrated all public City of Little Rock facilities (except for swimming pools).

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Black History Month Spotlight – Politics and Law

Mahlon Martin Jr., City Manager Bruce T. Moore, Honorable Lottie Shackelford, Charles Bussey Jr.

Mahlon Martin Jr., City Manager Bruce T. Moore, Honorable Lottie Shackelford, Charles Bussey Jr.

The 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 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was launched in 2011 by the UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity.  Each year, a theme is chosen to honor a particular group of people who were active in Arkansas’s civil rights movement.  Year by year, the trail grows.  The plan is that over time the trail will stretch from the current starting point at the Old State House, down West Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and then back up the other side of the street to opposite the Old State House.

Politics and Law have been two central pillars in civil rights struggles.

The honorees contributed to those struggles in Arkansas in a number of ways. Annie Mae Bankhead was a community activist in Little Rock’s black College Station neighborhood; Charles Bussey was Little Rock’s first black mayor; Jeffery Hawkins was unofficial mayor of Little Rock’s black East End neighborhood; I. S. McClinton was head of the Arkansas Democratic Voters Association; Irma Hunter Brown was the first black woman elected to the Arkansas General Assembly; Mahlon Martin was Little Rock’s first black city manager; Richard L. Mays and Henry Wilkins III were among the first blacks elected to the Arkansas General Assembly in the twentieth century.

Lottie Shackelford was Little Rock’s first black woman mayor; Wiley Branton was head of the Southern Regional Council’s Voter Education Project in the 1960s; William Harold Flowers laid the foundations for the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP branches; Scipio Africanus Jones defended twelve black prisoners after the 1919 Elaine Race Riot; Olly Neal was the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas; and John Walker for over five decades has been involved in civil rights activism in the courts.

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.


Black History Month Spotlight – Healthcare Pioneers

UALR Trail HealthcareThe 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 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was launched in 2011 by the UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity.  Each year, a theme is chosen to honor a particular group of people who were active in Arkansas’s civil rights movement.  Year by year, the trail grows.  The plan is that over time the trail will stretch from the current starting point at the Old State House, down West Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and then back up the other side of the street to opposite the Old State House.

Healthcare

Healthcare has long been a civil rights issue. In the age of segregation, many blacks were denied healthcare by white physicians and hospitals under Jim Crow laws. African American physicians-such as Cleon A. Flowers, Sr., and John Marshall Robinson-played important roles in serving the black community. Nurse Lena Lowe Jordan founded the Lena Jordan Hospital in Little Rock in the 1930s. Edith Mae Irby desegregated the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock in 1948. Dr. Irby paved the way for other black students and professors at the school. Thomas A. Bruce promoted access to quality healthcare to the underserved. Henry W. Foster became dean of Meharry Medical College in Tennessee. Billy Ray Thomas and Phillip Leon Rayford worked to increase underrepresented groups in the medical profession. Samuel Lee Kountz pioneered organ transplants. Joycelyn Elders, a UAMS graduate and director of the Arkansas Department of Health, served as the surgeon general of the United States during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

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.


Black History Month Spotlight – Downtown Desegregation

Ozell Sutton, one of the honorees

Ozell Sutton, one of the honorees

The 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 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was launched in 2011 by the UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity.  Each year, a theme is chosen to honor a particular group of people who were active in Arkansas’s civil rights movement.  Year by year, the trail grows.  The plan is that over time the trail will stretch from the current starting point at the Old State House, down West Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and then back up the other side of the street to opposite the Old State House.

Downtown Desegregation

In January 1963, Little Rock set in motion a process that ended segregation in its downtown businesses.  Following student sit-ins coordinated by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Philander Smith College students, in November 1962 white businessmen and merchants formed a secret Downtown Negotiating Committee to set out a timetable for change in consultation with black community representatives.  On January 1, 1963, lunch counters in downtown Little Rock began to serve black customers on an equal basis.  Downtown hotels desegregated their facilities.  Drinking fountains and restrooms had their “White” and “Colored” signs removed.  In June, movie theaters desegregated.  In October, city restaurants desegregated.  That same year, Robinson Auditorium, the Arkansas Arts Center, and city parks desegregated.  In April 1963, in Jet magazine, James Forman, executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, hailed the city as “just about the most integrated…in the South.”

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.


Black History Month Spotlight – Freedom Riders and Sit-In Demonstrators

UALR Trail Sit inThe 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 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was launched in 2011 by the UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity.  Each year, a theme is chosen to honor a particular group of people who were active in Arkansas’s civil rights movement.  Year by year, the trail grows.  The plan is that over time the trail will stretch from the current starting point at the Old State House, down West Markham Street and President Clinton Avenue to the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, and then back up the other side of the street to opposite the Old State House.

Freedom Riders and Sit-In Demonstrators

In 1961, the Freedom Rides spread across the South to place pressure on local communities and the federal government to implement court-ordered desegregation of bus terminal facilities.  Little Rock’s first Freedom Riders, a contingent of five members of the St. Louis branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, arrived on the evening of July 10 at the Mid-West Trailways bus station at Markham and Louisiana.  A plaque there marks the site and tells the story of the Little Rock Freedom Rides.  The pressure exerted by the Freedom Rides, together with an Interstate Commerce Commission order to desegregate, led to the integration of all Little Rock’s bus terminals on November 1, 1961.  Five markers also commemorate Philander Smith College students involved in sit-in demonstrations between 1960 and 1962, as well as members of the Arkansas Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.  SNCC was active in Arkansas from 1962 to 1967.

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.


Black History Month Spotlight – Pike-Fletcher-Terry Mansion

IMG_5151The 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 1958, in this stately antebellum home, seventy-six-year-old Adolphine Fletcher Terry helped to organize the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC). Always involved in civic activities, she was dismayed that the four high schools in Little Rock remained closed rather than become integrated. Mrs. Terry told Arkansas Gazette editor Harry Ashmore that “It’s clear to me that the men are not going to take the lead in turning this thing around and so the women are going to have to.” She organized the Women’s Emergency Committee (WEC).

When segregationist school board members tried to fire forty-four teachers and administrators who supported integration in the public schools, the WEC worked with a group of businessmen who had organized a Stop This Outrageous Purge (STOP) campaign to elect new school board members who favored integration. High schools were reopened with token integration in August 1959. The WEC operated in secret because of concerns about harassment or worse. In 1998, on the fortieth anniversary of its founding, the names of WEC members were released for the first time. Those names are now etched in the window panes of the house.

Originally built in approximately 1840 by Albert Pike, it was purchased by Lou Krause from the Pike family in 1886. In 1889, she sold it to her brother-in-law, former Little Rock Mayor John Gould Fletcher. He was the father of Adolphine Fletcher Terry, who grew up in the house.  Since the 1970s, it has been property of the City of Little Rock for use by the Arkansas Arts Center.  This was stipulated in the wills of Mrs. Terry and her sister Mary Fletcher Drennan.

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.

 


Black History Month Spotlight – TESTAMENT sculpture on State Capitol grounds

Testament 006The 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 1957, nine African-American students enrolled at Little Rock’s Central High School, beginning the process of desegregating Little Rock’s public schools and marking a seminal event in America’s civil rights movement. This sculptural grouping was dedicated in August 2005 to honor the courage of those students, known collectively as the Little Rock Nine. Quotations from each of the Nine are featured around the bronze figures, which are the work of artists John and Cathy Deering.

The site for the statues was selected to face the end of the building which contains the Arkansas Governor’s Office.  It was from those windows that then-Governor Orval Faubus would have looked as he was making decisions to deny the Little Rock Nine entry into Little Rock Central. It is out those windows now that any governor since 2005 looks to see the statues.

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.