Women Making History – Josephine Pankey

Josephine Pankey was a real estate developer at a time that few women or few African American men were engaged in that profession. The fact that she was an African American woman who was developing real estate made her efforts even more remarkable.

Born in Cleveland OH in 1869, she was educated at Oberlin College.  She moved to Arkansas to serve as a teacher for the African Methodist Episcopal church, first in DeValls Bluff and later in Pine Bluff.  While in the former, she married Eugene Harris.  After three years, the couple divorced.

In Pine Bluff, she met Samuel Pankey, a widowed postal worker with seven children. They married in 1904 and moved to Little Rock soon after because they felt it offered opportunities for their interest in real estate development.

Because of Little Rock’s restrictive Jim Crow era covenants which limited where African Americans could live or own property, Josephine Pankey decided to buy and develop land outside of the city limits.  In 1907, she purchased 80 acres approximately 13 miles west of Little Rock for $400.  Over the next several years, she purchased several more parcels of land which she platted and developed.  Working with Worthen Bank, she started arranging loans for her buyers.

In addition, she established schools and libraries for African Americans in Little Rock.    She was also active in the USO and YWCA.  In the 1950s, the Pulaski County Special School District built a school on land she donated in the community which bore her name.

Though her husband died in 1937, Josephine Pankey continued her real estate development until 1947, when she officially retired.   She died in 1954 and is buried at Oakland-Fraternal Historic Cemetery.

The community which bears her name still exists, though now it is within the Little Rock city limits.  A police substation and community center bears her name.  In 2017, she was honored with inclusion in the UA Little Rock Anderson Institute on Race & Ethnicity Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

LR Women Making History – Josephine Pankey

josephinepankeyJosephine Pankey was a real estate developer at a time that few women or few African American men were engaged in that profession. The fact that she was an African American woman who was developing real estate made her efforts even more remarkable.

Born in Cleveland OH in 1869, she was educated at Oberlin College.  She moved to Arkansas to serve as a teacher for the African Methodist Episcopal church, first in DeValls Bluff and later in Pine Bluff.  While in the former, she married Eugene Harris.  After three years, the couple divorced.

In Pine Bluff, she met Samuel Pankey, a widowed postal worker with seven children. They married in 1904 and moved to Little Rock soon after because they felt it offered opportunities for their interest in real estate development.

Because of Little Rock’s restrictive Jim Crow era covenants which limited where African Americans could live or own property, Josephine Pankey decided to buy and develop land outside of the city limits.  In 1907, she purchased 80 acres approximately 13 miles west of Little Rock for $400.  Over the next several years, she purchased several more parcels of land which she platted and developed.  Working with Worthen Bank, she started arranging loans for her buyers.

In addition, she established schools and libraries for African Americans in Little Rock.    She was also active in the USO and YWCA.  In the 1950s, the Pulaski County Special School District built a school on land she donated in the community which bore her name.

Though her husband died in 1937, Josephine Pankey continued her real estate development until 1947, when she officially retired.   She died in 1954 and is buried at Oakland-Fraternal Historic Cemetery.

The community which bears her name still exists, though now it is within the Little Rock city limits.  A police substation and community center bears her name.  In 2017, she was honored with inclusion in the UA Little Rock Anderson Institute on Race & Ethnicity’s Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

Little Rock Look Back: Charles Bussey

Future Little Rock Mayor Charles Bussey was born on December 18 in 1918. 

Throughout his life he was a trailblazer. He was the first African American Sheriff’s Deputy in Pulaski County and expanded the Junior Deputy program into the African American community.

In 1968 he became the first African American elected to the Little Rock City Board of Directors. He was not the first African American to run for the City Board, but he was the first to win a race. Mr. Bussey sought support not just from the African American community, but from all sectors of Little Rock.

Apparently, while campaigning in 1968, he deliberately went into the Arkansas headquarters of segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace to see about leaving campaign literature. A hulking man with a broad smile, he shocked the young receptionist. He was undoubtedly the first (and probably last) African American to enter that campaign headquarters.

He served from 1969-1977 and again from 1979 through 1991. In 1981 he was selected by his fellow City Directors to serve as Little Rock’s Mayor, which made him the first African American Mayor of Little Rock. He served as Vice Mayor of Little Rock for a total of 8.5 years which is the longest of anyone in the City’s history.

Throughout his lifetime Mayor Bussey championed youth outreach efforts. He also was active in the Arkansas Municipal League, National League of Cities, West Little Rock Rotary Club, Elks, Shriners and many other organizations.

In 2006 he was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. The previous year, 20th Street in Little Rock was renamed in his honor. In 2015 he was included in the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

2015 In Memoriam – Ozell Sutton

1515 Sutton

In these final days of 2015, we pause to look back at 15 who influenced Little Rock’s cultural scene who left us in 2015.

Ozell Sutton was a writer and eyewitness to history, while making some of his own too.

Born in Gould, he moved with his family to Little Rock and graduate from Dunbar High School and Philander Smith College. In 1950, he became the Arkansas Democrat‘s first African American reporter.

He was at Central High when the Little a Rock Nine integrated, marched with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington in 1963 and was with Dr King when he was assassinated in 1968.

He served as an aide to Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller from 1968 to 1970. From 1972 to 2003 he work for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service in Atlanta. In that capacity he was often on the forefront in efforts to diffuse racially tense situations.

In 1962, he received an honorary doctorate from Philander Smith in recognition of his political activism in the civil rights movement. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Department of Justice in 1994.  He also was awarded the Medallion of Freedom by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 2012, he was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition for his being one of the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. His book “From Yonder to Here:” A Memoir of Dr. Ozell Sutton was published in 2009.  In 2013, he was honored by inclusion on the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage This designation came for his work in 1963 to desegregate downtown Little Rock’s businesses.

Ozell Sutton was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2001.

Little Rock Look Back: LR Mayor Charles Bussey

Mayor Bussey BWFuture Little Rock Mayor Charles Bussey was born on December 18 in 1918.  Throughout his life he was a trailblazer.  He was the first African American Sheriff’s Deputy in Pulaski County and expanded the Junior Deputy program into the African American community.

In 1968 he became the first African American elected to the Little Rock City Board of Directors. He was not the first African American to run for the City Board, but he was the first to win a race.  Mr. Bussey sought support not just from the African American community, but from all sectors of Little Rock.  Apparently, while campaigning in 1968, he deliberately went into the Arkansas headquarters of segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace to see about leaving campaign literature.  A hulking man with a broad smile, he shocked the young receptionist. He was undoubtedly the first (and probably last) African American to enter that campaign headquarters.

He served from 1969-1977 and again from 1979 through 1991.  In 1981 he was selected by his fellow City Directors to serve as Little Rock’s Mayor, which made him the first African American Mayor of Little Rock.  He served as Vice Mayor of Little Rock for a total of 8.5 years which is the longest of anyone in the City’s history.

Throughout his lifetime Mayor Bussey championed youth outreach efforts.  He also was active in the Arkansas Municipal League, National League of Cities, West Little Rock Rotary Club, Elks, Shriners and many other organizations.

In 2006 he was posthumously inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  The previous year, 20th Street in Little Rock was renamed in his honor. In 2015 he was included in the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.

Fourteen new names added to 2015 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail

2015 ACRHTLast month, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute on Race and Ethnicity unveiled the 2015 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail markers. This year’s theme is “Politics and Law” to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The fourteen new markers are installed at Scott and Markham Streets near the Statehouse Convention Center.

Established in the summer of 2011, the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail honors those who made significant contributions to civil rights in Arkansas. The trail raises public awareness of the long and rich legacy of Arkansas’s civil rights history.

A 12-inch bronze marker is placed in the sidewalk for each honoree. The trail begins in front of the Old State House Convention Center on Markham Street and will eventually extend to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park and other points throughout the downtown corridor.

This year’s 14 honorees are:

  • Annie Mae Bankhead, who was a community activist in Pulaski County’s black College Station neighborhood
  • Wiley Branton, Sr., who was head of the Southern Regional Council’s Voter Education Project in the 1960s
  • Charles Bussey, who was leader of the Veterans Good Government Association and became Little Rock’s first black mayor in 1980
  • William Harold Flowers, who laid the foundations for the Arkansas State Conference of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People branches
  • Jeffrey Hawkins, who was for decades the unofficial mayor of Little Rock’s black East End neighborhood
  • Irma Hunter Brown, who was the first black woman elected to the Arkansas General Assembly
  • Scipio Africanus Jones, a leading black Republican who defended 12 prisoners for their role in the 1919 Elaine Race Riot
  • Mahlon Martin, who was the first black city manager of Little Rock
  • I.S. McClinton, who was head of the Arkansas Democratic Voters Association, a forerunner of today’s Black Democratic Caucus
  • Richard L. Mays and Henry Wilkins III, who were among the first blacks elected to the Arkansas General Assembly in the 20th century in 1972
  • Olly Neal, who was the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas and later served on the Arkansas Court of Appeals
  • Lottie Shackelford, who was the first black woman mayor of Little Rock
  • John Walker, who for more than five decades has been involved in civil rights activism in the courts, most notably in school desegregation cases

Dr. John Kirk is the director of the Institute.  At the November ceremony, he spoke along with UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson. At a reception following the ceremony, Senator Joyce Elliott gave a toast in honor of the 14 and several of the honorees or their descendants spoke.

Explore Little Rock’s civil rights history with new app

Little Rock-area residents and visitors have a new way to explore the city’s rich civil rights history.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Institute on Race and Ethnicity and Little Rock city officials  have unveiled the Arkansas Civil Rights History Tour app.

The free Apple and Android app guides users on an excursion through some of the city’s most influential historical sites, going back to the 1840s. Each of the 35 stops on the GPS-guided tour includes compelling narratives, historic photos, audio, and links to related content.

Tour stops range from the L.C. and Daisy Bates House to the Trail of Tears. The tour includes a total of three National Historic Landmarks, three National Register Historic Districts, and numerous buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

Narrated in both English and Spanish, the app also offers information about Jewish history in Little Rock, Hispanic migrations to Arkansas, and Native American tribes.

Organizers recommend app users begin their route at Broadway and West Ninth Street in downtown Little Rock, but the app can help people customize their own path.

A collaboration of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity, the City of Little Rock, the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, and KUAR, UALR’s public radio station, led to the creation of the Arkansas Humanities Council-funded app.

“The institute’s mission is to remember and understand the past, to inform and engage the present, and to shape and define the future in the area of race and ethnicity,” said Dr. John Kirk, director of the Institute on Race and Ethnicity.

“The tour app helps us to do all those things: It powerfully sheds light on the past, it allows people to engage with the past in the present moment, and it helps us to consider how those legacies and lessons can shape and define the future of the city and state.”

The app can be found in the Apple App Store and on Google Play by searching for “Arkansas history.”