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.

Black History Month Spotlight – Little Rock Cemeteries

Mount Holly greyThe 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.

Mount Holly Cemetery: Broadway at Twelfth Street, est. 1843

Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park: 2101 S. Barber, est. 1863

Haven of Rest Cemetery: 1702 Twelfth Street, est. 1903

National African Americans and important civil rights leaders are interred in several local cemeteries.

Mount Holly Cemetery is the final resting place of enslaved people, who were buried in their owner’s family plots, and the graves of several free blacks in the mid-1800s. One notable black leader buried here is Nathan Warren, founding pastor of Bethel AME Church. A marker is dedicated to Quatie Ross, wife of Cherokee Chief John Ross, who died along the Trail of Tears in 1839.

Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery Park is composed of several cemeteries serving different communities: Oakland, Confederate, National, Jewish, and Fraternal, an historically black cemetery. Civil rights advocates buried in Fraternal include Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, John E. Bush, Charlotte Andrews Stephens, Dr. John Marshall Robinson, Isaac Gillam, Sr. and Jr., Asa l. Richmond, as well as members of the influential Pankey and Ish families.

Haven of Rest Cemetery is the largest cemetery for black people in Little Rock. Among the graves here are those of Daisy Gatson Bates, civil rights activist and mentor to the Little Rock Nine; attorney Scipio Africanus Jones; and Rev. Joseph Booker, president of Arkansas Baptist College.

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

Author Author at Pyramid

Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing host two different author events today.

From 1:30pm to 3:30pm, Pyramid’s Arkansas Author Connection will feature Nancy Robinson Lott and Regina L. Norwood, the authors of Josephine: Celebrating the Life and Legacy.  The biography focuses on Josephine Irvin Harris Pankey, an educated African-American woman who came to Arkansas in the late 1800s to establish schools for children of former slaves.  A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go toward the completion of the Josephine Pankey Education Center at 13700 Cantrell Road

From 2pm to 4pm, Pyramid will host award winning author Evelyn Palfrey.  The 2012 Romance Slam Jam Emma Awards Author of the Year, she returns to Little Rock for another in the series of events Pyramid is hosting to celebrate its 24th anniversary.  Palfrey is the author of several books including The Price of Passion, Going Home, Three Perfect Men, Everything in Its Place and Dangerous Dilemmas.

Pyramid, founded in 1988 by Garbo Hearne, is located at 1001 Wright Avenue, Suite C.