February is Black History Month and the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism has compiled a list of sites and events that are significant pieces of black history in Arkansas, according to a news release. The list includes the following:
The John H. Johnson Cultural and Educational Museum in Arkansas City tells the story of Arkansas native John H. Johnson, who created EBONY and JET magazines, Fashion Fair cosmetics, and was the first African-American on the Forbes list of 400 wealthiest Americans. The museum, built with wood from Johnson’s boyhood home, features photographs, videos, and items from his life. The museum is a joint effort by Arkansas City and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
In Helena, Freedom Park tells the story of escaped freedom seekers who followed Union troops into the city in July 1862 or came to Helena as word of emancipation spread through the Delta. The exhibits follow the journey of the African-Americans from slavery to freedom and for some, enlistment in the Union Army and participation in the Battle of Helena on July 4, 1863. Freedom Park was the first Arkansas site designated as part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program, according to the news release.
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at 501 W. 9th Street in Little Rock is dedicated to preserving and celebrating African-American culture and community in Arkansas through exhibits and educational resources.
Little Rock is also home to the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. In 1957, nine black students known as the “Little Rock Nine” were integrated into the all-white school in a major test of the Civil Rights Act. The visitor center at 2120 W. Daisy Gatson Bates Drive depicts this moment in history through exhibits and photos. A statue at the Arkansas State Capitol pays homage to the Little Rock Nine, with a quote from each on individual bronze plaques.
The Daisy Bates House at 1207 W. 28th Street in Little Rock is a National Historic Landmark and was the home of Arkansas NAACP president Daisy Bates. It became a meeting place for the Little Rock Nine during the desegregation crisis.
The new U.S. Civil Rights Trail—which includes more than 100 landmark sites across 14 states—features six sites in Little Rock, including the ones mentioned above. Find more details at www.CivilRightsTrail.com/state/arkansas.
In Hot Springs, plans are underway to restore the former John Lee Webb house. Webb was a local African-American contractor and philanthropist who helped build The Pleasant Street Historic District, the largest African-American historic district in Arkansas.
The Scott Joplin mural at Third and Main streets in Texarkana celebrates the African-American composer, known as the “Father of Ragtime Music.” Joplin attended the Orr School in town at 831 Laurel Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the town of Stamps, City Park and Lake June were renamed Maya Angelou City Park in honor of the late poet, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and other works. Stamps is the childhood home of Angelou and was depicted in her autobiography.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville is hosting Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power through April 23, 2018. This exhibit includes 164 powerful paintings, murals, photographs, and sculptures highlighting the vital contribution of black artists, including some Arkansas natives, between 1963 and 1983. Soul of a Nation examines the influences — including the civil rights movement, minimalism, and abstraction — that inspired artists such as Romare Bearden, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, and William T. Williams. Admission to Soul of a Nation is $10 for non-members, and free for museum members or youth ages 18 and under.
Visit www.Arkansas.com to find more ways to celebrate Black History Month.