February is Black History Month, and Arkansas has a prominent place on the stage of black heritage and culture, according to a news release from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Arkansas Tourism has compiled a list of sites and events that are significant pieces of black history in Arkansas.
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Cultural Heroes, a collection of seven larger-than-life clay sculptures will debut on Saturday, Feb. 23, as part of the Black History Month celebration at the Clinton Presidential Center at Little Rock. Each sculpture was crafted by Nashville-based artist Alan LeQuire. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
Monday, Feb. 25 — The Clinton Presidential Center will host “Making History: African-American Mayors in Arkansas,” a conversation with four African-American mayors in the state at noon Monday, Feb. 25. Moderated by former Little Rock Mayor Lottie Shackelford, the panel will feature Mayor George McGill of Fort Smith, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. of Little Rock, Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer of El Dorado, and Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff. The program is free and open to the public, but reservations are required at clintonfoundation.org.
The University of Arkansas at Pulaski TechCultural Diversity and Community Involvement Committee will host events at the Center for Humanities and Arts in North Little Rock.
Wednesday, Feb. 27 — At 12:15 p.m. Feb. 27, the musical project “Shaun Boothe: The Unauthorized Biography Series” will be screened to observe the world’s greatest cultural icons. Each chapter tells the legacy of influential figures in a documentary-style music video.
Saturday, Feb. 23 — The new play “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Right March,” will be performed Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m. The play tells the true story of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest person to march in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery. The play illustrates Lowery’s youth in the segregated South from being jailed nine times to being brutally beaten. Developed by Ally Sheedy, the stage adaption is based on Lowery’s award-winning memoir and includes gospel music and freedom songs. For tickets to the play or more information about these events, visit uaptc.edu.
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.
Thursday, Feb. 28 — The Arkansas Black Hall of Fame will host Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th District, for its annual Distinguished Laureate Series at Mosaic Templars on Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. This free event will be followed with a reception that is open to the public. A master class for students will be on Friday, March 1.
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 U.S. Civil Rights Trail — which includes more than 100 landmark sites across 14 states — features six sites in Little Rock. Find more details at civilrightstrail.com/state/arkansas/.
John H. Johnson — 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.
Freedom Park — 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.
Saturday, Feb. 23 — Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville will host a Gallery Conversation Feb. 23 from 1-2 p.m. in the Early American Art Gallery near George Inness’ An Old Roadway with the NWA Racial Justice Memorial Project about how they created a local initiative to honor lynching victims in Northwest Arkansas. Members of the project will lead a discussion on how they worked with Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative to enlighten the community about the project and the process of getting those moments memorialized.
Thursday, Feb. 28 — Join Crystal Bridge’s Curatorial Assistant Jayson Overby on Feb. 28 for Gallery Conversation - What’s New: Njideka Akunyili Crosby at 1 p.m. in the Contemporary Art Gallery. Crosby will inform attendees about the Nigerian-born visual artist’s work Mama, Mumm, and Mamma (Predecessors #2). Akunyili’s art mediates the cultural terrain between her land in Nigeria and her adopted home in America. She creates collages and photo transfer-based paintings that express the challenge of experiencing two worlds. Both events are free and open to the public.
Compassion Fayetteville is celebrating Black History Month with a series of events every weekend in February. Admission is free but attendees are asked to donate children’s books by African American authors. Find details on their Facebook page.
At the Garland County Library in Hot Springs, the Gateway Community Association is exhibiting information and pictures highlighting the lives of: former City Alderman Kenneth Adair who published the weekly newspaper The Arkansas Citizen; Mamie Phipps Clark and her husband Kenneth who became the first African-Americans to obtain their doctoral degrees in psychology from Columbia University; and the Entre Nous Club, a local social organization.
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.
Details: www.Arkansas.com .