Land of (Unequal) Opportunity
1539 (May 31) – Hernando De Soto lands in Florida. He finds bondage practices are being used by local groups against their traditional enemies.
1700s – While persons of African origin cannot become citizens, persons from local tribes who marry Europeans can attain that status for themselves and their métis children.
1721-22 – Colonialists from John Law’s Mississippi Company bring African people held in bondage into Arkansas.
1817 (July 8) – A partial cession of eastern lands by the Cherokee Nation is compensated for by new land in Arkansas west of the White River and north of the Arkansas River. Shawnees settle on Cherokee lands in the White River valley.
1819 (February-March) – Debate is held in Congress over New York Representative John W. Taylor’s proposal that the slave trade to Arkansas be stopped and that emancipation of slaves in Arkansas should begin.
1819 (March 2) – Congress approves creating the Territory of Arkansas without restrictions on slavery.
1820 – James Sevier Conway surveys the Choctaw border from Fort Smith south so as to deprive that tribe of 136,204.02 acres of their land.
1825 (February 7) – Little Rock passes city ordinance prohibiting blacks from dancing without written permission. Persons held in bondage are to be given ten lashes for violating this ordinance; free blacks are to be fined. Another ordinance prohibits white men from gambling with blacks.
1825 (November 29) – Legislature passes act concerning control over persons held in slavery.
1828 (May 6) – Cherokees exchange their Arkansas land for more western lands. Shawnees in the White River valley are dispossessed and robbed.
1833 – Quapaws lose the last of their Arkansas lands and are forced out of the state.
1835 (July 1) – Caddos lose their Arkansas and Louisiana lands.
1835 (November 2) – Arkansas Territorial Legislature adopts the nation’s first married woman’s property law.
1836 (January 12) – Little Rock forbids blacks from possessing guns, holding meetings after dark, preaching sedition, etc.
1836 (June 15) – Andrew Jackson signs bill authorizing statehood for Arkansas.
1839 (December) – Governor Archibald Yell vetoes the legislature’s new Married Woman’s Property bill in order to save the happy family and avoid engendering distrust.
1840 (July 4) – Slave Marie Jeanne (1788-1857) purchases her freedom. Besides a wide-ranging catering business, she comes to own a tavern at Arkansas Post.
1845 (December 15) – The state Methodist Conference, after the denomination’s split, votes that slavery is not sinful.
1846 (December 8) – Governor Thomas S. Drew signs into law the Arkansas Married Woman’s Property Act. His wife records her separate property. However, in the case of Lovett v. Longmire (1854), Justice David Walker, a longtime opponent of women’s rights, rules that the Arkansas law is without meaning.
1853 (November 4) – Editor of the Arkansas State Gazette and Democrat explains that God created Africans to be slaves and that slavery is divinely sanctioned and legally right.
1857 (January 10) – Prominent Whig leader and lawyer Albert Pike is quoted as saying blacks had souls to be saved and minds to be cultivated.
1859 (February 19) – New state law expels all free blacks from the state.
1861 (May 6) – Secession Convention passes ordinance of secession. Arkansas joins Civil War on side of Confederacy.
1862 (Spring) – Union General Samuel Curtis breaks up plantations on his way to Helena. “Contraband” camps (slaves fleeing owners) are established at Helena and Memphis for the refugees.
1862 (September 22) – President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in all areas not controlled by Union armies, effective January 1, 1863.
1863 – Organization of black military units begins; more than 5,000 black Arkansans serve during the war.
1864 – Union military chaplains begin solemnizing marriages among African Americans.
1864 (April 18) – Black Union soldiers are massacred during and after the Battle of Poison Spring near Camden.
1864 (April 18) – Voters approve a new constitution that abolishes slavery but does not give African Americans the right to vote. Isaac Murphy is elected governor.
1865 (March 3) – Congress creates Freedmen’s Bureau to assist African Americans in education and finding work.
1867 (February 12) – Divorce suit between Susan and Gratt Wyatt is believed to be the first filed by African Americans.
1868 (January 7) – Convention meets in Little Rock to draft new state constitution. Delegate Miles Langley calls for women’s suffrage.
1868 (February 18) – Magistrate Judge John Marzall performs a marriage between Thomas Dodson, black male, and Rebecca Anthony, white female.
1868 (May 26) – White man and black woman who were living together are murdered in Randolph County.
1868 (June 22) – Arkansas is readmitted to the Union under the Reconstruction Constitution of 1868 that allows black voting.
1868 (July 14 and 21) – Arkansas legislature passes public accommodation act, providing that all races can use public facilities, such as governmental buildings.
1868 (Fall) – Ku Klux Klan organizes to oppose the new Republican Reconstruction state government.
1868 (September 29) – Former Confederate General Thomas C. Hindman is assassinated at Helena, reportedly in retaliation for Ku Klux Klan violence against freedmen.
1869 (July 7) – Tabbs Gross, sometime minister, lawyer, and manager for pianist Blind Tom, founds the Arkansas Freeman, the first black newspaper in Arkansas.
1873 (April 6) – Legislature enacts new civil rights law; also passes a bill to end discrimination in pay to women and African Americans.
1873 (November) – M.W. Gibbs of Little Rock is elected the first black municipal judge in America.
1874 (April 15) – Brooks-Baxter War breaks out, with blacks fighting on both sides.
1874 (October 13) – Voters approve the Constitution of 1874, thus ending Reconstruction.
1875 – Federal Judge Isaac Parker arrives in Arkansas. Western Arkansas becomes known as the “the Parker slaughter-house” in consequence of Parker’s 79 hangings.
1878 (May 1) – A reported 1,600 Phillips County blacks plan to move to Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement.
1879 – State Exoduster convention promotes leaving Arkansas for Kansas.
1880s – Liberia is promoted as better place for blacks to live than Arkansas. Arkansas becomes a hotbed of the Back to Africa Movement.
1880 (June 12) – First class graduates from Union High School, a black high school in Little Rock.
1881 (February 12) – The bill establishing Arkansas Industrial University Branch Normal College (later Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College and now University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff) passes.
1883 – Arkansas Mansion editor Henry Simkins is admitted to the previously all-white Arkansas Press Association; attends group’s 1883 excursion to Texas.
1883 (July-August) – Howard County Race Riot occurs.
1884 – Editor Simkins is expelled from the Arkansas Press Association.
1885 – New Sabbath legislation is passed. Enforcement directed at Seventh-Day Adventists, numbers of whom are convicted, fined, and jailed.
1890 – Congress narrowly defeats Senator Henry Cabot Lodge’s “Force Bill,” which would have permitted federal supervision of state elections. The existence of such a law in 1888 and 1890 would probably have invalidated Arkansas’s elections in those years.
1891 – Adoption of the Australian ballot removes symbols and effectively limits voting to those who can read.
1891 – Brutal suppression following the defeat of the Arkansas Cotton Pickers’ Strike leads to the collapse of the Colored Farmers’ Alliance.
1891 (February 23) – Legislature passes the Separate Coach Bill, the first piece of “Jim Crow” segregation legislation.
1892 – Constitutional Amendment Two requires possession of a poll tax receipt before voting. In Rice v. Palmer (1906), the amendment is found not to have been legally adopted. In 1908, however, voters approve the measure that then becomes Amendment Nine.
1897 – Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs is organized.
1901 (February 20) – Black residents of Polk County flee after the lynching of a mentally impaired black man.
1903 (May 23) – Arkansas Socialist party organizes. Platforms call for collective ownership of industry, national insurance and old-age pensions, full employment, equal rights for women, free public libraries, and initiative, referendum, and recall of elected officials.
1903 (May 29) – African American woman arrested in Pine Bluff for prophesying a flood would hit the town.
1911 – Political Equality League is organized to fight for women’s suffrage.
1915 (February 6) – Florence Brown Cotnam, suffragette, becomes the first woman to address the Arkansas General Assembly.
1917 – Women are permitted to vote in primaries.
1918 (July 8) – National Guard is sent to fight Cleburne County Draft “War” when WWI draft officials encounter armed opposition.
1919 – Most legal disabilities on women are removed by law.
1919 (July 28) – Arkansas ratifies women’s suffrage amendment.
1919 (October) – Outbreak of the Elaine Race Massacres (Phillips County Race War) occurs.
1920 – Arkansas women are granted the right to vote by Amendment Eight, if they have paid the poll tax ($1.00).
1920 – Attorney General rules that Ida Jo Brooks cannot run for office.
1921 (January 26) – Henry Lowry is lynched at Nodena in an especially gruesome, nationally-reported burning.
1921 (December) – Ku Klux Klan is reported to exist in Prescott.
1923 – In Moore v. Dempsey (1923), the United States Supreme Court overturns the convictions of blacks from the Elaine Race Massacres trials and holds that the verdicts were tainted due to the mob atmosphere surrounding the courthouse.
1925 (April 19) – Commonwealth College is established at Mena; later is forced to close as a “subversive” institution.
1927 (May 4) – The lynching of John Carter in Little Rock begins a wave of racial violence.
1928 – The Republican Party’s national candidate, Herbert Hoover, courts Southern white support as party drops its previous civil rights orientation. In the North, urban blacks are courted by Democrats.
1928 – Dr. John Marshal Robinson founds the Arkansas Negro Democratic Association (ANDA) and begins attack on the white primary.
1930 – In Robinson v. Holman (1930), Arkansas State Supreme Court holds that primaries are private, not public, and, hence, African Americans can be excluded. The United States Supreme Court affirms this view in Grovey v. Townsend (1935).
1930 – State law requires daily Bible reading in the public schools.
1931 – Hattie W. Caraway is elected to fill her husband’s vacant seat in the United States Senate, then wins a full term in her own right, making her the first woman elected to the United States Senate.
1933 (August 14) – The ultimately lethal Jonesboro Church War divides the city’s Baptists.
1934 (November) – Marked Tree Methodist minister Ward Rodgers is charged with anarchy and blasphemy for his support of sharecroppers.
1935 – Report by Mary Connor Myers on living conditions in the Delta is suppressed by Department of Agriculture.
1935 (March) – Socialist Norman Thomas is denied the right to speak at Birdsong in Mississippi County.
1940 – Pine Bluff attorney William Flowers organizes the Committee on Negro Organizations (CNO).
1941 – Near-riot breaks out near Gurdon after a state highway patrolman orders the 94th Engineers Battalion, a black unit, not to follow orders and sing as they march.
1941 – L.C. Bates founds the Arkansas State Press, a black weekly newspaper.
1941 (Fall) – Jehovah’s Witness child Joanne Adair is expelled from Rock Springs School in Washington County.
1942 – Susie Morris, black English teacher at Dunbar High School in Little Rock, files suit against discriminatory wage scales. Wins suit, but loses her job.
1942 – Jehovah’s Witnesses meeting in Little Rock are attacked by a mob. Witnesses are then jailed for disturbing the peace.
1942 – In Johnson v. State (1942), Jehovah’s Witness who called the flag a “rag” is convicted of insulting the flag.
1942 – Sergeant Thomas B. Foster is shot to death by a Little Rock policeman. White officer claims self-defense despite putting five bullets into Foster’s body. White jury fails to convict the officer.
1943 – The Tribune at Jerome and The Outpost at Rohwer report on the activities of incarcerated Japanese-Americans.
1944 – United States Supreme Court in Smith v. Allwright (1944) reverses Grovey v. Townsend (1935) and finds that primaries are state action and that blacks cannot be excluded.
1946 – L.C. Bates is jailed and fined for criticizing sentences handed down on black strikers. The Arkansas Supreme Court overturns the ruling.
1946 – Charles Bussey of Little Rock founds Veterans Good Government Association (VGGA) in order to mobilize black veterans in the GI Revolt.
1948 – NAACP files suit to get equal facilities in the public schools in Fort Smith. Subsequent suits are filed in DeWitt, Hughes, Fordyce, and Gould.
1948 – Little Rock Public Library is desegregated.
1948 – Edith Mae Irby enters the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock.
1948 (February 2) – Silas Hunt is admitted to the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
1950 – Rev. J.H. Gatlin of Little Rock wins the right to file for office as a Democrat.
1950 – Ozell Sutton becomes first black reporter for a white-owned daily newspaper in Arkansas, the Arkansas Democrat.
1952 – Daisy Bates is elected head of the state NAACP.
1954 (May 17) – United States Supreme Court hands down ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.
1954 (August 23) – Charleston (Franklin County) becomes the first school district to integrate in Arkansas.
1954 (September 10) – Seven black students integrate Fayetteville High School.
1955 (July 11) – Hoxie (Lawrence County) becomes the first Delta school district to integrate. School attorney Bill Penix secures a federal court injunction to protect the process, thus providing the precedent for federal court intervention in future integration struggles.
1956 (May) – Peggy Taylor and Preston Lackey graduate from Fayetteville High School, becoming the first blacks to graduate from a white high school in the former Confederacy.
1956 (November 6) – Voters reject proposed Amendment Forty-five to repeal the state poll tax as a requirement for voting. Three constitutional amendments opposing integration pass.
1957 (September 2) – Governor Orval Faubus orders National Guard to Central High School. The next day the Guard prevents the black students from entering the school.
1957 (September 9) – Six black students attempt to enter North Little Rock High School, but are turned away.
1957 (September 23) – Nine black students enter Central High School in Little Rock in the face of a white mob. Federal troops arrive the next night, escorting the students to class on the 25th.
1958 – Act 10 requires teachers to list every organization to which they belong.
1958 (May 27) – Ernest Green becomes the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High School (“the million dollar diploma”).
1958 (August 29) – Arkansas General Assembly passes school closing laws, allowing schools to close rather than integrate.
1958 (September 12) – Governor Faubus invokes the school closing law to close Little Rock schools.
1958 (September 19) – Little Rock voters by a two-to-one margin affirm shutting down the schools.
1958 (September 29) – United States Supreme Court in Cooper v. Aaron rejects “evasive schemes for segregation” in an opinion signed personally by all nine justices.
1959 (February 25) – Governor Faubus signs Act 115 of 1959 that denies employment to anyone belonging to the NAACP.
1959 (May) – CROSS (Committee to Retain Our Segregated Schools) battles STOP (Stop This Outrageous Purge) for control of the school board.
1959 (May 26) – Voters elect desegregation supporters to the Little Rock School Board.
1960 (February 24) – The NAACP membership law is held to be unconstitutional.
1960 (March 10) – Philander Smith College students are arrested at sit-in at Woolworth’s and are subsequently given large fines. Other sit-ins occur. Boycott of Pfeiffer’s and other stores follow. Boycotts and demonstrations occur at Pine Bluff and Hot Springs.
1960 (September 6) – Arkansas chapter of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is organized at Philander Smith College.
1960 (November) – Proposed Amendment 52, which would have closed any school that integrated, fails at the polls.
1961 (June 2) – Black golfer at Rebsamen Park complies with request to leave.
1961 (July 11) – Four Freedom Riders are jailed in Little Rock.
1961 (July 18) – Police stop blacks from playing tennis at War Memorial Park.
1961 (September 1) – Duke Ellington concert is cancelled due to segregated seating policy at Little Rock’s Robinson Auditorium.
1962 (May 2) – Capital Citizens’ Council offers blacks one-way rides to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Rider David E. Harris meets with Ted Kennedy. Women with large families are CCC targets.
1962 (October) – William Hansen arrives in Arkansas to direct SNCC’s Arkansas project.
1962 (November 8) – Sit-ins resume at Woolworth’s and Walgreen’s stores in downtown Little Rock.
1964 – Arkansas Voter Project, headed by Wiley Branton, concludes that only 42 percent of black voters are registered.
1964 – A basset hound named Harvey is found to have paid the poll tax and is registered to vote in three counties.
1964 – Arkansas voters approve Amendment Fifty-four (Amendment Fifty-one in the current listing), which ends the state poll tax and provides for permanent voter registration. “The beginning of a progressive era in Arkansas,” says reformer H.D. Luck of Arkadelphia.
1964 (January) – First Arkansas women’s commission is appointed by Governor Orval Faubus. Becomes Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in 1971.
1964 (January 23) – The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishes the poll tax as a requirement for voting in federal elections.
1964 (June) – Congress approves the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which mandates “full and equal enjoyment” of all facilities open to the public, bans discrimination in employment, and establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other regulating bodies.
1965 – Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 passes. Arkansas is excluded from direct federal intervention because it has no overt literacy or “spurious educational norms.”
1965 (July 8) – Despite being in violation of the Civil Rights Act, 18 school districts have no plans to merge or integrate. Elsewhere, token compliance begins.
1966 (May 29) – Tuberculosis sanatoriums at Booneville (for whites) and McRae (for blacks) are merged.
1967 (January 17) – First black pages are selected for the Arkansas General Assembly.
1967 (August 9) – Statistics indicate that 83.4 percent of black students still attend segregated schools.
1968 (April 4) – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis.
1968 (April 8) – Governor Winthrop Rockefeller leads a memorial service for Dr. King on the Arkansas state capitol steps, a move that is widely credited with avoiding trouble in Arkansas.
1969 – United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare begins filing desegregation lawsuits in Arkansas.
1969 (February) – Joe Neal and his wife, “state travelers” for the anti-Vietnam War Southern Student Organizing Committee, refuse an order to leave the campus of Henderson State University and the city of Arkadelphia and are fined $500 each and sentenced to six months in prison. Their convictions are overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court in Neal v. Still, the first case argued by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
1969 (April 14) – Arkansas has 50 African American elected officials, most holding minor offices. None yet serve in the legislature.
1970 (February 2-May 8) – Black boycott takes place against West Helena merchants.
1970 (June 23) – Mule Train march on fear, racism, and poverty begins.
1970 (October 19) – Notice is taken of former Stamps resident Maya Angelou, who describes segregation in her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
1971-76 – University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (UAF) and the Association of Women Students sponsor an annual women’s symposium.
1971 (June 19) – Boycott of Marianna merchants begins.
1971 (December 12) – A study finds many “sexist quirks” in state laws.
1971 (December 15) – Arkansas Women’s Rights Center opens in Little Rock to advise on pregnancies and abortions.
1972 – Sassafras, a counter-culture community of men and women, is established in Newton County. In 1979, part of the land is deeded to women of color and becomes Rainbow Land. In 1987, guided by founder Christina Moroles, a Mexican-American/Coahuileteco woman, Arco Iris, Inc., is created as a non-profit Spiritual Survivor Camp, a rural intentional community based in environmental awareness, native spirituality, and matriarchal principles. Arco Iris continues as an active community today.
1972 (January 14) – Marianna boycott results in 22 arrests.
1972 (May 14) – Arkansas Women’s Political Caucus endorses the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).
1972 (July 27) – Marianna boycott ends. Estimated economic loss is put at $5 million.
1972 (November 7) – Dr. Jerry D. Jewell is elected to the state senate, becoming the first black legislator since 1893.
1972 (November 27) – Fayetteville Women’s Center opens.
1973 (February 2) – The Equal Rights Amendment fails in the Arkansas legislature.
1973 (February 4) – A reported 99 blacks hold political office in Arkansas, mostly minor ones.
1973 (March 10) – State legislature eliminates race references from all state laws.
1973 (May 6) – The creation of an Equal Rights Commission bill fails in the legislature.
1974 – Governor Dale Bumpers establishes a state commission to assess the status of women in Arkansas.
1974-1980 – Yellowhammer, the first women’s land community in northwest Arkansas, is established in Madison County.
1974 (March 16) – National Black Political Convention meets in Little Rock with Rev. Jesse Jackson and comedian Dick Gregory among the speakers.
1974 (July 13) – Arkansas Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights calls for probe of biases in health, voting, and justice in the Delta.
1975 (February) – Arkansas legislature refuses to consider the Equal Rights Amendment.
1975 (February) – Governor David Pryor declares a statewide Women’s Week “devoted to the accomplishments and concerns of today’s women.”
1975 (August) – Volunteers establish the Fayetteville Feminist Group – Rape Crisis Project. The rape crisis hotline is established March 16, 1976, and still exists. Northwest Arkansas Rape Crisis Center (now the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Agency) is officially incorporated in January 1982.
1976 – Razordykes, a lesbian collective (aka Fayetteville Lesbian Alliance) is established with the UAF Women’s Center. First formed as a “rap group,” the members soon provide a speakers’ bureau for UA classes. By 1978, the Razordykes come under attack from a variety of opponents. UAF administrators pull funding from the group in fall 1980 and the group disbands.
1976 (January 1) – Sodomy (or buggery) ceases to be illegal in Arkansas due to legislative code reformation.
1976 (February 12) – James (Sammy) Black and Willie Henderson engage in an act of fellatio while being held in the drunk tank of the Little Rock city jail. Attempts to prosecute them fail.
1977 (March 18) – Commission on Human Resources is charged with investigating discrimination in housing, employment, education, health, and welfare. The Commission is not granted funding, however.
1977 (September 18) – A second boycott arises at West Helena.
1978 (March 28) – Governor David Pryor signs new law criminalizing sodomy.
1979 (October 7) – The Arkansas Women’s Political Caucus gives out “Barefoot and Pregnant Awards.”
1981 (March 20) – After the legislature cuts off funding for the Human Resources Commission, all five of its members resign.
1981 (May) – The Ozark Land Holding Association, a women-only land community, is founded in Madison County; it continues today.
1982 (June 21) – As part of Gay Pride Day, homosexuals protest discrimination at Arkansas state capitol. ACLU head Sandra Kurjiaka suggests they wear paper bags over their heads to avoid persecution.
1982 (August) – Federal Judge Henry Woods rules that the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff illegally discriminated against female faculty members by “practices of sexual discrimination too blatant to overlook.” The decision is upheld in the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 1983.
1985 (June 22) – The first annual lesbian/gay pride march, rally, and celebration takes place in Fayetteville, starting from the Federal Building and ending at Wilson Park.
1988 – Spinsterhaven, a retirement land cooperative for older women and women with disabilities, is established in northwest Arkansas. In February 1994, land in Madison County is purchased and in the years following, buildings, roads, and other improvements are added. Spinsterhaven still exists.
1989 (June 29) – Black Little Rock restaurateur Say McIntosh tries to burn an American flag at the Arkansas state capitol. McIntosh tries again on July 4, but never burns one. He explains that his actions were motivated by a desire to expose racism in Arkansas.
1990 (November 6) – By a small margin, voters approve the repeal of Amendment 44 (Protection of States’ Rights).
1991 (March 19) – An attempt to pass an Arkansas Civil Rights Act fails.
1993 – Women’s Studies (now Gender Studies) becomes a minor at UAF.
1998 (November 3) – Resolution 51-98, the “Human Dignity Resolution,” passed by the Fayetteville City Council on April 21, 1998, is defeated by popular vote. The resolution was to “. . . insure that all qualified applicants for all City positions have equal access to such employment opportunities regardless of race, sex, religion, color, national origin, age, ancestry, familial status, sexual orientation, or disability.”
2002 (July 5) – Arkansas State Supreme Court in Jegley v. Picado et al. (2002) holds that Arkansas’s sodomy law is unconstitutional.
2006 (June 29) – Arkansas State Supreme Court in Department of Human Services v. Howard et al. unanimously strikes down a ban on gays serving as foster parents.
2007 (February 24) – Federal court releases Little Rock public schools from judicial oversight.