LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (February 17, 2012) - In honor of Black History Month, the Arkansas State Capitol has debuted a new exhibit called "Arkansas's African American Legislators 1868-1893".
It was created by the Black History Commission of Arkansas and the Arkansas History Commission and features the African Americans who made up a significant part of Arkansas's legislature during the 1860s and early 1870s, and who continued to serve until 1893.
African Americans participated in Arkansas politics for the first time following the Civil War. After the end of that conflict, the state adopted a new constitution in 1868. Its provisions included the right to vote and hold public office for black males.
"And so many people think they were not prepared but they were," says Carla Hines-Coleman with the Arkansas Black History Commission. "They were ministers, farmers, teachers and some secretly had already been educated so they went to represent the people."
Between 1868 and 1893, eighty-five African Americans are known to have served in the Arkansas General Assembly. The majority served in the House, with nine being chosen for the Senate. Election laws passed by the General Assembly in 1891 and new poll tax regulations in 1893 effectively ended the election of African Americans to the legislature. Blacks did not serve again in the General Assembly until 1973.
Photographs survive for forty-five of the African Americans who served in the Arkansas General Assembly during the nineteenth century and are featured in this exhibit in the lower-level foyer at the Arkansas State Capitol. Forty-three of these are from the holdings of the Arkansas History Commission.
This Saturday, February 18, the Commissions will present 'Profiles in Arkansas Black History: Markers and Makers,' at the State Capitol.
The presentation at the seminar will feature historical markers highlighting African Americans and their roles in Arkansas history. Speakers will highlight the lives of African Americans who helped shape our state's history, as well as the stories behind the historical markers at places from around Arkansas, such as cemeteries, a church, the site of a life-changing event for a well-known musician, a gathering place for young civil rights activists, and one of Arkansas's many lakes. For more information, click here.
(Source: Arkansas History Commission)