HARRISON, Ark. (KTHV) -- Harrison, Arkansas. A small town tucked away in the heart of Ozarks. A city full of beautiful scenery and rich with history but a reputation they would rather live without.
"It's when you go out of town and say you're from Harrison, Arkansas people once in a while they look at you funny. We are still stuck with that stigma from the outside world and we need to get rid of that somehow," says Mayor Jeff Crockett.
"The first thing people think is that we are racist. It's not true. It's not true at all, " says a Harrison High School student.
Harrison's roots date back to the St. Louis and North Arkansas railroad built here in 1901. The excitement of prosperity swept the community but by 1905, the railroad was bankrupt and hundreds of black and white citizens found themselves unemployed.
Carolyn Cline with Harrison's race relations task force says that's when racial tensions began to come to a head.
"It started with the race riots that occurred here in 1905 and 1909. Riots that in retrospect, none of us understand very well. That eliminated the bulk of our black population. People that wanted to go somewhere else because they didn't feel safe in this area."
White mobs raided African American homes, taking their land and ordering them to leave. 98 percent of Harrison remains white to this day.
"There is always the possibility that it would just gradually disappeared if it hadn't been for Thomas Robb in the 70's deciding that he wanted to make this a place for his business. That has brought attention that we aren't happy to have and that we think is unfair for our community, "says Cline.
The biggest obstacle Harrison city officials say they have in overcoming a reputation of hate is the Ku Klux Klan. National director, Thomas Robb lives outside of town in a small community call Zinc. So small in fact, it doesn't have its own post office and the majority of KKK material is mailed from a Harrison post office box.
"Where else am I supposed to get my post office box from? Am I suppose to go to Little Rock and get it?" he says.
Robb pastors a church along with leading the KKK, also known as The Knights Party, the most infamous hate organization in the country.
"The perception is we hate all black people, we want to lynch them and so forth and well, if that's what I saw from the outside, then I wouldn't want to be any part of the Klan either. I don't see the rational of the people making the statement. The city has grown tremendously and people move here continually because they see it as a nice safe area," says Robb.
Crockett says his city, famous for discrimination, is now on the receiving end.
"As recently as a few months ago, we had a person transfer in from a company out of town and his wife Googled Harrison on the Internet before they moved here and when all the stuff came up about the KKK on the Internet, she said, 'I'm not raising my kids in Harrison,.' That's an image we really need to break if we want to grow. It hurts us economically. It really does, "said Crockett.
Kids in Harrison schools say they feel the stigma every time they leave town.
That perception is one reason the schools started a diversity council -- to tackle everything from bullying to race relations.
As the only African American on the council, Vidol Boren-Hall says he gets lots of questions.
"People say, 'Why are you living here? You're stupid; you're going to get hurt of something. But I mean, I don't have a problem. Because that's what I'm here for is to change it and give people a different outlook on culture."
"It's on our shoulders and we shouldn't have to deal with it, but we are having to and I think this is the first step in us standing up and changing this."
10 years of steps, but the reputation remains. Still, Harrison is not giving up using historical displays and a stronger Internet presence to fight the negative attention it's attracted for years.
Learning from their past to create a better future.
"The community taskforce is committed to showing the world outside of Harrision, Arkansas that we are not a racist community. We are a warm and welcoming community, providing experiences for people inside the community to never forget what part of our past is, "said Cline.