PINE BLUFF, Ark. — In Pine Bluff, the first African Americans to hold positions in the city were honored.
Leaders said Pine Bluff is filled with living history.
“It’s important because we need to understand what our history is, who made history,” Jesse Turner said.
The names of the honorees may not be in history textbooks, but they are African Americans who played an important part of Jefferson County’s story.
Pine Bluff Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Inc. hosted a conversation on breaking barriers at February’s Coffee with the Chiefs.
“Not only as far as myself, but other women as well, along with men have broken the barrier of being the first African American,” Cathy Braswell.
Braswell is the first African American and woman to be hired by the Pine Bluff Fire Department.
She is also the first to achieve the rank of Lieutenant.
Braswell and nine others were honored at the event.
“I did break some barriers,” Irene Holcomb said.
Holcomb was the first African American and woman to serve on the Pine Bluff City Council.
“I came out of pure obscurity. I didn’t have the right pedigree, I didn’t necessarily live in the right zip code,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said she faced adversity to claim her calling.
“They found out that I could represent people from all strata of life, from the ghetto to the country club,” Holcomb said.
They hope these conversations can inspire today’s youth.
“Those are stories we want to inspire our young people on, to help them understand that they, too, can break barriers,” Turner said.
Holcomb said there are four ingredients to get there.
“Have faith in God, believe in yourself, believe in your family, and have the tenacity of a bull dog,” she said.
The history of Pine Bluff’s African American ‘Barrier Breakers’ will continue to be taught at area schools throughout the year.