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Ruled by Race

Black/White Relations in Arkansas From Slavery to the Present

Grif Stockley

Publication Year: 2008

From the Civil War to Reconstruction, the Redeemer period, Jim Crow, and the modern civil rights era to the present, Ruled by Race describes the ways that race has been at the center of much of the state’s formation and image since its founding.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

In 1976 I first began working on a book whose subject was a history of Arkansas race relations between African Americans and whites. Thanks to a number of Arkansans and Arkansas institutions, I have been able to return to this project. In 2007 the Butler Center...

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pp. xv-xxiii

We are ruled by race in Arkansas. For almost 150 continuous years, interrupted in part and only briefly by the politics of Reconstruction, white Arkansans since territorial days used whatever means necessary to control and dominate black persons. Generation upon...

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1. Voices of Slavery

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pp. 3-24

The forty-six years of slavery in Arkansas (1819–1865) have to be understood in human terms to appreciate their power and influence over the telling of the state’s history for so many generations. Until we begin to appreciate the profound grip slavery...

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2. Owning Slaves

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pp. 25-44

While slavery was for a time as American as apple pie, it had its roots in the old countries. Slavery was a part of the Arkansas experience beginning with a group that arrived with settlers sent from New Orleans in 1721 to found a colony, but the official story truly...

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3. The Civil War in Arkansas and the Refashioning of Black Identity

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pp. 45-64

Despite its high strategic importance as a base of operations for holding onto the crucial slave state of Missouri, the Confederate high command in Virginia “viewed Arkansas primarily as a source...

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4. Reconstruction

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pp. 65-88

With the Civil War over and Arkansas occupied by federal troops in 1865, blacks might have hoped that slavery and the violence associated with it would have by now been eliminated, but not so. The first bitter pill freedmen had to swallow was the knowledge...

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5. Redeemers

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pp. 89-108

To outsiders, Augustus H. Garland, a former Confederate senator and a Democrat, would not have seemed to have the kind of credentials of a man who would accept the results of Reconstruction with anything approaching grace, but in his first proclamation...

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6. The Coming of Jim Crow

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pp. 109-132

The year 1891 was a legislative disaster for African Americans like no other in the history of the state. Measures were passed that would soon result in their effective banishment from the political process and segregate them from whites. Kenneth C. Barnes argues...

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7. Jeff Davis and His Legacy

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pp. 133-152

Jeff Davis’s long reign in state government began in 1899 as attorney general, followed by three terms as governor and then U.S. senator until interrupted by death in 1913. Lynching was apparently one of Davis’s favorite topics, and as governor he did...

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8. The Elaine Race Massacres

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pp. 153-180

In his first successful race for governor in 1916, Charles Hillman Brough was ambushed by an opponent, secretary of state Earl Hodges, for being too soft on the race question. As a professor at the University of Arkansas, Brough had become chairman...

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9. The Aftermath of the Elaine Race Massacres and the Twenties

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pp. 181-206

The most optimistic assessment of the successful fight to prevent the execution of the Elaine Twelve is that the highly complex legal proceedings that ensued proved that the Arkansas black middle class in Little Rock could rise to the occasion and successfully...

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10. The Great Depression and the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union

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pp. 207-226

The pain of the Great Depression in the 1930s was so deep and wide for some in the Arkansas Delta that for a brief time the misery it brought transcended race. On the surface at least, black and white...

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11. The Beginning Challenge to Jim Crow

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pp. 227-250

Given the grim statistics of most black life in Arkansas during the 1930s, it is frankly difficult to imagine that the next decade would see significant challenges to Jim Crow. In fact, had there not been two black communities, themselves unequal, challenges to Jim Crow would have been unthinkable. Though tiny...

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12. Brown v. Board of Education and the Central High Crisis

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pp. 251-272

The real and symbolic importance of the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in May 1954 to black Americans in the United States can hardly be overstated. Written in plain English, the court’s decision is as much about morality as it is about...

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13. Wandering in the Wilderness of Race: 1957–1960

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pp. 273-298

The 1957 Central High crisis and its aftermath proved historic for both the state and the nation. The story requires a closer analysis of some of the actions of a number of the primary participants in this period...

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14. The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee Years

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pp. 299-320

A hint of what the 1960s was to bring came to Daisy Bates in a letter after she had spoken on January 1 in an Emancipation Day speech at the Second Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After what she had been through the last three years, Bates had grown...

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15. Brothers against Brothers

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pp. 321-350

With such a ready-made base of college students to draw from at Arkansas AM&N and a large black population in Jefferson County in 1960 (about 43 percent), the base of SNCC operations shifted to Pine Bluff, some forty-odd miles southeast of Little Rock, where...

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16. The Impact of the Death of Martin Luther King Jr.

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pp. 351-372

The black power movement and the urban riots that began to sweep the black ghetto beginning with Watts in Los Angeles in 1965 were a firestorm that rocked the nation and seemed to have no end. By the end of 1966 “forty-three disorders and riots...

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17. Marianna

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pp. 373-390

Marianna in Lee County in the heart of the Delta epitomized the racial problems of the state in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In many ways this small, forgotten town of less than five thousand, about equally divided between whites and blacks, proved to...

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18. The Seventies: No Rest for Those Weary of Race

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pp. 391-412

Before discussing the changes that began to occur in the racial demographics of Arkansas during the 1970s, it is appropriate here to note perhaps the most important statistic that has affected race relations in the state of Arkansas. Donald Holley, author of...

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19. The Eighties and Nineties: So Far to Go

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pp. 413-430

At the beginning of the 1980s blacks in Arkansas seemed stuck politically. As Lamar Keels, president of the NAACP State Conference of Branches, noted in 1981, “Across the state, there are extreme difficulties in getting blacks on school boards, city councils, county...

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20. Race Relations in the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 431-460

Nothing symbolizes the changes in Arkansas race relations than the morning of August 30, 2005, when the Little Rock Nine unveiled life-size statutes of themselves on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol. Funded by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, the Arkansas legislature, and the Little Rock Nine Foundation...


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pp. 461-506


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pp. 507-514


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pp. 515-529

About the Author, Back Cover

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pp. 530

E-ISBN-13: 9781610753562
E-ISBN-10: 1610753569
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557288851
Print-ISBN-10: 1557288852

Page Count: 550
Illustrations: 20 photographs
Publication Year: 2008

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arkansas -- Race relations.
  • African Americans -- Arkansas -- History.
  • African Americans -- Arkansas -- Social conditions.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Arkansas.
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