Friday, February 1, 2013

Sundown Towns.... Black in AR 1860-1900's

Arkansas' Ozark Mountain Blacks: An Introduction

Gordon D. Morgan and Peter Kunkel
Phylon (1960-)
Vol. 34, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1973), pp. 283-288
Published by: Clark Atlanta University
Article Stable URL:
Smokey Crabtree, longtime resident of Fouke (Miller County), wrote in 2001:
As far back as the late twenties colored people weren’t welcome in Fouke, Arkansas to live, or to work in town. The city put up an almost life sized chalk statue of a colored man at the city limit line, he had an iron bar in one hand and was pointing out of town with the other hand. The city kept the statue painted and dressed, really taking good care of it. Back in those days colored people were run out of Fouke, one was even hung from a large oak tree…. As of this date there are no colored people living within miles of Fouke, so the attention getter, the means to shake the little town up isn’t “the Russians are coming,” it’s someone is importing colored people into town.

Sundown reputations persist. “Never walk in Greenwood or you will die,” a black Arkansas college student said in 2002. The 2000 census showed two African-American households in Greenwood (Sebastian County), however, so his information may be out of date. But such reputations can be self-maintaining.

For additional information:Crabtree, Smokey. Too Close to the Mirror. Fouke, AR: Days Creek Production, 2001.
Dougan, Michael. Arkansas Odyssey: The Saga of Arkansas from Prehistoric Times to Present. Little Rock: Rose Publishing Company, 1994.
Froelich, Jacqueline, and David Zimmerman. “Total Eclipse: The Destruction of the African American Community of Harrison, Arkansas, in 1905 and 1909.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 58 (Summer 1999): 131–159.
Harper, Kimberly. White Man’s Heaven: The Lynching and Expulsion of Blacks in the Southern Ozarks, 1894–1909. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2010.
Jaspin, Elliot. Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America. New York: Basic Books, 2007.
Lancaster, Guy. “The Cotter Expulsion of 1906 and Limitations on Historical Inquiry.” Baxter County History 38 (April, May, June 2012): 26–29.
———. “‘Negroes Are Leaving Paragould by Hundreds’: Racial Cleansing in a Northeast Arkansas Railroad Town.” Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies 41 (April 2010): 3–15.
———. “‘Negroes Warned to Leave Town’: The Bonanza Race War of 1904.” Journal of the Fort Smith Historical Society 34 (April 2010): 24–29. Online at (accessed August 8, 2011).
———. “‘There Are Not Many Negroes Here’: African Americans in Polk County, Arkansas, 1896–1937.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 70 (Winter 2011): 429–449.
———. “‘They Are Not Wanted’: The Extirpation of African Americans from Baxter County, Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 69 (Spring 2010): 28–44.
Loewen, James W. Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. New York: The New Press, 2005.
———. “Sundown Towns and Counties: Racial Exclusion in the South.” Southern Cultures 15 (Spring 2009): 22–47.
Morgan, Gordon D. Black Hillbillies of the Arkansas Ozarks. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Department of Sociology, 1973.
Nichols, Cheryl Griffith. “Pulaski Heights: Early Suburban Development in Little Rock, Arkansas.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 41 (Summer 1982): 129–145.
Pickens, William. “Arkansas—A Study in Suppression.” In These “Colored” United States: African American Essays from the 1920s, edited by Tom Lutz and Susanna Ashton. New Brunswick, CT: Rutgers University Press, 1996.
“Possible Sundown Town in Arkansas.” The Homepage of James Loewen. (accessed March 1, 2011).
Rea, Ralph R. Boone County and Its People. Van Buren, AR: Press-Argus, 1955.
“The Real Polk County.” The Looking Glass: Reflecting Life in the Ouachitas 5 (January 1980): 16.
Research Collection. Rogers Historical Museum, Rogers, Arkansas.
Robles, Josh. “Amity’s Lost Black Community.” Clark County Historical Journal 33 (2006): 8–16.
Shiloh Museum of Ozark History. Springdale, Arkansas.

The History of Arkansas Culture (linked)

tells me a great deal more at Slaves living during this time in this area of the South.

1843, Arkansas denied free blacks entry into the state, and in 1859, Arkansas required such persons to leave the state by January 1, 1860, or be sold into slavery. Moreover, in 1864, the loyalist Arkansas faction passed a new state constitution that abolished slavery but excluded African Americans from moving into the state. However, that constitution never went into effect, and during Reconstruction, African Americans participated politically across the state. In 1890, every county had at least six African Americans, and only one had fewer than ten.

Then, between 1890 and 1940, white residents forced African Americans to make a “Great Retreat” in Arkansas and across the North. During this “Nadir of Race Relations,” lynchings peaked, and unions drove African Americans from such occupations as railroad fireman and meat cutter. Democrat Jeff Davis ran for Arkansas governor in 1900, 1902, and 1904, and then for the U. S. Senate in 1906; his language grew more Negrophobic with each campaign. “We have come to a parting of the way with the Negro,” he shouted. “If the brutal criminals of that race…. lay unholy hands upon our fair daughters, nature is so riven and shocked that the dire compact produces a social cataclysm.” White people responded with violence. By 1930, three Arkansas counties had no African Americans at all, and another eight had fewer than ten, all in the Arkansas Ozarks. By 1960, six counties had no African Americans (Baxter, Fulton, Polk, Searcy, Sharp, and Stone), seven more had one to three, and yet another county had six. All fourteen were probably sundown counties; eight have been confirmed.
Much of this area had been Unionist during the Civil War. Until 1890, white residents had maintained fairly good relations with their small African-American populations, partly because African Americans and white non-Democrats were political allies.

Then, election law changes and Democratic violence made interracial coalitions impractical. Now, it would not pay to be anything but a Democrat. Allied with this Democratic resurgence, a wave of neo-Confederate nationalism swept Arkansas: most Ozark county histories written after 1890 tell of the war exclusively from the Confederate point of view. More than ever, it was in the interest of white populations to distance themselves from African Americans. Precisely in counties where residents had been Unionists, white residents now often seemed impelled to prove themselves ultra-Confederate and manifested the most robust anti-black fervor.

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