African Americans Exercise Their Rights
In the decades following the Civil War, former slaves in
Arkansas saw African Americans elected to local, state and
national offices. Henderson B. Robinson was elected sheriff
of Phillips County. James White and William H. Grey of Helena
were elected to the 1868 Arkansas Constitutional Convention. They
were among the first African Americans to create laws for
Arkansas. From 1868 to 1893, African Americans held seats in
every Arkansas general assembly.
Former Confederates Retaliate
The rights granted to African Americans proved fleeting.
Former Confederates regained the political power they had
lost. The laws they passed stripped away or nullified most of
the rights African Americans had briefly experienced. For
many years, African Americans in much of the United
States had very few civil liberties.
The Civil Rights Movement
A new era of change began on December 1, 1955. Rosa
Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery
Alabama, bus sparked the modern Civil Rights movement.
In Arkansas, U.S. Army troops escorted the "Little Rock
Nine" into the city's Central High School on September 25,
1957. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
working in 1963 to integrate Henry's Drug
Store and Habib's Cafeteria and other public places in
Through the late 1950s and the 1960s, courageous
individuals fought to restore the rights guaranteed by the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. They won that
fight. Prejudice remains but change continues. Just how
much was demonstrated in 2008, when the people of the
United States elected Barack Obama, an African American,
44th President of the United States.
Top left:William Hines Furbush, a Helena photographer represented Phillips and Monroe County in the Arkansas General Assembly in 1872.
Right side (B&W): A boy watches opponents of desegregation march from the Arkansas Capitol to Central High in 1959.
Bottom right: President Barack Obama