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Statewide Culture 0

Arkansans to Celebrate this Black History Month


While this list does not encompass every African American who has made a mark in Arkansas history, it is an excellent list of record-breaking and pioneering educators, business owners, aviators, designers, authors and athletes.

Throughout the eight-year history of OnlyInArk.com, our storytellers have dug deep to find untold stories and display them on the pages of this blog. We are continually inspired and come back often to drink deep from this wealth of wisdom.

Stories of Standout Groups

Stories of Standout Individuals

  • Dorothy McFadden Hoover – the unnamed woman behind NASA’s early computations
  • Irma Hunter Brown – the first black woman elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives
  • Charles E. Bussey – first African American hired to the Little Rock City board of directors
  • Justin Bryant – an artist exploring how the Black male fits into historical contexts
  • Charolette Tidwell – a Fort Smith nonprofit founder selected as part of Lay’s Smiles campaign, with her big smile on the front of a bag of potato chips
  • Al Porter – music education instructor and organist at Bethel A.M.E. church, the location of many civil rights movement gatherings
  • Cynthia Scott – an Eldorado preachers daughter on the big stage with Ray Charles, one of the first African American flight attendants with Texas International Airline

  • Al Bell – former owner of Stax Records, president of Motown Records and a Billboard Hot 1songwriterter
  • Kari Faux – rapper, singer, songwriter and producer known for her clever wordplay
  • Leah Patterson – CEO of MOVE Makeup, a sweat-resistant line of natural makeup
  • Slick Surrat – a standout baseball player of the Negro League who fought for his country in WWII and to preserve the story of this era through the Negro League Baseball Museum
  • John Donley – 1970s and 80s sitcom writer
  • Floyd “Jelly” Gardner – a standout athlete in the baseball Negro Leagues, always a fighter and a good story
  • Dr. Haki Madhubuti – activist and poet, highlights stigmatizing and oppression of black people
  • Korto Momlu – a fan favorite on season two of Project Runway

  • Josephine Pankey’s Dream – a woman before her time, Pankey purchased acres of land, drew out her plans on a napkin, and sold portions to other community blacks. She dreamed of a place where former tenant farmers and sharecroppers could have their own space and used her resources to make it happen.
  • Rose Marie McCoy – one of the most prolific and versatile songwriters of all time
  • Bass Reeves – from enslaved person to US Marshal under Judge Issac Parker throughout Indian Territory
  • Rev. George Berry Washington – born into slavery in Arkansas, he became one of the most prominent landowners in Crittenden County
  • Dr. Oliver Keith Baker – an MIT graduate credited with cutting-edge nuclear physics research
  • Russell Hawkins – broadcaster and keeper of Arkansas’ oldest recording of an African American athletic event
  • Geese Ausbie – a well-recognized Harlem Globetrotter alumni known as the Clown Prince of Basketball

It never gets old bragging on and sharing the stories of ceiling-breaking Arkansans who changed history. So come back this month to read more untold stories of Black Arkansans making a difference today on the shoulders of those who have come before them.

What stories from our list stand out to you? Who do you never tire of hearing about their contribution to the world?

**All image copyrights are noted in original articles.

Cover photos used with permission from the Historic Washington State Park archives; special thanks to Curator Josh Williams.

Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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