Butler Center Books and Arkansas’s Black History

Over the years, Butler Center Books has published a number of ground-breaking books relating to African American history and civil rights in Arkansas. Take a look at the seven fascinating reads below, and view the entire catalog here.

OUTSPOKEN: The Olly Neal Story

By Olly Neal Jr. as told to Jan Wrede

Born in 1941 in rural eastern Arkansas, Olly Neal Jr. grew up in a large family with parents who insisted on their children getting an education. Neal had the intellect but not the temperament to be a good student in high school, but a teacher took an interest in him when she saw him steal a book rather than risk his tough-guy reputation if someone saw him checking it out. Neal went on to start and lead the Lee County Cooperative Clinic in Marianna in the 1970s, a time fraught with conflicts between the white power structure and Black citizens. (The clinic remains a prominent community health center.) He became the first Black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas, and then served as a circuit court judge and on the Arkansas Court of Appeals.

Buy here from UA Press.



Race Relations in the Natural State

By Grif Stockley

In this book, noted Arkansas historian Grif Stockley (Blood in Their Eyes, Daisy Bates) presents a clear depiction of the struggles of race and class in Arkansas, using personal stories to give a deeper understanding of the price of racism in Arkansas. The last chapter explores the experiences of Hispanics in the state. Lesson plans developed by the author are available for teachers in the Butler Center’s Digital Collections.

Buy here from UA Press.



Lessons from Little Rock: A Memoir by One of the Little Rock Nine

By Terrence Roberts

This intimate and powerful account of the integration of Little Rock Central High School relates the inner struggles of one of the nine students who subjected themselves to the wrath of a mob in their quest for an equal education.

Buy here from UA Press.




Beyond Central, Toward Acceptance: A Collection of Oral Histories from Students of Little Rock Central High

Edited by Mackie O’Hara and Alex Richardson

From its modest beginning as a classroom assignment, the Memory Project at Central High School has grown to become a full-sized book that commemorates the national struggle for civil rights.

The Memory Project started as a class assignment for ninth-graders in 2007 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Central’s historic desegregation in 1957. As the students heard stories of that year and learned lessons on racial tolerance, the project continued to grow.

Buy here from UA Press.



Crisis of Conscience: Arkansas Methodists and the Civil Rights Struggle

Edited by James T. Clemons and Kelly L. Farr

This book features personal stories by Arkansas Methodist pastors, laypersons, and community leaders—including Dale Bumpers, Joycelyn Elders, and Miller Williams—who lived through the struggles for civil rights in the 1950s and saw their congregations and other institutions rocked by the tumultuous events of the history-making era.

Buy here from UA Press.




The Elaine Massacre and Arkansas: A Century of Atrocity and Resistance, 1819–1919

Edited by Guy Lancaster

Although it occurred nearly a century ago, the massacre of African American laborers in Elaine in Phillips County, Arkansas, remains the subject of intense inquiry. In this book, leading historians from the region seek to answer a multitude of questions about the event.

Buy here from UA Press.





Joseph Carter Corbin: Educator Extraordinaire and Founder of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

By Gladys Turner Finney

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) was founded in 1875 as Branch Normal College by Joseph Carter Corbin, a native of Ohio and the son of former slaves. Corbin, who had a classical education, was the first African American superintendent of public education in Arkansas and literally built the school from the ground up. There was a desperate need for teachers in Arkansas, as there was a great desire for education by former slaves who had been prohibited from learning to read and write.

Buy here from UA Press.




About Butler Center Books

Butler Center Books is a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System. This nonprofit publishing program was made possible by a gift from John G. Ragsdale Jr. and Dora “DeDe” Ragsdale. Books are available at the Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square in downtown Little Rock at the CALS Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art and other local bookstores, from online retailers, and from Butler Center Books’ distributer, the University of Arkansas Press (via University of Chicago Press). View all Butler Center Books titles here.




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