Project 365: Six Communities in the Spotlight

March 8, 2024, meeting at Wrightsville City Hall with the three representatives from the NEH: (left to right) Kelsey Coates, Chief of Staff; Shelly Lowe, NEH Chair; Anthony “Tony” Mitchell, Senior Deputy Chair

The expansion of historical knowledge starts locally, grows to state significance, and may explode onto the national scene.

A group was organized with a plan to document six communities in Pulaski County that follow Arkansas Highway 365 South. The Arkansas African American Historical and Genealogical Society, Preservation of African American Cemeteries, and members of the six communities began the process of collecting, organizing, and documenting information on these areas.

The communities include Hensley, Woodson, Wrightsville, Sweet Home, Higgins, and College Station. A display of gathered information was publicly presented in February 2023 in Wrightsville. Funding from the Arkansas Humanities Council may have been the vehicle to attract the attention of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), whose representatives came to Arkansas to learn about the project.

On March 8, 2024, a meeting was arranged to explain Project 365 to visitors from the NEH who spent time in Little Rock that week.

NEH members (left to right) Coates, Mitchell, and Lowe at Wrightsville City Hall with Adrienne Jones (in yellow) with the Arkansas Humanities Council.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Chair is Shelly C. Lowe, a citizen of the Navajo Nation. The Senior Deputy Chair of the NEH is Anthony Mitchell, the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) graduate to hold the post. The Chief of Staff is Kelsey Coates, who serves in the Biden-Harris administration and served in the Obama-Biden administration.

The visitors spent the morning learning about Project 365 and asking questions of some in the audience about the project.

The Project 365 research team and a group lovingly called “Welcome to the 90’s”—along with the Wrightsville mayor Derrick Rainey, former Wrightsville mayor Pat Rogers Ward, the Central Arkansas Library System’s Brian Martin of the Millie Brooks Library, and Rhonda Stewart of the CALS Roberts Library/Butler Center for Arkansas Studies gathered to share their roles contributing to the project.

The “Welcome to the 90’s” contingent is a group with most in their ninth decade of life and a couple within a few years of that decade. Many in this group had spent a majority of their lifespan in one or more of these communities. They shared their knowledge and made connections and introductions for the Project 365 group to learn more about each community.

The scholar for Project 365 is Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis, who joined the meeting by Zoom.

The city of Wrightsville may be small, yet it appears to be in a position to host big names from around the nation and ready to share stories of the communities on Highway 365.

Project 365 members with NEH representatives and others at Wrightsville City Hall.

By Rhonda Stewart, genealogy and local history specialist for the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, housed in the CALS Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art




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