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Annual Genealogy Workshop

Presented by CALS Butler Center for Arkansas Studies

Speaker: Ronnie A. Nichols

This event will be hybrid. Participants can attend in person or participate virtually via Zoom the day of the event. The workshop will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube after the event is over.

All attendees, both in person and virtual, need to register here:



9:30 – 9:45  Welcome & Announcements 
9:45 – 10:45  BASIC GENEALOGY 
11:45 – 1:00  LUNCH on your own 
1:00 – 2:00  PHOTOGRAPHY—Visualizing Your Heritage: “In BLACK & WHITE and COLOR” 
2:15 – 3:15  WESTWARD AND NORTHWARD MIGRATION: “The Warmth of Other Suns” 
3:15 – 3:30  Closing Remarks 

Doors to CALS Ron Robinson Theater will open at 9 am. The program will start at 9:30 am.



A. “Who told you?” An exploration and discovery of “self” through exploration of family, oral history, church, and community

B. “Where did you find me?” A brief dive into public records and birth records; school and church records; and local, state, and federal records


A. The Enslaved and the Confederacy

B. The Ex-enslaved Free Blacks and the Union

An overview on people of African descent or the enslaved, detailing the trove of materials related to not only the military, but the by-products of freedom: military service, implementation of general education, churches, health services, pensions, farming (sharecropping), development of Black skilled labor, and the roles of Black women

Session 3. PHOTOGRAPHY—Visualizing Your Heritage: “In BLACK & WHITE and COLOR

“A picture is worth a thousand words!” But what is the picture saying?

A. Brief history of Black photographic images

B. Explanation of the different types of vintage photographic images

C. Advice on using your photographs to tell visual stories from the past (Nichols will use vintage photographs from the Civil War and vintage photographs from his family collection to tell stories)

Session 4. WESTWARD AND NORTHWARD MIGRATION: “The Warmth of Other Suns”

“I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown…
I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil,
To see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new
And cool rains, bend in the winds,
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom.” Richard Wright, Black Boy, 1945

An overview of how enslaved and formerly enslaved people, particularly from Arkansas, were sent out as well as traveled on their own to new and more promising locations west and north of Arkansas prior to, during, and after the Civil War.

About the Speaker

Ronnie A. Nichols, a descendant of a Black Civil War veteran, is a scholar of the American Civil War, focusing especially on the role of soldiers of African descent. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Nichols graduated from Central High School and then the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a bachelor’s in art and a minor in American history. He holds an MFA from Otis Arts Institute of Los Angeles, California.

For more than thirty-five years, Nichols has served in the museum and public history field. He was director of audience development at what is now the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena-West Helena, and director of the Arkansas Commemorative Commission, which comprises the Old State House Museum and Trapnall Hall in Little Rock. Nichols is currently the proprietor of Nichols Consulting, which provides planning, research, and technical services in Civil War, military, and African American history for films, publications, and public programs.

In 1997, Nichols organized and founded the Arkansas Chapter of Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. In 2014, Nichols was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Historical Association, of which he is a lifetime member. Nichols and his wife, Dr. Sandra Bruce, live in Delray Beach, Florida.