Brian Mitchell: “West Rock: The Taking of an American Dream”
CALS Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art Presents
Speaker: Brian Mitchell, assistant professor of History at University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Founded in 1906, the community of West Rock provided affordable housing and accessibility to an array of domestic, service, and labor jobs for its African American residents. The area was located in what is now the Riverdale neighborhood, downhill from Pulaski Heights, one of the city’s most affluent (and white) communities. West Rock was a short distance from the Rock Island train station, lumberyards, a country club, warehouses, and Field Farm.
West Rock provided its wealthy neighbors uphill with access to domestic workers, landscapers and chauffeurs. However, by the 1950s, the civil rights movement and a fear of the disappearance of segregation caused the Heights’ residents to view the community more as a burden.
This talk examines the lifespan of the community from its development to its removal as a result of the Slum Clearance Referendum of 1950, which allowed the City of Little Rock to accept federal assistance to remove dilapidated urban housing.
“The story of West Rock embodies the narrative of race and urban development in America and the role that planning and local government played in maintaining segregated communities,” Mitchell said.
Brian Mitchell is assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
CALS is co-sponsoring this program with the Pulaski County Historical Society.
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