Black Schools & Communities

The building was opened in 1932 as Jefferson School (for white children), built and supported to a standard that far outpaced Lincoln School for Black children built at Center St. and Willow Ave in 1939. The Lincoln School was built to move the Black families from Lafayette and Olive Street, where the first public school in the State (Henderson School) was built for Blacks. Jefferson at 612 S College was a backstop to the historic African American community being systematically forced further south. It was 1965 when the Fayetteville School Board integrated Jefferson to African American children. The Lincoln School for Black children was erased entirely from the landscape, including the playground.

The effective result of 33 years of constant work to eliminate the Black community by City planning, the School Board, the Chamber of Commerce, and residents was a diminishment of the African American residents locked into a system meant for them to lose property, education, and livelihood by design.

“Six Year Public Works Program and Master CityPlan” published in September 1945 is in the Ann Wiggans Sugg collection at the Shiloh Museum and should also be found at the City of Fayetteville. Fayetteville’s history of the public works program and city planning does not include critical information having to do with the erasure of Black communities with the collaboration of its municipal offices, departments, and councils, the Public School system, the Chamber of Commerce, and the all-white litany of clubs including Kiwanis, Women’s Civic, Rotary, Beta Sigma Phi, American Legion, Altrusa, Lions, Business and Professional Women’s Club, Ministerial Alliance and “many other individuals who have offered helpful suggestions.” This publication may be the beginning of the official documentation of the thinking of the most welcoming City in our region finally speaking out loud about erasing African Americans as was intended since the close of the Antebellum period.

The synopsis of the City planning process as described on the municipal website needs to reflect the words or the sentiment of the planning process up to the present day, March 2023. The actual documents and plans must be read; for example, the Parks Master plan adopted by the City in 2008 still speaks of glorifying confederate and segregationist history that is unwelcoming to African American sensibilities.

612 S. College - Jefferson School


Locations of Black Households near 612 S College Ave in 1904

Later named Henderson School, The Mission School for Negroes Only was built by the American Missionary Society in 1866 to educate formerly enslaved children and youth for whom literacy was illegal. 

There were over 274 Black families in Fayetteville living in several different surrounding neighborhoods in 1904 the largest being the historic community along Spout Spring. Henderson was the only school that served Black students in Fayetteville and it also has the distinction of being the first public school in the State of Arkansas.
In 1939 Henderson was shuttered and the Lincoln School (also for Blacks only) was opened at Center Street and Willow Avenue to align with the removal of Black people from East Mountain which had become very convenient and scenic living when water was piped to its top and the Methodist Church was given Mt. Sequoyah in the 1920s.

Black people living close to Henderson School lost their homes, the Green Book home across from it on Olive Avenue was erased, as were the former slave quarters in the alleys and rear landscapes of Washington-Willow Historic that housed enslaved people before emancipation without compensation, and for some time after. Cheap labor for hard but menial jobs in private homes, hotels, businesses, the University of Arkansas, and neighboring sundown towns were still a need that the Black community in Fayetteville provided. A remnant of the original structure has become part of the private home in its place.

 Henderson School


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