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.
Henderson School is an important landmark in the history of Arkansas education. It was the first public school for Black students in the state of Arkansas, established in 1869. The school was named after Joseph Carter Henderson, a prominent Black politician and attorney who served in the Arkansas State Legislature during Reconstruction.
At the time, the state of Arkansas was still struggling to rebuild after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. The creation of Henderson School was a major step towards providing education to Black students who had previously been excluded from public schools due to segregation. The school was initially established in a small, one-room building, but it quickly outgrew its space as more students enrolled. In 1912, a new school building was constructed to accommodate the growing student body. The new building was a two-story brick structure that featured separate classrooms, a library, and an auditorium.
Over the years, Henderson School became a center for education, culture, and community for Blacks in Little Rock. The school served as a gathering place for political and social events, as well as a place for students to learn and grow. Today, the original building of Henderson School no longer stands, but the site is marked by a historical marker to commemorate its significance in Arkansas history. The school's legacy lives on through the many students who attended the school and the impact it had on their lives.
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