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Lecturer Highlights Challenges of African Americans in Arkansas Politics

Brandon Tabor

African Americans have been involved in every session of the Arkansas Legislature since the beginning of the state.

A University of Arkansas Fayetteville doctoral candidate spoke Tuesday on some of the challenges they faced. 

The lecture “Spokesmen for Their Race:  African-American Political Involvement in Arkansas, 1868 to 1893” was presented by Rodney Harris at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas. 

Harris discussed how African Americans were involved in Arkansas politics  despite the challenges of slavery. 

He said there’s a general misconception about how long African Americans’ have been involved in state politics.

“The one thing I always hear over and over is ‘it’s always been that way, before,’ and it wasn’t,” Harris said.  “After the civil war there was this 25 year period where African Americans participated in politics, and it didn’t end overnight, either.”

Harris also touched on some of the challenges African Americans faced in voting in that era and how they can be seen in today’s time.  

Black River Technical College and the Eddie Mae Herron Center in Pocahontas sponsored the lecture as part of an annual Black History Month cultural event.