Arts council celebrates black history

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published February 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 6, 2013 at 3:10 p.m.
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Wayne Bryan

Ferrell Ford, who created the black-history exhibition at the Arkadelphia Arts Center, stands next to a teacher’s desk taken from the old Peake Elementary School, in a display reflecting school classrooms in the 1930s and ’40s. The exhibition will run at the arts center through February.

Scott Joplin

Farrell Ford speaks about Scott Joplin. (By Wayne Bryan)
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— Residents of Clark County will celebrate the achievements and history of African-Americans with a communitywide reception from 4-6 p.m. today at the Arkadelphia Arts Center.

The exhibition, which opened Jan. 30 and continues through February, highlights some aspects of the local life in the African-American community of the county and also includes the work of several local African-American artists.

“This is the second year the Clark County Arts and Humanities Council has brought together a display celebrating black history at the arts center,” said Ferrell Ford, interim director of the arts center, who brought the exhibition together. “I just put the word out, and people started to bring things in.”

One of the main displays in the arts center shows a typical classroom from the 1930s and ’40s. Ford said the teacher’s desk and some of the chairs came from the old Peake Elementary School and date back to the days of segregation. Other furniture in the classroom display came from Okolona, southwest of Arkadelphia, she said.

“The room features some slates that students used to write their lessons and an old 48-star flag,” Ford said. “The school buildings often had large windows because there were no electric lights. So a frame was donated, and I painted a scene to go in the window that is what I saw outside the school window when I was going to school.”

On darker days, the school depended on oil lamps, Ford said as she pointed out a lamp placed on a bookcase.

Another display is a wall filled with materials loaned by the Clark County Chapter of the National Association for the

Advancement of Colored People.

“The local chapter was asked if we had anything to add to the display, and we sent our chapter charter and the charter for the youth chapter,” said Henry Wilson, president of the county NAACP organization. “The chapter was created in 1988. It grew from a lawsuit looking to get a minority member on the [Arkadelphia Public] School Board in 1987.”

The display includes several items, Wilson said, that follow attempts that began in 2007 to rename Pine Street for Martin Luther King Jr.

“Naming a street for Dr. King has been in the Clark County Strategic Plan, and we have been working to see it happen for almost six years,” Wilson said. “I hope this celebration brings more attention to our local history and our mission of equality.”

Another display honors African-American investors, such as George Crum, who invented the potato chip, and Garrett Morgan, who built the first traffic light.

“We also have a display about Lewis Latimer, who worked with Thomas Edison’s team to develop the light bulb.

A piano and framed copies of sheet music are on display as a tribute to African-American musicians and composers.

“The music is very interesting to me because my grandfather was a musician, and I inherited his sheet music,” Ford said. “My favorite composer of early-20th-century music was Scott Joplin. For a while, he lived in Texarkana, Texas. He played ragtime music, which later developed into jazz.”

Ford said he hopes to have someone play Joplin’s music during the community reception.

Another feature of the black-history celebration in the county will be a soul-food supper at 5 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Central Arkansas Community Development Senior Adult Center, 1311 N. 10th St. A menu of traditional foods, catered by Mama Max in Prescott, will be offered. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. For more information, call (870) 403-8213.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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