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Arkansas History: 6 Events That Shaped the State

Arkansas History: 6 Events That Shaped the State
State senate building in Little Rock, capital of Arkansas; Arkansas Flag as the territory Map. (Dollarphotoclub)

By    |   Monday, 23 February 2015 11:31 PM

Arkansas jointed the United States territories in 1804 with the Louisiana Purchase, and its reputation in history at the time was a "violent and lawless place run by a handful of crooked men," says The Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Here are six important historical events from Arkansas history that define the state:

1. The state's population grew during the next decades as Americans moved west and it was those early days that created the state's violent reputation. It also became a strong cotton state in the South, with numerous slaves brought to the area to run the cotton plantations that were an important part of the area by 1840. Today, the state ranks third in cotton production in the United States, according to Farm Flavor.

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2. Arkansas was the 25th state to join the union, in June 1836.

3. During the 1850s, Arkansas was in an economic boom, but the Civil War put an end to that growth. In May 1861, Arkansas joined the Deep South states that had chosen to secede from the Union, a move that most of the state's citizens supported. When the war ended, Reconstruction became "one of the most tumultuous and controversial periods in Arkansas’s history,"  says The Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Required to create a new state constitution, delegates assembled in 1868 to draft one, which emerged as a progressive charter. "It gave black males the right to vote; recognized the equality of all persons before the law; forbade depriving any citizen of any right, privilege, or immunity ‘on account of race, color, or previous servitude and established a system of free public education." 

4. The Flood of 1927 devastated Arkansas. It was considered "the most destructive and costly flood in Arkansas history and one of the worst in the history of the nation." The state suffered both human and monetary devastation, and that the flood "had social and political ramifications which changed the way Arkansas, as well as the nation, viewed relief from natural disasters and the responsibility of government in aiding the victims, echoing the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the present day." Two million acres of farmland were flooded, 350,000 people were affected, with almost 100 people dying.

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5. Desegregation, brought about by the Brown V. Board of Education decision in Topeka, Kansas, in 1954, was a slow and difficult process in Arkansas. The problems at Little Rock Central High School became "a national and international symbol of resistance to desegregation." It was there that the "Little Rock Nine," as a group of nine African-American students became known, were besieged and harassed as they tried to attend the high school. When the students went to school on Sept. 23, 1957, a mob of about 1,000 people grew outside the school, beating four black reporters covering the event and making the school fear for the students' safety. Eventually, U.S. troops guarded the students so they could attend classes, although they were verbally and physically harassed by other students.

6. The creation of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System was the largest Corps of Engineers project ever created when it was completed in the 1970s. The Arkansas River is the longest tributary to the Missouri-Mississippi River and its development was critical to the Arkansas economy. Although it took decades to get approval, make plans and complete, the project is responsible today for $1 billion to $2 billion in trade transportation through the state. The 445-mile channel travels through Arkansas and Oklahoma, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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Arkansas jointed the United States territories in 1804 with the Louisiana Purchase, and its reputation in history at the time was a "violent and lawless place run by a handful of crooked men."
Arkansas History, Cotton State, South
Monday, 23 February 2015 11:31 PM
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