Anderson Institute Adds Ten New Plaques to Civil Rights Heritage Trail

Principal Thrasher of Dunbar Magnet Middle School
Principal Thrasher of Dunbar Magnet Middle School, representative for recipient Sue Cowan Williams.

The UA Little Rock’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity kicked off Black History month with their sixth annual Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail induction ceremony.

This year the institute honored ten people who have contributed to the economic advancement of African Americans in Arkansas. The honorees were awarded a 12-inch bronze marker that were added to the trail.

The hour-long ceremony provided audience members with a brief history of all the honorees, who were awarded posthumously. The Dunbar Magnet Middle School choir, along with soloists Tonya Leeks and David Ashley, provided the entertainment at the ceremony performing songs like “We Shall Overcome,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Arkansas Sounds’ music coordinator, John Miller, said that two of the eight songs the singers performed were picked because they were inspired by the civil rights movement in Little Rock.

“The first one being ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles. That song, as recently announced by Paul McCartney [was written] about [the crisis at Central High School],” he said. “The second song…, ‘Why Am I Treated So Bad?’ by the Staple Singers, … became Martin Luther King’s favorite song and Pop Staples wrote [it] immediately, within hours after seeing the news coverage of the ’57 crisis. Seeing Elizabeth Eckford being spat upon caused him to write that song.”

The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was established in 2011 by UA Little Rock’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity. One of the institutes associate members, Dr. Laverne Bell Tolliver, who is a professor with UA Little Rocks School of Social Work and represented one of the honorees said that the trail started after the institutes students and faculty realized how many African Americans contributed to Arkansas’ history.

“It was begun so we could take a step and that’s what each one of those plaques that are placed into the ground represent. A step towards civil rights progress, a step towards progress in the history of America. And so, we wanted to do something to acknowledge that,” she said.

The new inductees are William Wallace Andrews, Scott Winfield Bond, John Edward Bush, Robert Lee Hill, John Harold Johnson, Walter “Wiley” Jones, Chester Keatts, Josephine Irvin Harris Pankey, William “Sonny” Walker, and Sue Cowan Williams.

The trail begins outside of the Old State House at 300 W Markham St. and will eventually extend to the Clinton Library at 1200 President Clinton Ave.

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