Arkansas is in the south-central area of the United States, bordered by Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma. The state’s name is taken from “Arcansas,” the French derivative of Quapaw Native Americans as they related to the Algonkian-speaking Natives in the Ohio Valley that they called “Arkansas,” which meant “south wind.” Arkansas was admitted to the Union on June 25, 1836, and became the 26th state.
The area known as Arkansas was inhabited for thousands of years by the indigenous tribes of the Osage, Caddo, and Quapaw. When European explorers such as Hernando de Soto entered the central area of Arkansas in their search for gold and riches, they didn’t find anything that they felt was valuable.
Added to this condition were the constant attacks by the Natives, and they retaliated by slaughtering all of the Native men, women, and children in the village of Anilco. European settlers that later entered Arkansas maintained the belief of the early Europeans that all people of color were only valuable as slaves. This attitude was prevalent all during the growth of the state.
The Arkansas area was part of the Louisiana Purchase that Napoleon Bonaparte sold to the United States in 1803. The state has diverse geography ranging from the eastern lowlands on the Arkansas Delta and Mississippi River to the dense forests of the Arkansas Timberlands and the Ozark and Ouachita mountains.
When the state became part of the Union, it was filled with settlers who had used a lot of the Delta for cotton plantations. Many of the landowners were slave owners, and the belief in slaves led the state to be on the side of the Confederates during the Civil War when it seceded in 1861.
Even after the Confederates lost the Civil War and Arkansas was readmitted to the Union, the state was ruled by the white rural interests. The state remained steadfast in its refusal to alter its politics, and this created a condition of disenfranchisement for African Americans.
Even after the Civil Rights Movement, Arkansas only changed their laws when the federal government stepped in to overturn state laws that refused to reapportion geographic districts for Black American voting. It wasn’t until post-World War II that the economy of Arkansas saw any real diversity.
Arkansas became a focal point in 1957 when nine Black American young people wanted to go to an all-white Central High School in Little Rock. While federal laws prohibited segregation, the white community in Little Rock didn’t agree and tried to present barriers for the kids. The National Guard was called in to ensure that the kids were safely allowed into the school. This became a landmark moment in the cause of Civil Rights.
Quick Facts about Arkansas
- Arkansas became the 25th state in the United States on June 15, 1836
- As of the 2019 Census, Arkansas has a population of 3.018 million people
- The capital city of Arkansas is Little Rock
- Arkansas’ size is 53,179 square miles
- The highest point in Arkansas is at Mount Magazine in the state park, with a peak of 2,753 feet.
Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, is both a National Historic Site and an active high school. It was made famous in 1957 when nine Black American students wanted to attend the then all-white high school. The citizens of Little Rock were outraged, and the Arkansas National Guard was called in to escort the kids and act to protect them from the angry white mob.
Little Rock Nine Monument in Little Rock, Arkansas, is placed at the Arkansas State Capital. The beautiful bronze statues include the comments from all nine of the Black American students that wanted to go to an all-white high school and required protection from persecution from the angry Little Rock citizens.
Pea Ridge National Military Park is located in Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and is the historic spot for the 1862 Civil War battle of Pea Ridge. Visitors can see some of the cannons that were used during that era as they are displayed on the grounds.
Fort Smith National Historic Site/Fort Smith was the home of U.S. Marshals that were charged with bringing law and order to the new lands that once belonged to indigenous people and were now being taken over. The Fort had a hanging judge that would condemn people to die. Visitors can see the gallows where many men were hung. Included in the tour is the original 1818 foundation of the Fort.
Arkansas Post is in Gillet, Arkansas, and is a national monument. It is the place where the first European settlement in Arkansas was located in 1686 as a post for fur trading by French soldiers by the same of Henri de Tonti. It is also the site of an 1863 Civil War battle, and visitors can see the Confederate trenches that are in the park.
Rohwer Relocation Center Memorial Cemetery is in Rohwer, Arkansas. It is one of three remaining cemeteries that existed during World War II for Japanese Americans. The Rohwer Relocation Center was originally designated as a place to send Japanese Americans for encampment during WW II from 1942 to 1945. The area was designated in 1992 as a National Historic Landmark.
Bathhouse Row Historic District is in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is famous for the warm mineral hot springs that bubble up due to geothermal conditions. The location has eight lovely bathhouses, some of which are placed directly over the springs that have been rebuilt to reflect the original appeal and history. The warm water is thought to be therapeutic. Hot Springs also has a Gangster Museum of America where it holds many of the items and information of the gangsters such as Bugs Moran and Al Capone that favored the location as an illegal gambling center.
Parkin Archeological State Park in Parkin, Arkansas, is the home of the Parkin Indian Mound. Originally of interest during the time of Hernando DeSoto, it later became a central focus in 1879 when a Harvard Professor began exploring the finds that reflected the ancient culture of the Mississippian indigenous people. The museum on the premises has archeological finds that date from 1350-1650.
Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park is in Scott, Arkansas, and contains 18 Toltec mounds that are considered to be the tallest prehistoric mounds that have been found in Arkansas to date. The people that lived during the time of the mounds dated from 600 and 1050 C.E. The mounds were originally discovered by the landowner, which then brought interest in 1883 from the Smithsonian Institute, archeologists, and historians.
Louisiana Purchase State Park, Blackton, Arkansas is the 1815 starting point of the Louisiana Purchase Survey that ultimately led to the Louisiana Purchase and Arkansas becoming a state. In 1926, a marker was placed on the official starting point. However, the area experiences a lot of flooding that can make seeing the marker difficult. The state has added a boardwalk so that people can see the marker a bit easier.
Important Moments in History
- Indigenous people of a variety of tribes lived in and around the Arkansas area for thousands of years. Archeologists continue to find evidence of their cultures with many finds.
- The known Spanish conqueror and explorer Hernando De Soto is believed to be the first European to lead an expedition that probably crossed the Mississippi River and entered into the area now known as Arkansas.
- In 1682 the French claimed the Mississippi valley for King Louis XIV of France, naming it “Louisiana,” where they built a fort which was later converted to a trading post.
- By the 1700s, Europeans from many countries were arriving in what is now called Arkansas. Some were there for religious reasons to try to convert the heathen natives to Christianity, while others are there in the search for gold. There was a lot that arrived from Scotland as settlers. In 1731, Louisiana, which included today’s Arkansas, was announced as a Royal Colony of France.
- The 1700s brought about the French and Indian War, also known as the “Seven Years War,” to the area, which resulted in The Treaty of France, giving England much of its possessions in North American and a separate treaty with Spain for the Western portions of Louisiana. Control of Louisiana was returned to France in 1800.
- 1803-1804 resulted in the Louisiana Purchase, which includes present-day Arkansas and the division of the land into two parts: the District of Louisiana (including Arkansas) and the Territory of Orleans.
- The following early years of the 1800s involved more division of the territories so that they were slowly beginning to take shape to appear in tracts that we are more familiar with today.
- June 15, 1836, Arkansas was admitted as the 25th state, with Little Rock as the capital.
- By 1861 Arkansas had made the decision to secede from the Union, and it was admitted to the Confederate States of America. However, there were many that were loyal to both the Union and the Confederacy, so Arkansas sent 15,000 troops to fight with the Union and 50,000 troops to fight with the Confederates.
- After the Civil War, reconstruction began in Arkansas to assist in ending the division of the state and the country. However, even in 1868, the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) had many members that were responsible for violence in thirteen counties in Arkansas.
- It took until the 1900s for things to settle down in Arkansas and more growth and prosperity to occur. World War I had many from Arkansas of all colors apply and serve in the military.
- 1932 brought about the first woman to serve in the U.S. Senate: Mrs. Hattie Caraway from Arkansas.
- With the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, many in Arkansas signed up to serve in the military. Arkansas also hosted two internment camps for Japanese Americans in Jerome and Rohwer.
- 1957 brings the light to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, as nine Black American students try to attend an all-white school. They were met with angry threats of violence by the white community, and it required the National Guard to intervene and escort them safely to and from school.
- The 1970s introduce William Clinton as a University Professor, Attorney General, and then in 1986, as Governor of Arkansas. He marries Hillary Rodham Clinton, and then runs again for the position of Governor of Arkansas in 1990 and wins.
- 1992 Bill Clinton runs and wins as the 42nd President of the United States.
- The early 2000s brought about a return to a conservative Republican rule in Arkansas.
- 2010-2011 Flash floods and Mississippi River floods destroy thousands of acres of land and crops.
Arkansas State Information
The state bird of Arkansas is the Northern Mocking Bird
The nickname for Arkansas is The Natural State
The state flower for Arkansas is the Apple Blossom
Arkansas land area is 53,179 square miles
Arkansas has 52 State Parks, seven National Park Service Sites, and 3 national forests that cover over 2.9 million acres.
The history of Arkansas is one that was centered on an agricultural focus and yet has evolved into one that has become one that features business, culture, and transportation as their keystones of success. The state began with plantations and as a cashless society, but is now known for some of the largest retailers in the U.S.: Walmart, Tyson Foods, Dillard’s, J.B. Hunt, Windstream, and Murphy USA.
Arkansas still retains its roots in agriculture with products that include eggs and poultry, sorghum, soybeans, cotton, cattle, milk, rice, and hogs. The industries in the state also include paper products, fabricated metal products, machinery, food processing, and electrical equipment. The mines that are in Arkansas produce crushed stone, vanadium, bromine, and natural gas. Arkansas has boasted of being the 2nd-lowest cost for doing business in the U.S. as well as the 20th best state for business.
As of 2016, the Arkansas GDP was $119.44 billion, ranking it as the 34th state compared to other states in the U.S.