The relentless depopulation of the Delta compelled landowners by the s to accept harvesting technology. Eventually the newly mechanized farms would dwarf the traditional plantations, and soybean and rice production would outstrip cotton in terms of acreage planted and crop value. Rural families watching neighbors pack up for urban opportunities at least had the consolation that they were finally able to enjoy modern appliances and amenities in their rural homes.
Half of Arkansas farms had lights by His anxieties were soon eased as the government transferred properties and equipment to private concerns for a fraction of their value. The withdrawal of federal defense dollars did not sidetrack Arkansas industrialization as agricultural depression and natural disasters had done during the s.
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The number of manufacturing operations in the state in exceeded those in place at the start of the war. Still, Moses did not want to trust the fortunes of his company to the vagaries of national economic trends. In the s, the Arkansas quest to lure new employers was fixed in the statutory code and constitution as local governments were permitted to finance infrastructure improvements to benefit private industries.
In , Winthrop Rockefeller became the first chair of the Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, a streamlined successor to the older Arkansas Resources and Development Commission. The development boosters asserted that these initiatives had enabled Arkansas to surpass the national rate of factory growth. In truth, the food-processing and clothing plants that migrated to the state were influenced by several factors, including a ready surplus of low-wage labor. These non-durable-goods enterprises also posed fewer challenges to the status quo than the metals and chemical industries that persisted from the war era.
The new plants beginning to dot the northern section of the state relied on a largely female work force that was semi-skilled and non-unionized. Even with these new factory jobs, Arkansas women would continue to be less likely to be employed outside the home throughout the s and s. If American homes were crowded with more children after World War II, Arkansas mothers continued to have fewer children than the national average even though they married younger.
The national divorce rate also rose, but Arkansas, as before, remained in the statistical forefront of broken marriages. Buffeted by price swings, firms such as Tyson , OK Mills, and Arkansas Valley Feed pioneered a contract system with chicken producers that stabilized supplies and costs of production. In , the chicken processors formed the Arkansas Poultry Federation, which joined the utilities as a business-lobbying group expecting favorable laws and regulations from state government. Traditional Arkansas politics had been highly decentralized. Local economic elites had expected little from Little Rock other than maintaining low taxes.
The new business interest groups, however, believed that a more professional and efficient government would aid economic development as well as claim a share of the revenues associated with burgeoning federal programs. Arkansas voters supported the shift from local authority and patronage politics by ratifying the constitutional amendment strengthening the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission , approving a initiated act to consolidate small school districts, and assenting to another proposed amendment in to form an autonomous highway commission.
Politics and Reform Governor Ben Laney believed that imposing business efficiency on government operations was the sort of reform consistent with his conservative philosophy. The Revenue Stabilization Act established a budget mechanism that allowed state policymakers for the first time to know for certain what money was available and how it was being spent.
Laney also persuaded lawmakers to organize the Legislative Council to oversee budgets between sessions of the general assembly and to employ staff members who would relieve legislators from depending upon lobbyists to draft legislation. During the session, an infusion of young newcomers, many associated with the movement known as the GI Revolt , backed a series of measures that went beyond the usual narrow, local concerns.
In , Laney did not vie for a third term, and McMath won a run-off against a candidate who campaigned as a stalwart defender of segregation. As a racial moderate, McMath was a rare Southern politician untroubled by the civil rights initiatives set forth by President Harry Truman and national Democratic party leadership.
Prominent Southern Democrats, however, resorted to secession from their party and nominated J. Like Laney, McMath prized government efficiency but held that public aid and favorable treatment should be not granted only to influential business and agricultural interests.
The governor promoted stiffer factory safety regulations and a higher minimum wage. He also appointed the first black members to state boards and increased funding for the chronically under-funded Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical, and Normal College, the historically black college in Pine Bluff now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
McMath met a formidable adversary when he crossed swords with Hamilton Moses over the state support for a new generating station for the state electrical cooperatives. McMath launched an unprecedented highway construction program, but a highway audit commission in concluded that the administration had awarded road contracts to campaign contributors. The hint of scandal—along with the opposition of U. Senator John L. The election in of Francis Cherry as governor brought to office an east Arkansas judge who adhered to old-fashioned fiscal stringency. Surprisingly to some observers, the May U.
Supreme Court decision in Brown v.
Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas , which deemed segregated schools unconstitutional, did not heat up the debate among the candidates. Faubus unseated Cherry, who once again misunderstood the political landscape and attempted to smear the WWII veteran for his enrollment twenty years earlier at Commonwealth College , a radical labor school in Mena Polk County. Board of Education remained a minor issue in the campaign reflected the generally measured response by state officials to earlier civil rights rulings.
When the whites-only election primary was struck down in , the Arkansas Democratic Party constructed an elaborate system to limit black voting but abandoned the effort by More important than the erosion of legal barriers to voting was the migration of black citizens away from the plantations of rural oligarchs. Black voter participation grew through the mobilization efforts of the Committee on Negro Organizations, founded in by Harold Flowers. In , Flowers, the preeminent black attorney of his era, escorted Silas Hunt when he enrolled at the University of Arkansas School of Law as the first black student admitted to a postgraduate program in the state.
Laney opposed the federal court decision that opened professional schools to black students but acquiesced after the dean of the law school explained that resistance would be futile, expensive, and self-defeating. In most Southern states following the Brown decision, political and school leaders delayed action until the Supreme Court detailed how rapidly and how extensively desegregation should proceed. Hundreds of school districts in border states such as Missouri and Kentucky, however, officially integrated. School boards in the three Arkansas districts of Charleston Franklin County , Fayetteville Washington County , and Sheridan Grant County were the first within the boundaries of the former Confederacy to vote to have black and white students sit in the same classrooms.
No incidents erupted during the first year of desegregation in Charleston or Fayetteville, which were mountain locales with relatively few black students. In addition, black and white leaders in Fayetteville held community meetings prior to the opening of the school year and gained an agreement with the local newspaper to keep the news out of the headlines. Events followed a different course in Sheridan, a south Arkansas community with a larger proportion of black citizens. One day after voting to desegregate, the school board reversed itself in the face of a forceful white backlash.
Although segregation was preserved, angry speeches and threats at a subsequent mass meeting led to the resignation of all but one school board member. Soon, an exodus of black residents, which made Sheridan a nearly all-white community, settled the matter. In , the U. In contrast to the Sheridan leaders, Hoxie school board directors did not buckle despite sustained harassment and demands for their ouster at raucous public rallies. Segregationist agitators such as James Johnson and Amis Guthridge retreated when the school board secured a federal injunction banning activities that hampered the implementation of desegregation.
Civil rights movement
Yet defeat at Hoxie prepared the white militants for upcoming battles against desegregation. Blossom assured influential figures that his plan of minimal compliance with court rulings would not provoke segregationist reprisals. Nevertheless, the ardent segregationists mobilized for battle. Faubus gained reelection by promising to protect segregated institutions without unleashing the disorder and extremism associated with the Johnson forces.
After his defeat, Johnson welcomed the chance to force the governor to either defend segregation or accept responsibility for its demise. Faubus believed that following the law spelled his political doom, and he risked open defiance of federal authority by using the state guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering Central High on the first day of the school year.
President Dwight Eisenhower negotiated with the Arkansas governor and believed he had persuaded Faubus to accept desegregation. This policy of accommodation fell apart when Faubus left Central High unprotected, and over a 1, white protestors rioted as the black students attempted on September 23 to re-enter the school. Television cameras caught the fury of the crowd and introduced Americans across the nation to the hardening battle lines over civil rights. Eisenhower dispatched the st Airborne Division to enforce the court orders. Throughout the remainder of the school year, either U.
Segregationists mounted grassroots campaign to provoke and publicize turmoil in the school to demonstrate that desegregation was unworkable. If Johnson took satisfaction in backing Faubus into the radical segregationist corner, he also came to understand that Faubus had displaced him as the popular champion of resistance. Faubus burnished his militant credentials by sponsoring a successful bill during a special session in that closed Little Rock high schools, subject to a local referendum. In September , Little Rock voters favored keeping the schools closed to preserve them from integration.
The silence of empty classrooms echoed the silence of local business and professional men. The WEC emphasized through speeches and circulars that closed schools threatened stability and prosperity.
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The white business leadership belatedly entered the fray when segregationist school board members engineered the purging of forty-four teachers and staff. A recall election in May ousted the segregationists from the board and paved the way for high school classes to resume in the fall. The legacy of the crisis was varied. The Little Rock African-American community had discredited the official flouting of the law and segregationist extremism through the clear defiance of violence and intimidation.
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The WEC broke from the older forms of female activism tied to the prohibition of liquor and suffrage. Faubus continued to thunder anti-integration rhetoric but avoided another showdown with national authorities. While denouncing the federal government, the governor also raised taxes and bolstered government services. This formula of catering to the right while advancing government modernization kept him in office for an unprecedented six terms. Industry and Entertainment Although the Little Rock school crisis discouraged new employers from locating in the city, manufacturing growth continued to surge in the state as a whole through the s.
The poultry firms secured better prices by processing ready-to-cook chickens to appeal to women who continued to cook and shop for their households. These companies also stimulated the expansion of long-distance trucking firms in northwest Arkansas.
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