Sanders’ school reforms don’t address the problems

Newly installed Arkansas Governor Sanders could have picked any number of other issues more critical to the welfare of Arkansas residents than CRT. Her decision to address Critical Race Theory signals her lack of insight or, more likely, her debt to her behind-the-scenes bosses who care nothing for Arkansas citizens—with the exception of manipulating them into voting Republican.

Like her predecessors in the Arkansas state house, Sanders won office with the votes of a minority of eligible voters. Over 1.79 million Arkansans are eligible, but only 50.8% of them voted, meaning that Sanders won office with the votes of only 31.9% of eligible voters. Arkansas ranks last in both voter turnout and registration and has the highest absentee ballot rejection rate in the nation. This parallels other low rankings of the state:

  • 44th in health matters. Measures contributing to Arkansas’s low overall performance include the number of adults who have lost six or more teeth, adults without dental visits, and premature deaths from treatable causes — all measures for which Arkansas is ranked last among states. Other factors include the number of children who are overweight or obese, the number of adults with any mental illness reporting unmet needs, and preventable hospitalizations for adults ages 18–64.[1]
  • 47th in education, based on factors including educational attainment, school quality and achievement gaps between genders and races[2]
  • 43rd in economic activity, economic health, and a state’s innovation potential[3]
  • 4th worst state to live in, with the breakdown as follows:
    • 35th – Homeownership Rate
    • 45th – % of Population in Poverty
    • 18th – Income Growth
    • 29th – % of Insured Population
    • 48th – % of Adults in Fair or Poor Health
    • 42nd – Average Weekly Work Hours[4]
  • 2nd unhappiest state based on employment, leisure activities, mental health, personal finance, personal relationships, physical health, and social policies[5]
  • 3rd highest in pornography use[6]
  • 2nd in teen pregnancy with 27.8 per 1,000 – Sex education is allowed but not required, and local districts largely sidestep the topic. Arkansas schools are not required to offer instruction on HIV or STIs. Further, sex education—in the rare instances it is offered—is hamstrung with multiple restrictions:
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum must stress abstinence.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on consent.
    • If sex education is offered, curriculum is not required to include instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding the ability of parents and guardians to remove their children from sex education instruction.
    • Arkansas has no standard regarding medically accurate sex education instruction. However, instruction on dating violence must be based on scientific research.
  • Children in foster care (2022): 4,127.  Households with grandparents responsible for grandchildren under age 18: 70,290[7]
  • 5th highest incarceration rate of all states, higher than the national rate[8]
  • Poverty rate
    • Extreme poverty 9%
    • Poverty rate 16.2%
    • Working family under 200% of poverty line 39.4%
    • Percent of jobs that are low-wage 30.1%

In a 2014 study, of the total eligible voters in the state, 46% were Republican, 38% Democrat, and 16% non-affiliated. Evangelicals comprise 61% of Republican voters, 29% of Democrat, and 11% of non-affiliated. Predictably, Republican voters are less educated, with 42% with high school or less, 34% with some college, 17% with a college degree, and 6% with post-graduate degree compared to Democratic voters with 52% high school or less, 30% some college, 9% college graduate, and 9% with post graduate degree.[9]

While Sanders states her priority is education improvement, the areas of education which she targeted in her statement are very limited. Aside from banning CRT, she has nominated Jacob Oliva to head the Department of Education. Oliva has previously served that role in Florida, where ‘Don’t Say Gay’ has been one of the guiding mantras of the DeSantis administration; the measure “contains language to prevent the ‘instruction’ or ‘discussion’ of sexual orientation and gender identity at certain grade levels and in an ‘age-appropriate’ way. The vagueness of the law has called into question how teachers could handle teaching history or questions raised in class about sexual orientation.”[10]

Undoubtedly the most destructive education measure touted by Sanders is the voucher option for parents, which Sanders vows to enact. The National Education Association explains why vouchers are not in America’s best interests:

  • No matter how you look at it, vouchers undermine strong public education and student opportunity. They take scarce funding from public schools—which serve 90 percent of students—and give it to private schools—institutions that are not accountable to taxpayers. This means public school students have less access to music instruments and science equipment, modern technology and textbooks, and after-school programs.  Moreover, there is ZERO statistical significance that voucher programs improve overall student success, and some programs have even shown to have a NEGATIVE effect for students receiving a voucher. Furthermore, vouchers have been shown to not support students with disabilities, they fail to protect the human and civil rights of students, and they exacerbate segregation.
  • Vouchers were first created after the Supreme Court banned school segregation with its ruling in Brown v Board of Education. School districts used vouchers to enable white students to attend private schools, which could (and still can) limit admission based on race. As a result, the schools that served those white students were closed, and schools that served black students remained chronically underfunded. The pattern of discrimination continues with vouchers today. Unlike public schools, private schools can (and some do) limit their admission based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and any other number of factors. Furthermore, vouchers rarely cover the full tuition, so families who were promised a better education are left footing the bill.  

Many Arkansas parents are strongly evangelical and would prefer religion and prayer be included in their children’s education. But we’ve already been there.

  • The Supreme Court entered the evolution debate in 1968, when it ruled, in Epperson v. Arkansas, that Arkansas could not eliminate from the high school biology curriculum the teaching of “the theory that mankind descended from a lower order of animals.” Arkansas’ exclusion of that aspect of evolutionary theory, the court reasoned, was based on a preference for the account of creation in the book of Genesis and thus violated the state’s constitutional obligation of religious neutrality.

We’ve seen what can occur when religious belief usurps rational education. The Duggar family homeschooled their children in ‘devout Christian beliefs’ including oldest child Josh Duggar who, after molesting his younger sisters and their friends, is serving a twelve-year prison term for ‘receiving’ child pornography. Reports state that Jim Bob Duggar consulted ‘church elders’ who apparently did not urge him to report his son’s abuse to the authorities. Josh’s parents kept it secret until the statute of limitations had expired.

In fact, it was this nest of evangelical excess in Springdale from which sprang the Reverend Ronnie Floyd. The following is excerpted from Wikipedia’s page on Floyd:

  • A strong advocate of evangelism and discipleship, Floyd was a member of the “conservative resurgence” that retook control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) during the 1980s. In 1989 he was a candidate to become president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, but was defeated by Mike Huckabee.  …On June 10, 2014, Dr. Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the SBC’s annual gathering held in Baltimore. Upon close of the meeting, he became the 61st president of the SBC, succeeding the Rev. Fred Lute. …In October, 2019, at a conference regarding care for those who have been sexually abused in Christian contexts, Rachael Denhollander referenced abusive treatment of a sexual abuse victim by Dr. Floyd and other leaders at the Executive Committee as an example of why those who are abused are reticent to report.
  • Subsequently, in May, 2021, multiple internal whistle blower reports alleged Dr. Floyd had actively sought to intimidate victims, advocates, and stall progress in the sexual abuse inquiry within the Southern Baptist Convention. …In an unprecedented move following weeks of turmoil over allegations of Floyd’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention voted to mandate an independent third party investigation into the Executive Committee’s handling of sexual abuse cases, victims, and advocates, including an investigation into Dr. Floyd’s actions.
  • …Floyd’s leadership was marked by yet another unprecedented milestone for the Southern Baptist Convention when he and the Executive Committee trustees failed to fully comply with the directive of the Convention’s delegates when, amidst calls for his removal and a tumultuous trustee meeting, Floyd’s resistance to complete transparency and participation in the commissioned abuse task force was supported by the Executive Committee trustees.

Floyd subsequently resigned after the independent investigation revealed that Floyd’s committee members responded to sexual abuse survivors with “resistance, stonewalling and even outright hostility” to nearly two decades of allegations against clergy. According to the report, the group kept a secret, running list of accused Baptist ministers to avoid being sued – even as the committee publicly claimed it didn’t have the authority to create such a list. A LIST OF BAPTIST MINISTERS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE!

While multiple sexual abuse scandals within churches is not the topic at hand, hardly a week passes without yet another report of sexual misdeeds by pastors, youth counselors, or other church personnel. To a disinterested bystander, it seems the frantic outrage over drag queens (who, incidentally, are rarely if ever accused of sexual misconduct) would be more appropriately directed toward religious leaders. To assume that children are ‘safer’ or more lovingly educated within the context of parochial schools is yet another example of willful ignorance. Yet Sanders, herself the child of a Baptist minister, is apparently blind to this hypocrisy.

Republicans routinely cultivate a receptive audience of voters by spotlighting hot button issues such as abortion, homosexuality, ‘woke’ culture, and religion, yet there is scant evidence that any of their radical rhetoric or legislation has any positive impact on the troubles Arkansas faces. [Based on the outraged edicts from evangelicals, a casual observer might assume that it’s drag queens abusing all these children rather than religious leaders. Strangely, no record of drag queen abuses is found.] Children still leave their school years without the ability to read or reason, without understanding of how the government works or the scientific method, without the skills necessary to negotiate life in the modern world.

Some of this results from the parents’ inadequacy in time or knowledge, a generational failing in many Arkansas households. But it can be argued that the greater failing is in Arkansas’ penchant for electing more of the same, people like Sanders, who can’t seem to grasp the actual needs of Arkansas children—not banning CRT or saying ‘gay,’ not siphoning tax dollars away from public schools, not school prayer or any of the other worthless ideas promoted by Republicans. What is needed is for government to get its foot off the neck of teachers and offer much higher pay in order to attract skilled instructors who know how to engage students in the love of learning.


[1] https://achi.net/newsroom/arkansas-ranked-44th-among-states-in-health-system-performance-scorecard/

[2] https://www.kark.com/news/state-news/arkansas-among-least-educated-states-study-says/

[3] https://www.thecentersquare.com/arkansas/report-ranks-arkansas-as-one-of-the-ten-worst-economies-in-the-u-s/article_97cf8c72-e679-11ec-8105-8753bf509325.html

[4] https://www.nwahomepage.com/news/report-arkansas-is-2022s-4th-worst-state-to-live-in/

[5] https://www.ozarksfirst.com/news/missouri-news/missouri-arkansas-rank-as-some-of-unhappiest-states-in-us/

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20160416220848/http://www.cyberpsychology.eu:80/ view.php?cisloclanku=2015120302

[7] https://spotlightonpoverty.org/states/arkansas/

[8] https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/incarceration-rates-by-state

[9] “Party affiliation among adults in Arkansas,” Pew Research Center, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/state/arkansas/party-affiliation/

The Agenda of Gov. Sarah H. Sanders

Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has raised the colors for her term at the helm of the ship of this state. Not that these are ‘her’ colors, per se, but rather edicts scripted for her by her bosses behind the Republican curtain. These are the same entities who put her in front of a microphone to lie for Trump as his press secretary, apparently under the promise that they would support her efforts toward future political office.

Evidence of her bought-and-paid-for status can be found in the immediate issuance of her ban on Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the public schools. The boiler-plate executive order commands, in part, that the Arkansas Department of Education:

“Review the rules, regulations, policies, materials, and communications of the Department of Education to identify any items that may, purposely or otherwise, promote teaching that would indoctrinate students with ideologies, such as CRT, that conflict with the principle of equal protection under the law or encourage students to discriminate against someone based on the individual’s color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law.”

Sanders’ measure is put forth as enforcement of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241), which was established to ensure equal rights to everyone.

“People of one color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law are inherently superior or inferior to people of another color, creed, race, ethnicity, sex, age, marital status, familial status, disability, religion, national origin, or any other characteristic protected by federal or state law…”

This and similar bans present two absurdities. One, the ban alleges that efforts to reduce and/or eliminate the negative impact of entrenched racism are a form of racism. Two, the ban demonstrates either an utter lack of understanding of CRT or an ingrained denial of systemic racism, either of which would be remedied by a study of CRT. The rightwing furor over CRT is a perfect example of racist thinking and reassures its racist followers that rightwing Republicans will resist any effort to encourage white people to think equitably of their darker-skinned brethren.

Critical Race Theory advances the idea that multiple aspects of American law, institutions, and social structures enshrine racist ideas. Wikipedia describes the tenets of CRT as follows:

“Scholars of CRT say that race is not “biologically grounded and natural”; rather, it is a socially constructed category used to oppress and exploit people of color; and that racism is not an aberration, but a normalized feature of American society. According to CRT, negative stereotypes assigned to members of minority groups benefit white people and increase racial oppression. Individuals can belong to a number of different identity groups…

“Derrick Albert Bell Jr. (1930 – 2011), an American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist, writes that racial equality is ”impossible and illusory” and that racism in the U.S. is permanent. According to Bell, civil-rights legislation will not on its own bring about progress in race relations; alleged improvements or advantages to people of color “tend to serve the interests of dominant white groups,” in what Bell calls “interest convergence.” These changes do not typically affect—and at times even reinforce—racial hierarchies. This is representative of the shift in the 1970s, in Bell’s re-assessment of his earlier desegregation work as a civil rights lawyer. He was responding to the Supreme Court’s decisions that had resulted in the re-segregation of schools.

“The concept of standpoint theory became particularly relevant to CRT when it was expanded to include a black feminist standpoint by Patricia Hill Collins. First introduced by feminist sociologists in the 1980s, standpoint theory holds that people in marginalized groups, who share similar experiences, can bring a collective wisdom and a unique voice to discussions on decreasing oppression. In this view, insights into racism can be uncovered by examining the nature of the U.S. legal system through the perspective of the everyday lived experiences of people of color.

“According to Encyclopedia Britannica, tenets of CRT have spread beyond academia, and are used to deepen understanding of socio-economic issues such as “poverty, police brutality, and voting rights violations,” that are impacted by the ways in which race and racism are “understood and misunderstood” in the United States.[1]

Conservatives, including Governor Sanders’ managers, look for any advances toward greater social equity as a destructive force to their world view. Or, perhaps more to the point, greater acceptance of social equity would reduce or eliminate race as a hot button issue in driving Republican voters to the ballot box.

“One conservative organization, the Heritage Foundation, recently attributed a whole host of issues to CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and organizations, California’s recent ethnic studies model curriculum, the free-speech debate on college campuses, and alternatives to exclusionary discipline—such as the Promise program in Broward County, Fla., that some parents blame for the Parkland school shootings. “When followed to its logical conclusion, CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization claimed.”[2]

“[On the other hand,] Leading critical race theory scholars view the GOP-led measures as hijacking the national conversation about racial inequality that gained momentum after the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minnesota. Some say the ways Republicans describe it are unrecognizable to them. Cheryl Harris, a UCLA law professor who teaches a course on the topic, said it’s a myth that critical race theory teaches hatred of white people and is designed to perpetuate divisions in American society. Instead, she said she believes the proposals limiting how racism can be discussed in the classroom have a clear political goal: “to ensure that Republicans can win in 2022.”[3]

Other early signals from oligarchs behind Sanders’ governorship include her push for school vouchers whereby tax dollars can be funneled into religious and private schools who can offer non-scientific theories of human origin and alternative histories while ignoring important preparation for citizenship such as debate and civics. Sanders also has plans to address the state’s shortcomings in prison space, although it is doubtful this will translate into an innovative look at ways to reduce the demand. More likely, her ‘reforms’ will mean spending more of the state’s scarce tax dollars on building more prisons in order to, as she has stated, requiring prisoners to serve out their full terms.

Speaking of tax dollars, Sanders also plans to reduce taxes with the goal of eliminating income tax. Her plan for accomplishing this pipe dream is to find ways for the state to operate more efficiently. Her campaign statement on this topic hints at the real goal:

“When I take office, we will work on responsibly phasing out the state income tax to reward work – NOT government dependency – and let you keep more of your hard-earned money in the failing Biden economy,” Sanders said in a Twitter post.

According to critics, this is simply the latest Republican iteration of their efforts to please their masters: “to wreck the state’s fiscal system so that people of inherited riches or high incomes will never again have to worry about paying much in the way of taxes to support education, health care and law enforcement — i.e. government services for the needy and the commoners, for which a few comfortable people think they should not have to pay.”[4]

With all cannons on deck loaded with her preprogrammed agenda, we can be certain this is only the beginning of pushing Arkansas further into the sea floor. Ironically, argument can be made that the label ‘ideologies’ such as forbidden in the CRT ban could be assigned to religion, i.e. “the beliefs and practices of that religion [which] support powerful groups in society, effectively keeping the existing ruling class, or elites, in power.”[5]


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_race_theory

[2] Sawchuk, Stephen. “What Is Critical Race Theory and Why Is It Under Attack?” Education Week, Ma 18, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @  https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05

[3] “Critical race theory is a flashpoint for conservatives, but what does it mean?” PBS Newshour, Nov 4, 2021. Accessed Jan 12, 2023 @ https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/so-much-buzz-but-what-is-critical-race-theory

[4] https://arktimes.com/columns/ernest-dumas/2022/08/25/a-point-of-no-return-an-end-to-income-tax-in-arkansas-would-be-permanent

[5] https://revisesociology.com/2018/11/09/is-religion-ideological/

The Cold

Memories of winter’s challenges rise up to nourish me on these days, recollections of times when hardships were met and I was satisfied with my refuge, my larder, my conquest of the elements. In more distant times, I might have twisted strands of wool or linen and watched the wheel spin it to thread, or pounded clothes in a hot kettle for cleaning, or ground corn between stones to make coarse bread. I might have wrapped my children in animal skins and tied my own feet in fur before braving the cold for more wood, or brought the livestock into the other end of a rough cabin to keep them from freezing in the long nights.

How did I, of all my previous iterations, manage to occur here, now, where everything I need comes more or less effortlessly—the twist of a knob, click of a button, the turn of a key? A house with insulated walls and thick glass that keep in the warmth and allow me to watch frozen rain fall from gray-white clouds. What future embodiments of myself will wonder back on this time, and what will they know? What I don’t know. What I can imagine for better. Or worse.

I don’t have to figure it out. Anyway, I can’t. Better to turn to the pan and stir the soup, add another log to the fire, stand at the window longer and marvel at the shades of gray and rust among the trees of the woods, the white of the sky and ground. Soon the scene will explode in infinite shades of green and heat will soak the edges. I’ll be pleased then to remember this cold.

Winter

By two a.m. the fire in the woodstove had died down enough that the cold took over. Under heavy blankets and comforter, I could feel the temperature dropping in the house. The electric radiator in the bedroom is no match for six degrees, even with window curtains pulled tight.

A quick trip to the bathroom brought me shivering back to the bed. With the covers pulled up to my nose, I imagined myself not in this last century of modern comforts but rather in the earlier vast millennia of human existence. The cave, skin-covered hut or even the wooden long house would have been far colder, warmed only by open hearth fires and our breath. Heavy furs of mammoth or bear lay under and over us as we curled our knees to our chest and ducked our cold ears into the hidden warmth.

Fire tenders dragged long dead limbs further into the blaze and tugged their fur cloaks around their shoulders, watching as sparks flew into the air and ensuring the fire stayed in its place. Cabbages, apples, onions, and turnips rested in straw lined pits, safe from the cold, and around the perimeter of the shelter, chunks of meat sat semi-frozen, waiting to be brought to the flat rocks at the fire’s edge to drip fat and send up tantalizing aroma. Even then, as food cooked, as men dragged in more wood from the pile near the shelter’s door, we kept our furs tucked over us, waiting for spring.

In the long hours of midwinter night, sleep comes and goes. Fantastical dreams shift us from our known world, so that we fly into the future or past. I relived the death of a loved one and the loss resonated through me, and then magical knowledge enabled me to speed backwards in time with him until I found a new path, a year when a different choice meant longer life, and even before that, an even better restart. Our lives moved forward from there and when we came to the fatal day, he lived.

What was the magic? In the dream, I told myself I would remember. But I don’t. I remember that it was simple, that if I had let myself know what I really know, it would have been obvious. But it’s not. The rational mind is no friend in this.

Other visions of long sleep arise and fade, memories recast in distorted frames, possible futures emblazoned on unfamiliar horizons. The mysteries of embodiment tease around the edges, other forms, foreign memories. Deep in the warm thicket of my bed, I am free to fly away and see it all.

My feet find warm spots at the dog’s side, where the cat lies curled. A screech owl screams its cry at the wood’s edge. At the three a.m. passing of the train, its distant warning echoes up from the valley and sets the coyotes singing. At four-thirty, I’m awake again, fresh from another restive dream, and wondering if I should brave the cold to start new fire.

I wait, snuggled in all my wealth of warmth, finding one comfortable position, then another, until the night starts to lighten and the dogs go outside. Now the quick wood catches in its cove of dried twigs and crumpled newspaper, and the cast iron around it warms. I make tea, open the curtains to stare out at the pale blue and pink world of frigid dawn. Winter sets its own rhythm, and I am content to follow.

Second Glimpses of Fayetteville’s Past

While five of the articles in this collection are entirely new, the other four have been previously published in Flashback, the quarterly journal of the Washington County Historical Society, Fayetteville, Arkansas, or in one of my books, as follows:

Chapter 1 – New! Daguerreotype was the first form of photography, and Washington County had several daguerreotype professionals in the years before the Civil War. The story follows Anderson Frieze and documents others in this image-making profession circa 1850-1880.

Chapter 2 – This article has been expanded with additional information about the Yoes family from the time of their immigration from Germany through three generations. Previously published in various parts in The West Fork Valley: The West Fork of White River, Arkansas, Its Environs & Settlement before 1900.

Chapter 3 – This award-winning article about Jesse Gilstrap tracks his travel to the gold fields of 1850 California, his inventions and millwright operations in south Washington County, and his efforts on behalf of the Union during the Civil War. Published in 2018, Flashback.

Chapter 4 – Mostly new! An earlier brief version of this story examining the murder of a man on a downtown sidewalk in Fayetteville appeared in Murder in the County: 50 True Stories of the Old West.

Chapter 5 – New! “The Final Abuse of Ann Jarvis” recounts the horrific murder of a wife and mother in a case of extreme domestic violence and mental illness.

Chapter 6 – New! “Fayetteville’s Immoral Houses” uncovers the previously hidden world of prostitution in Fayetteville.

Chapter 7 – This exposé of an auto theft ring operating in Fayetteville in the 1930s previously appeared in Flashback.

Chapter 8 – New! Circuses drew enormous crowds through the 19th and early 20th centuries, even to locations like Fayetteville whose population at the time of the first circus was less than 1,000 people.

Chapter 9 – The story of the Brumfields and their fated dream to build Fayetteville’s Downtown Motor Lodge appeared previously in Flashback. This article tracks the rise and fall of that dream to the vacant lot that scars Fayetteville’s downtown today.

Great last minute gift! Paperback $11.95 Amazon

The Family Histories of Breckenridge, Williams, Morrow,

Smelser, Andrews, Clark, Hall, Massey, and Eubanks

Plus Lovelady and Futrell

in Greene County, Arkansas

Combining generations of family history and up-to-date genealogical information, this collection of ancestry information tracks a group of families which settled in Greene County, Arkansas in the first two decades of statehood. Family trees, deed records, census records, and other official records create a factual framework for personal narratives and vintage photographs, creating a fascinating archive of information for any descendant of these families as well as any fan of local history.

Each marriage between these pioneer families brought certain talents and backgrounds to the next generation. They farmed the rich land of Crowley’s Ridge and other Greene County areas, weathered the storms of poverty and loss, and suffered the losses to sickness and war. Yet they survived, and their great-grandchildren entered the twentieth century determined to continue as they had begun.

Now the 21st century brings us the internet with its vast collection of historical documents, making it finally possible to reflect on their adventures and aspirations. The story of these families is the story of thousands of us descended from them. Includes an extensive ‘vocabulary’ of downhome sayings.

Paperback $14.95, Amazon

The Music Men of Turn-of-the-Century Fayetteville

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, the world of entertainment experienced a massive shift. The invention of electronic media—radio, recordings, movies—brought music to remote homes and new audiences. Sweeping Fayetteville, Arkansas, and its outlying areas before its new wave, the familiar sounds of minstrels and brass bands soon made room for opera, jazz, and the Roaring Twenties.

Key to these transformations were three men and an innovation in the Black community, each taken singly in these chapters. Frank Barr spanned the days of military brass bands to the innovation of his boys’ band that performed soundtracks for silent movies. Henry Tovey, an import from the conservatories of Illinois, took the University of Arkansas fine arts program to unexpected fame. Owen Mitchell, a musician of unusual talent, embraced jazz and led one of the area’s most popular swing bands. Finally, the Black Diamond Orchestra rose from the heart of Fayetteville’s Black community to popular acclaim across the region.

The world of entertainment enjoyed by so many today grew from these roots, from the talented few who generously shared their knowledge and passion and gave music a future of unexpected and thrilling potential.

Paperback $19.95 Amazon Also available at Headquarters House, Washington County Historical Society, 118 W. Dickson

When Fayetteville Moved on Four Hooves

These are the stories of the innkeepers, stagecoach lines, and stablemen who served Fayetteville, Arkansas—and the region—for the first one hundred years. Travelers and new arrivals, salesmen and politicians, and shipments of food and goods all depended on horses, mules, oxen, stagecoaches, wagons, and buggies to carry out their plans. The animals required shelter, experienced care, feed, and hay. An array of craftsmen—wagon makers, blacksmiths, farmers, saddle makers, and farriers—supported the transportation industry, ensuring that the various needs of this expansive industry were met.

Who were the men who established inns, built stables, and bought sturdy stagecoaches? Where did they come from and how did they end up here? What experiences taught them the skills needed to fulfill their ambitions?

These fascinating biographical sketches along with vintage photographs re-create a time long gone, but not forgotten.

Paperback $19.95 Amazon

I’ll be on hand to sign copies 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. December 11, Washington County Historical Society 118 West Dickson, Fayetteville

A Pitts Family History

A Survey of English Ancestral Origins, Colonial Connections, and Proven Descendants

This genealogical study of one particular lineage of the many Pitts in America surveys the ancient origins of the Pitts name, the Pitt notables of English history, and the arrival of Pitt/Pitts in the American colonies. Discussion of ancestral Pitt/Pitts in England and American colonies leads to identified ancestors.

At the time of the first U.S. census in 1790, the Pitts ancestors of our interest live in Newberry County, South Carolina. Among the households of Pitts, we find Thomas Pitts and his son Elijah and follow Elijah into Overton County, Tennessee by the early 19th century.

By 1850, the federal census records Elijah’s sons Hiram and Levi in Johnson and Pope counties, Arkansas, working as farmers in the fertile bottomlands of the Arkansas River valley.

Details of Pitts participation in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War are included as well as information about the wives of Elijah’s sons. Subsequent generations are shown up to 1950 as this history narrows down to the life and offspring of Levi’s youngest son, Charles McDonald Pitts.

Full of descriptive details garnered from multiple sources, this family history relies on Ancestry.com, online genealogical resources, census records, wills, deeds, and military records, family histories recorded in family Bibles, letters, and notes, as well as research at cemeteries, churches, and courthouses. Vintage photographs of some family members are also included.

Other families include Matthews, Crabtree, Bilbrey, Davis, Bynum, Parker, Rose, and West.

Paperback $11.95, Amazon

Gas, Grass & Ass: Adventures in Rural America, 1973

Seeking a self-sustaining life outside the city and a new start for her marriage, this twenty-five-year old a woman boldly embarked on proprietorship of a full-service gas station along a highway in rural Arkansas. Her hope to live and work at her own place of business soon encountered not only the end of her marriage but also the entrenched conservatism of the rural South. Joyful in recounting her experiences with an endlessly astonishing parade of human nature, Campbell portrays a unique slice of American life at a pivotal time with the fall of Richard Nixon’s presidency and the end of the Vietnam War. Buoyed by a wellspring of support and companionship, Campbell struggles to hang on to her dream of independence.

5-star review: “Gas, Grass, and Ass,” is not just a catchy title. This is a slice of life story straddling time between being a young married college grad to being a young divorcee running a gas station in very small town Arkansas/America. In that way it’s a slice of history of the time, but more so it is a slice of how much and how little has changed about how we treat each other. Assuming that because she was a single (divorced!) woman running a business on the side of the highway made her fair game for sexual advances and gossip, the “locals” decided her business success or failure, rewards and punishments. I think the writing is exceptional because if you’ve ever walked into one of these little gas stations where old men like to congregate and watch the world from their bench, you will find yourself right back in that space again. Well-worth the read.

Paperback $9.95 Amazon