African Americans of Arkansas

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D., FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Arkansas Family History Research series.
History of Arkansas
Arkansas Vital Records
Census Records for Arkansas
Background Sources for Arkansas
Arkansas Maps
Arkansas Land Records
Arkansas Probate Records
Arkansas Court Records
Arkansas Tax Records
Arkansas Cemetery Records
Arkansas Church Records
Arkansas Military Records
Arkansas Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Arkansas Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Arkansas Naturalization
Native Americans of Arkansas
African Americans of Arkansas
Arkansas County Resources
Map of Arkansas


A few African-American slaves were in Arkansas before the Louisiana Purchase; however, after statehood, many moved into Arkansas with migrating white families coming from Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Their lives were primarily tied to the delta region in the southeastern part of the state where a plantation economy existed. In addition to copies of the slave enumerations associated with the federal census (see page 3) located at the Arkansas History Commission, Freedmen’s Bureau records (see page[]) in the National Archives are a valuable source for research on African-American families in Arkansas.

The Butler Center for Arkansas Studies includes African-American history online sites through www.cals.lib.ar.us. Among other data, one can access a “Selected Arkansas Black Bibliography,” a list of African-American Arkansas newspapers from 1869 to date, and a list of African-American Arkansas schools. The Arkansas History Commission maintains a list of African-American newspapers on its website.

A succinct history and background of African Americans in Arkansas is provided through www.afrigeneas.com/states/ar/. This site also links with several others with record lists, including a few Civil War units, state and local resources, and other Arkansas history links. Of special interest is the Arkansas Freedman’s Bureau marriage records at www.freedmensbureau.com/arkansas/arkansasmarriages.htm.

A recently re-released work deals with slavery issues in the state. Orville W. Taylor, Negro Slavery in Arkansas (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000), with an introduction by Carl Moneyhan, is based on previously unpublished sources such as diaries, plantation records, letters, family papers, church, city, and county records.

The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society maintains a chapter for the state. The address is AAHGS, P.O. Box 4294, Little Rock, AR 72214. Someone from the group can be reached by e-mail contact at <TRTL0793@aol.com>.

The Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee collects African-American historical materials for the Arkansas History Commission, encourages research, and cooperates with the Arkansas Department of Education to develop historical materials for use in public schools. The historical materials collected by the committee include letters, diaries, journals, business records, photographs, church and lodge records, personal memoirs, and other related documents.

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