The United States of America is a Federation of 50 States. Each State has its own unique history and each state and has contributed uniquely to making the United States the world leader in the economic, political and cultural spheres. Arkansas is the smallest state west of the Mississippi River. It is surrounded by Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Arkansas has 6 districts and 500 municipalities or counties. The local government covers all essential services like roads, water supply, education and waste disposal. The capital is Little Rock.
FACT 1: The name Arkansas was given by early French explorers. It refers to the word Arkansea. The indigenous people the Quapaw, were referred to as Arkansea by the Illinois, who were also an indigenous tribe.
FACT 2: The first Europeans to visit were the Spanish. Hernando De Soto reached the Arkansas River in 1541. At that time there were tens of thousands of Native Americans living in villages near the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers.
FACT 3: In 1686 the first European settlement was established by the French in the Lower Mississippi region. By the mid 18th century France became a dominant power in the region. The Mississippi River was crucial to the survival of the infant United States. US president Thomas Jefferson entered into negotiations with Napoleon Bonaparte and
purchased the territory under the Louisiana Pact of 1803.
FACT 4: The territory of the state lay within Louisiana and Missouri. Arkansas achieved statehood in 1836. The US Congress withdrew all land titles of the Quapaw, Caddo, Cherokee, Osage and Choctaw. These indigenous people were forced to move west to the land that is now Oklahoma State.
FACT 4: The European settlers who occupied the land brought with them many slaves from Africa and this free labour made Arkansas an agricultural state dependent on slave labour. In 1861 it was the ninth state to secede from the Union. However North Arkansas sided with the Union and many young men joined the Union troops. Many also joined the Confederates and the State became a target for both the North and South.
FACT 5: In 1954, the US Supreme Court ordered integration in Public Schools. Little Rock High Central School became the centre of national and international attention, when nine black students were denied admission. This led to a confrontation between the Arkansas Governor, Orval Faubus and President Eisenhower. The US Army had to be sent in to protect the nine students from the angry mobs. The school had to be patrolled inside and out till the end of the year.
FACT 6: Dr. GW Ish was an eminent doctor from Arkansas. He played a crucial role in the introduction of isoniazid and streptomycin in the treatment of Tuberculosis. Bill Clinton the 42nd President of the US (1993-2001) came from Hope, Arkansas.
FACT 7: Many famous musicians have come from Arkansas. Among them are Scott Joplin, ’Father of Rag Time Music, singer and song writer Al Green from Forrest City.
FACT 8: William Grant Still, ‘The Dean of Black Composers’ is the first African American to have had his symphonic compositions played by a major orchestra.
FACT 9: Florence Price was the first black US woman to be recognized as a composer. She inspired the annual Helen King Biscuit Blues Festival, held on the shores of the Mississippi, every summer. Maya Angelou, author of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ studied in Stamps, Arkansas. She is one of Michelle Obama’s ‘she roes’.
FACT 10: Arkansas is called ‘The Natural State’. It is known for its great outdoors and year round vacation sites. Being an again state Arkansas is known for its wines and brews. The Arkansas Wine Trail is popular with tourists. Cuisine includes barbeque, crawfish and sweet tea.