Lecture Features Research on Historic Southland College, Arkansas’s First Black College
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas Libraries' special collections department joins with the University of Arkansas Press to present "'We Surely Owe a Debt to These Long Downtrodden People': The Accidental Founding and Amazing Survival of Southland College, 1864-1925" by professor emeritus Thomas C. Kennedy on Wednesday, Nov. 18, in Giffels Auditorium in Old Main. A reception will begin at 3 p.m.; the lecture is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. followed by a book signing.
The lecture is based on Kennedy's research for A History of Southland College: The Society of Friends and Black Education in Arkansas just released by the University of Arkansas Press, which will be available for purchase at the event.
In 1864 Alida and Calvin Clark, two abolitionist members of the Religious Society of Friends from Indiana, went on a mission trip to Helena, Ark. The Clarks had come to render temporary relief to displaced war orphans but instead found a lifelong calling. During their time in Arkansas, they started the school that became Southland College, which was the first institution of higher education for blacks west of the Mississippi, and they set up the first predominantly black monthly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in North America.
A succession of midwestern Quakers willing to endure the primitive conditions and social isolation of their work carried on the progressive racial vision of the Clarks in the succeeding decades. These missionaries often struggled to overcome the persistent challenges of economic adversity, social strife and natural disaster. Southland's survival through six difficult and sometimes dangerous decades reflects both the continuing missionary zeal of the Clarks and their successors as well as the dedication of the black Arkansans who sought dignity and hope at a time when these were rare commodities for African Americans in Arkansas.
The special collections department of the University of Arkansas Libraries houses a collection of records for Southland College that includes correspondence, predominantly during the last years from 1922 to 1925; student records, financial records, minutes of the Missionary Board of the Indiana Yearly Meeting, minutes and records of the Southland Monthly Meeting, and photographs. A finding aid describing the contents is available.
Thomas C. Kennedy is the author of The Hound of Conscience: A History of the No-Conscription Fellowship, 1914–1919 and British Quakerism, 1860–1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community. He has also written numerous articles on Quakers in Arkansas.
Additional information may be obtained by calling the University of Arkansas Libraries’ special collections department at 479-575-5577.
Diane Worrell, Arkansas special projects librarian
University Libraries special collections departmen
Molly Boyd, public relations coordinator
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