Arkansas City, Arkansas



Established in 1891 by Pickens Black, a former enslaved African who moved to Arkansas from Alabama. Located in Jackson County near Newport, Blackville had its own schools, church, store, mill, gin and even its own police department. In 1936, the Arkansas Gazette reported that “no crime of major consequence has been reported in the last ten years.”

Black, who was born a few years prior to the Civil War, moved to Jackson County in 1890. He, his brother and another African man bought 240 acres of uncleared land on an installment plan. Black increased his original third of the holding until he eventually owned the entire 6000 acres that became Blackville. Education and honesty were two characteristics highly coveted by Black. He taught himself to read and was a “wizard” at mathematics. He helped to establish two schools in Blackville and was among the first property owners to pay taxes each year.

Despite his accomplishments and status in the community, Black was a humble man regularly seen going about his business in overalls, a blue shirt and an old felt hat pulled down on his head. Blackville, located in the heart of the White River Country, was surrounded by forests which provided fuel and lumber as well as pecans, hickory nuts, walnuts and berries of all kinds. The Cache River, which bordered the settlement, supplied the citizenry with catfish, buffalo, carp, perch, bass, and other fish. Cotton was the primary economic crop in the community; however, corn, wheat, peas, and hay were also grown. During the Depression not one family in the town went hungry or had to accept government relief.

Black’s son, Pickens Jr., was a graduate of Virginia Union University and one of the few licensed African American aviators of his time. At his hanger in Blackville, he repaired planes for other pilots and hand built his first plane only to have the government restrict him from flying it.


Located near Helena in Phillips County, Lakeview was established during the pre-war New Deal era as a Farm Security Administration colony for African American families.


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