Arkansas


Arkansas
Arkansan /ahr kan"zeuhn/, Arkansian /ahr kan"zee euhn/, n., adj.
/ahr"keuhn saw'/; also for 2 /ar kan"zeuhs/, n.
1. state in S central United States; 2,285,513. 53,103 sq. mi. (137,537 sq. km). Cap.: Little Rock. Abbr.: AR (for use with zip code), Ark.
2. a river flowing E and SE from central Colorado into the Mississippi in SE Arkansas. 1450 mi. (2335 km) long.

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State (pop., 2000: 2,673,400), southern central U.S. Bordered by Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma, it covers 53,182 sq mi (137,741 sq km).

Its capital is Little Rock, while its highest point is Magazine Mountain, at 2,753 ft (839 m). The earliest inhabitants were Indian bluff dwellers along the Mississippi River с AD 500. Mound-building cultures later left burial mounds along the river. Spanish and French explorers traversed the region in the 16th–17th centuries; the first permanent European settlement was founded at Arkansas Post in 1686. Acquired by the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase, Arkansas Territory was formed in 1819; the state's current boundaries were fixed in 1828. Arkansas became the 25th state in 1836. It seceded in 1861 to join the Confederacy in the American Civil War; it was readmitted to the Union in 1868. Following Reconstruction, a rigid policy of segregation lasted until 1957, when court-ordered desegregation of the schools was implemented. Once dominated by agriculture, the state's economy now also includes mining and manufacturing. Tourism is promoted, especially by the mineral springs at Hot Springs National Park and resorts in the Ozark Mountains.

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Introduction

      constituent state of the United States of America. Arkansas's 53,187 square miles (137,754 square km) make it 27th in area among the states, but, except for Louisiana and Hawaii, it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi River. Its neighbours are Missouri to the north, Tennessee and Mississippi to the east, Louisiana to the south, Texas to the southwest, and Oklahoma to the west. Arkansas has the high Ozark and Ouachita mountains in the north and west and a heavy tracery of rivers that cut through its rich agricultural lands. Nearly all of the rivers flow from northwest to southeast and empty via the Arkansas and the Red into the Mississippi, which forms the major eastern boundary. The state's name was used by the early French explorers for the Quapaw Indians and the river along which they settled. It probably was a phonetic spelling of the Illinois term for “downriver” people, a reference to the Quapaw.

Arkansas, flag of  Ever since Arkansas was admitted as the 25th member of the United States in 1836, its people have maintained a remarkable homogeneity, and today most of them are native to the state. Striking cultural contrasts exist within Arkansas, however, with the long-isolated mountain people who eked out subsistence livings in the north and west counterposed to the people to the east and south who created a Southern environment in which cotton growing and sharecropping long were the dominant modes of economic life. Between the two regions lies Little Rock, the capital and the urban and economic centre of the state. Its location and increasingly cosmopolitan character are symbolic of Arkansas's growing unification and urbanization.

      Arkansans are concerned about the state's relative poverty and lack of development. Although Arkansas remains among the lowest-ranking states in income per capita and other economic indicators, the overall economy in recent years has gained faster than the national average, and the population has increased, reversing a long decline. Programs have been developed to increase these trends and to continue the process of equalizing the educational, economic, and social opportunities of the state's citizens.

Physical and human geography (Arkansas)

The land
  A line drawn from the southwestern corner to the northeastern corner of the state approximates the division between the highlands lying west and north and the lowlands lying south and east. The highlands are divided by the Arkansas River valley into the Ouachita Province on the south and the Ozark Plateau on the north. The lowlands include the Mississippi alluvial plain in the east and the western Gulf Coastal Plain in the south and extreme southwest. The highlands are covered with the dense pine and hardwood forests of the Ouachita and Ozark national forests.

      The Ozark Plateau (Ozark Mountains) is broken by broad, flat-topped ridges and steep valleys with fast-flowing streams. The more rugged southern edge, known as the Boston Mountains, contains the highest elevations. Excellent farmland, producing a wide variety of crops, lies in the northern part. The Arkansas River valley contains the highest point in the state, Mount Magazine, at 2,753 feet (839 metres) above sea level. The western section has extensive coal and natural gas deposits. Several peaks in the Ouachita Province reach 2,500 feet (760 metres). The mountains are eroded, exposing faulted rock, and the ridges extend west and east. The famous Hot Springs National Park is in this area.

      The western Gulf Coastal Plain has gentle hills suitable for livestock grazing and farming. Much of this area consists of pine and white oak forests, which sustain lumbering industries. Petroleum and natural gas deposits have been developed in the Smackover and El Dorado area. The Mississippi alluvial plain, much of which was once a vast swamp, is now well drained and protected against flooding. It contains the state's richest and most fertile farmland. Rice and soybeans have replaced cotton as the major crops. A long, narrow chain of hills, Crowley's Ridge, runs north-south through the centre of the plain.

      The climate generally is mild in winter and hot in summer. Normal high and low temperatures in Little Rock in January are 51 and 29 °F (11 and −2 °C); in July they are 93 and 71 °F (34 and 22 °C). The normal annual precipitation of 49 inches (1,250 mm) is distributed about equally during the year, though summers tend to be drier than the other seasons.

Plant and animal life
      A great variation in soils and elevations in Arkansas supports a large number of plant species. There are more than 200 species of trees, of which pine, oak, hickory, maple, gum, ash, cypress, and elm are the most important. In fall and spring the woodlands are colourful with dogwood, flowering fruit trees, redbud, and innumerable wild flowers.

      Arkansas is situated on the Mississippi flyway; migratory water birds and some 300 native species attract hunters to the rice fields and reservoirs of eastern Arkansas. Deer, quail, opossums, turkeys, squirrels, and rabbits are among the more abundant game animals. Bobcats and wolves are not uncommon in the hill country. The lakes and streams of the state offer an abundance of fish, including crappie, bass, drum, catfish, buffalo, gar, and trout.

Settlement patterns
      The inhabitants of the Ozarks and Ouachitas once lived in rural isolation, which bred an independence of spirit and a suspicion of strangers. Hunting and fishing were essential to supplement the limited produce of their farms. Since a plantation economy was impracticable in the uplands, few slaves were brought into the region. Settlement of the westernmost regions was long discouraged by the lawless frontier border with Indian Territory. Much of this area remains timbered and lies within the Ouachita and Ozark national forests.

      In eastern Arkansas the plantation economy produced a vast gulf between the sharecroppers and tenants on one end of the social scale and the managers and landlords on the other. The owners of small farms or businesses constituted another class. The croppers lived a bare and meagre existence. Handicapped by lack of economic resources and education, they accomplished remarkable results through the Southern Farm Tenants Union, which they organized in eastern Arkansas in the 1930s; this organization influenced the national farm policy of presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt onward.

      Although changes in the economy were evident earlier, the rate of change since World War II has been dramatic. The Ozarks are no longer isolated. A network of paved highways brings tourists to enjoy the region's scenic beauty and varied recreational activities. Numerous “retirement villages” attract visitors and buyers from across the country. The tourist industry remains the economic mainstay, though small industrial plants have taken advantage of the climate and the ample labour supply.

      Mechanization of farming in eastern Arkansas and the shift from cotton farming to rice and soybeans has virtually eliminated the sharecropper—though not the rural poor. As the pace of mechanization increased, so did the exodus of the tenant farmers to cities in the North and East. Farming is increasingly a corporate venture. Eastern Arkansas is still, however, more Southern in character than the mountainous region. The shacks of the sharecroppers are gone, and much of the rural population has left the state or moved to nearby towns offering nonfarm employment. In eastern and central Arkansas reside the majority of the state's blacks, many of whom still work the land as their ancestors did.

       Little Rock, the major port on the Arkansas River, lies among the easternmost foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. A marketing centre and the site of manufacturing facilities, the city has completed or undertaken several urban renewal projects in its downtown area, including the construction of a pedestrian mall, the renovation of historic buildings, and the expansion of convention facilities. At the western boundary of the state lies Fort Smith, the second largest city, on the Arkansas River. It is one of the most industrialized cities in the state and serves as a regional business and service centre. The economy of Pine Bluff, some 50 miles (80 km) downriver from Little Rock, depends primarily on the surrounding agricultural area. Texarkana, contiguous with the Texas city of the same name, is an important regional rail centre.

The people
      Prior to the Civil War, Arkansas's (Arkansas) population came largely from Kentucky and Tennessee, a part of the westward movement of Scottish, Scotch-Irish, and English stock from Virginia and the Carolinas since early colonial times. The black population in 1860 was about 110,000, or 25 percent of the total; by the early 21st century there were more than 430,000 blacks living in Arkansas, making up a decreasing percentage of the total population. A few counties in eastern Arkansas are more than 50 percent black. The heaviest concentrations of population are in the fertile eastern alluvial plain, in the river valleys, and on the plateaus in the northwest.

      The largest religious denominations are the Baptist, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, and Roman Catholic. The religious atmosphere is one of conservative fundamentalism, and Arkansas is considered a part of the Bible Belt. Fundamentalism underlies many characteristic attitudes of Arkansans. The sale of alcoholic beverages is subject to local option; many counties and cities prohibit their sale or permit it only in private clubs and certain other establishments in major cities. The right-to-work amendment to the state constitution in 1944, which prohibits compulsory union membership, was sponsored by the Christian Association. Harding College in Searcy is the site of an annual Freedom Forum, which advocates a blend of religious fundamentalism, extreme patriotism, and free-enterprise capitalism.

The economy
      Cotton is no longer king in Arkansas, and the state is no longer primarily agricultural. Industrialization and urbanization are major factors in Arkansas's recent record of economic progress. Labour unions are strong in transportation, utilities, construction, and heavy industry, but most of the state's labour force is unorganized. In both political and economic policy-making, labour is less influential than business.

      The demand for increased revenue has led to cooperation between leaders in the private sector and public agencies in the promotion of economic growth. Progress in overhauling the state tax structure and in improving methods of tax collection has been slow but steady. The state attempts to generate more revenue by raising income per capita through increasing employment opportunities and developing human resources to their maximum.

Resources
      Oil fields in southern Arkansas yield natural gas and bromide salts. Coal of a nearly smokeless quality, as well as natural gas, are found in the Arkansas River valley. Arkansas's aluminum industries have reduced substantially their bauxite mining operations and have closed some of their reduction plants. Experimental use of lignite in coal-fired electrical generating stations offers the possibility of extensive commercial development of the widespread lignite deposits in southern Arkansas. Magnet Cove, near Hot Springs, contains more than 40 different minerals in one small valley; barite and titanium are the most important. Arkansas whetstones made from novaculite are regarded as among the finest in the world. Near Murfreesboro, in southwestern Arkansas, is the only diamond mine in the nation, now operated only as a tourist attraction. Almost one-half of Arkansas is covered with forests, including extensive stands of pine and white oak.

      Hydroelectric power is produced at dams erected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and by private companies. Two nuclear power plants have been constructed near Dardanelle, and coal-fired stations have also been built.

Agriculture and industry
      Cotton remained the major source of agricultural income into the 1960s. Since then rice and poultry, of which the state is a leading producer, have dominated. Other important crops are soybeans and grains. Commercial fish farming has begun to take advantage of the extensive rice paddies of eastern Arkansas. Farms have followed the national trend of increasing in size while decreasing in number.

      Manufacturing chiefly involves the production of consumer goods. Major industries include food processing and the manufacture of clothing, furniture, electrical and nonelectrical machinery, electronic equipment, and fabricated metal products.

      Several major railroads provide freight service within Arkansas, as well as to major cities in the central United States. Airline service is provided by national carriers from a number of airports to any point in the nation. By interstate highways more than half of the nation's population is within a two-day driving radius of Arkansas. Motor-fuel tax revenues are reserved for public highways and streets. As funds are available, major routes are being rebuilt as four-lane, limited-access roads.

      The McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System for navigation and flood control is the largest civil works project ever undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project provides access to more than one-half of the nation's navigable inland waterways. Annual freight tonnage along it has exceeded estimates, and significant industrial growth has been attributed to the project.

Administration and social conditions
      Adopted in 1874, Arkansas's constitution has been amended more than 70 times. The governor, who is elected to a four-year term, has the authority to summon the legislature into special session and to veto acts, though a veto may be overridden by a simple majority vote in each legislative house. The Senate has 35 members with four-year terms; the House of Representatives, 100 members with two-year terms. The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court of seven popularly elected members who serve eight-year terms, a court of appeals, and circuit and chancery district courts. Where established, municipal courts have jurisdiction throughout the county.

      Elected officials of the 75 counties include county judge (chief executive), clerk, treasurer, sheriff-collector, surveyor, and coroner. In each county, elected justices of the peace make up a quorum court, which serves as an advisory body to the judge and exercises some legislative functions. There are many local improvement districts and school districts. Although a number of incorporated cities have a city-manager form of government, the traditional mayor–council form is most common.

      Arkansas is a predominantly Democratic state. Since Reconstruction, few Republican governors or congressmen have been elected, although the Republicans have gained strength. Unless a candidate receives a majority of votes cast in a preferential primary, a runoff is required. Permanent voter registration replaced the poll tax in 1965.

      The public school system functions under the state's department of education and district school boards. Specialized institutions include schools for the deaf and the blind. The state's facilities for retarded children and for the treatment of mental illness have attracted nationwide acclaim. Vocational-technical schools serve most areas of the state. In addition, private schools, most of them church-related, offer instruction from kindergarten through the secondary level.

      The University of Arkansas has a main campus at Fayetteville and branches at Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and Monticello. The graduate schools of health sciences, technology, and social work are located in Little Rock. Several other universities and two-year colleges are supported by the state. Some of these were developed from institutions for the agricultural and mechanical sciences and for teacher training. There are also several private and church-affiliated colleges and universities.

Health and welfare
      Problems of malaria, pellagra, and pinworm that once plagued the region have been virtually wiped out by widespread efforts of state and local health authorities. The state departments of health and human services administer many programs funded in part by the federal government. Emigration of young people over the past several decades has aggravated health and welfare programs, especially in declining rural areas. Welfare payments are among the lowest in the nation. The mild climate and attractive scenery has fostered the establishment of retirement villages in the Ozarks.

      The wages of Arkansas's workers are among the lowest in the nation, and living costs approximate those of the south central region. Blacks live at distinctly lower economic and social levels despite improvements.

Cultural life
      The people of eastern Arkansas are typically Southern in their speech and customs. Central Arkansas also reflects its Southern heritage, but the speech and manners of its people have been influenced by immigrants from other parts of the country. The rural areas of the Ouachitas and Ozarks have retained to the fullest degree an unchanged culture.

      The fine arts are well served by semiprofessional orchestras, choral groups, and ballet, theatre, and opera companies in Little Rock and other urban centres. Most colleges and universities offer training and performance in the arts. A four-state opera workshop is held each summer in the Ozarks. Arkansas's richest contributions are in the folk arts of the Ozarks. A major folk art centre in Mountain View has been designed to provide a showcase for local and visiting performers in dance and music; to preserve traditional skills in ceramics, jewelry, wood carving, hooked rugs, and basketry; and to offer instruction in the native folk arts. Other aspects of folk culture include the gospel singing of rural areas. Black spirituals and soul music flourished in Arkansas long before they became popular nationwide.

      The University of Arkansas has a fine collection of archaeological and historical artifacts. A collection of colonial glassware is featured in the Museum of Science and History, housed in the old federal arsenal in Little Rock. The Arkansas Arts Center and its branch for the decorative arts, located in a restored antebellum mansion, have attracted regional recognition. Historic sites include Arkansas Post, the first European settlement in French Louisiana; Washington, the Confederate state capital during the Civil War; and the Territorial Capitol Restoration and Old State House in Little Rock.

      Arkansas devotes considerable effort to attract out-of-state vacationers, who annually contribute millions of dollars to its economy. State and national agencies stock lakes and streams with fish, and the state's preserves and conservation practices assure ample game in hunting seasons. The largest single attraction in Arkansas is Hot Springs (hot spring) National Park, which offers both outdoor recreation and luxury hotels throughout the year. The Buffalo National River, Blanchard Springs Caverns, and the resort town of Eureka Springs, known for its arts community and Victorian architecture, attract thousands of visitors annually. In addition to the five national park sites, there are numerous state parks affording a great variety of recreational activities.

      Little Rock has the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, the Arkansas Gazette, founded in 1819; in 1991 it merged with the Arkansas Democrat to form the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Central Arkansas is served by radio and television affiliates of the major networks. The state has numerous commercial radio stations. The Arkansas Educational Television network covers most of the state, and cable television serves urban communities.

History

Exploration and settlement
      Arkansas's (Arkansas) early inhabitants included bluff-dwelling Indians, whose farming and hunting culture flourished about AD 500. Later mound-building cultures left sepulchral mounds and other remains along the Mississippi.

      Spanish and French explorers traveled the trans-Mississippi regions in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Frenchman Henri de Tonty (Tonty, Henri de) founded the Arkansas Post on the lower Arkansas River in 1686. The first permanent white settlement in what is now Arkansas, it served as a fur-trading centre and a way station for travelers between the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

      Following the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in 1803, Arkansas lay within the territories of Louisiana until 1812 and of Missouri until 1819, when it became a separate territory. Its northern boundary, latitude 36°30′ N, was the line of the Missouri Compromise in 1820 that later separated the slave and free states in the West.

Statehood and Civil War
      By the time of statehood in 1836, all land titles of the Quapaw, Osage, Caddo, Cherokee, and Choctaw Indians had been withdrawn by the U.S. Congress, and the tribes were forced westward into the Indian Territory, the future Oklahoma. Violence broke out intermittently along the state's western border until the late 19th century, when the frontier atmosphere disappeared with the white settlement of the Indian Territory.

      Although a slave state, Arkansas did not secede from the Union until May 1861—five months after South Carolina did so. Arkansas took this action only after the Confederate capture of Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln's call for volunteers. Union sentiment was strong in northern Arkansas; about 6,000 Arkansans joined the Federal forces. About 58,000, however, fought for the Confederacy. Little Rock fell to Federal troops in 1863, and for a decade the state was a legislative battleground between secessionist supporters and the imposed Republican government. Arkansas was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but internal strife approached open warfare. In 1874 the state returned to the fold of the Democratic Party, and remained there until Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican, was elected governor in 1966.

      The Civil War's chief long-range effects on Arkansas, as on most of the other former Confederate States, were a crop-lien sharecropping system, a race problem of new and formidable dimensions, a one-party (Democratic) political system, and widespread poverty. Economic development in Arkansas was severely handicapped by the collapse of state credit following repudiation in 1885 of bonded indebtedness, including interest of nearly $14,000,000.

Recent decades
      Until World War II, Arkansas experienced slow economic development, remained predominantly rural, and was tied to a single cash crop—cotton. The depression of the 1930s was worsened by years of drought that turned many farm families into itinerant labourers. Defense-related activities during World War II and the postwar mechanization of agriculture greatly altered both the economy and social patterns. Women entered the labour force, the pace of urbanization increased, farm tenancy decreased, and civil rights of minorities were granted. In 1957 federal troops entered Little Rock to maintain order after the state militia had been ordered to prevent the desegregation of one of the city's high schools; the confrontation focused international attention on the state. Since then private enterprise has developed nationally outstanding state-based companies in retail merchandising, poultry products, computer software, and finance brokerage.

Boyce A. Drummond, Jr.

Additional Reading
John Gould Fletcher, Arkansas (1947, reprinted 1989), is one of the best single volumes about the state. Diann Sutherlin Smith, The Arkansas Handbook (1984); and Writers' Program, Arkansas: A Guide to the State (1941, reissued as The WPA Guide to 1930s Arkansas, 1987), provide general information. Geographic, economic, historical, and social aspects are mapped in Richard M. Smith (ed.), The Atlas of Arkansas (1989); DeLorme Mapping Company, Arkansas Atlas & Gazetteer (1997); and Gerald T. Hanson and Carl H. Moneyhon, Historical Atlas of Arkansas (1989). Ernie Deane, Arkansas Place Names (1986), combines geography and local history. The different groups that make up Arkansas's population are analyzed in David M. Tucker, Arkansas: A People and Their Reputation (1985). Henry S. Ashmore, Arkansas (1978, reissued 1984), is a good introduction. Specific topics in the state's history are examined in Orville W. Taylor, Negro Slavery in Arkansas (1958); James M. Woods, Rebellion and Realignment: Arkansas's Road to Secession (1987); Michael B. Dougan, Confederate Arkansas: The People and Policies of a Frontier State in Wartime (1976); George H. Thompson, Arkansas and Reconstruction: The Influence of Geography, Economics, and Personality (1976); and C. Calvin Smith, War and Wartime Changes: The Transformation of Arkansas, 1940–1945 (1986). Scholarly articles on Arkansas history may be found in Arkansas Historical Quarterly.Boyce A. Drummond, Jr. Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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