Listen to this article here

It’s been months since McCurtain County Commissioner Mark Jennings spoke with the local sheriff Kevin Clardy in a secretly recorded meeting about wanting to kill Oklahoma journalists and lynch Black people. Still one phrase stood out to me. It’s a quote that Arkansas students and others across the nation should know.

“Take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with damned rope,” Jennings said. “But you can’t do that anymore. They’ve got more rights than we’ve got.”

In 2023, an Oklahoma elected official–who has since resigned–believes Black people have more rights than he does because he can no longer murder us without consequences.

While alarming, it’s not the first time I’ve heard a White person say something like this. In some folks’ twisted sense of reality, equality in the U.S. means the dominant status quo of White supremacy, but achieving some measure of civil rights and racial equity for Black Americans is a persecution of White Americans.

Conservative state leaders across the nation won’t admit sharing this view, but they embody it through their actions. Just look at what’s happening in Arkansas as students return to school.

Photo courtesy of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by The Black Wall Street Times)

Attacks on AP African American history continue

Days before the start of the school year, the Arkansas Department of Education announced the new AP African American history course would no longer be supported by the state.

Despite facing fierce backlash, the state has not backed down from its attempt to stifle critical understanding of the potential of Black Americans and the racism that has attempted to hold them back.

“Let’s be clear – the continued, state-level attacks on Black history are undemocratic and regressive,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson said, according to the Guardian. “The sad reality is that these politicians are determined to neglect our nation’s youth in service of their own political agendas.”

NAACP President Derrick Johnson. (Associated Press)

Arkansas waters racist roots as students suffer

Over 60 years ago, Arkansas represented a central point in the 1950s battle over public school integration.

The “Little Rock Nine” refers to a group of nine African American students who were enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Their enrollment marked a significant event in the American civil rights movement and played a pivotal role in the desegregation of public schools in the United States.

When the students arrived for their first day of school on September 4, 1957, they were met with a hostile and violent mob of White protesters who opposed desegregation. Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to block the students’ entry into the school.

arkansas students
Journalist Alex Wilson, a reporter from the Tri-State Defender, a weekly Black-owned publication of Memphis, is kicked by an unidentified white member of a mob, with half a brick in his hand, on a street outside Little Rock Central High School September 23, 1957. The mob was protesting the integration attempts by nine Black students, who entered the school while Wilson was being assaulted. Wilson had been escorting the students and a fight broke out almost immediately. The students were removed from the school a few hours later, allegedly for their own safety, as the white mob continued to riot. (AP Photo /Arkansas Democrat/Will Counts)

Decades later, state leaders believe educating students about the full struggles and contributions of African Americans is a step too far.

Arkansas Dept. of Education concerned students will learn about Black “resistance and resilience”

Six school districts, including Little Rock, have vowed to defy the state and continue teaching AP African American history.

The state has responded by announcing it will conduct a review of materials it deems “concerning,” according to the Arkansas Advocate.

“Given some of the themes included in the pilot, including ‘intersections of identity’ and ‘resistance and resilience,’ the Department is concerned the pilot may not comply with Arkansas law,” Education Secretary Jacob Oliva wrote to the six districts.

The state is hiding behind a racist anti-CRT law meant to uphold the status quo of White superiority. The official admits that teaching students about the depths of White racism and the heights of Black resistance is too “concerning” for his administration.


What would change if Arkansas students learned that U.S. chattel slavery was more barbaric than slavery in other nations and that enslaved Black people built the American empire with their bare hands? Or the 493 documented racial terror lychings that took place in Arkansas between 1877 and 1950?

Perhaps public approval for reparations would surge in future generations?

Survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre from left to right: Viola Ford Fletcher, 109, her little brother Hughes Van Ellis, 102, and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 108. (Photo credit : Justice for Greenwood)

What would change if Arkansas students learned that enslaved Black people didn’t enjoy their oppression but rather fought back in countless slave revolts, such as the revolts in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Cherokee Nation Indian Territory, New Orleans, and many more?

Perhaps more people would think twice about scapegoating Black Americans as the source of society’s problems.

Perhaps more students who grow up to be voters who see the legacy of Black Americans as carrying the torch for democracy.

Racist trend of targeting U.S. history spreads like virus

Arkansas certainly isn’t the first state to engage in philosophical warfare against the truth. Florida launched the christo-fascist crusade against Black progress following the nationwide uprising over George Floyd’s murder. He approved the nation’s first laws against teaching about history and systemic racism. It set off a chain reaction.

Republican-led states across the nation have tried to out-do each other with ever-more restrictive measures on education. In Oklahoma, after claiming the Tulsa Race Massacre wasn’t about race, State Superintendent Ryan Walters is considering disbanding the Tulsa Public Schools district altogether.

One of the authors of Oklahoma’s anti-history law, HB 1775, said the quiet part out loud to her Facebook followers. It came after she faced criticism for questioning whether the people in the White mob who massacred the Black residents of Greenwood had racism in their heart.

“We can try to speculate,” state Rep. Sherrie Conley (R-D20) said, “but to know for sure, I don’t think that we can.”

In a Facebook post that she tried to keep private she told her supporters, “Please keep in mind there were no history lessons banned by HB 1775 mainly just the idea that white people (your children) are responsible for the sins of the past.

Despite representing constituents of all backgrounds, the audience of her post was White parents only.

Meanwhile, the three last known living survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre face an Oklahoma Supreme Court hearing on their reparations case. They continue to hold out hope even as state Attorney General Gentner Drummond’s Office calls their efforts “stale claims.

Next door in Arkansas the state is returning to its anti-civil rights roots, blocking the doorway of education on Black history for a new generation of students.

It’s not a culture war. It’s a white supremacist attack on the truth.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply