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Calhoun County, Arkansas

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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Calhoun County, Arkansas.


This area was initially developed for plantation agriculture, based on large gangs of slave workers. The population was majority enslaved blacks before the American Civil War. After the Reconstruction era, there was increasing white violence against blacks as the minority attempted to assert dominance over the freedmen. From 1877 to 1950, whites lynched 10 African Americans in the county, mostly in the decades around the turn of the century.

In September 1892, what became known as the "Hampton Race War", or the Calhoun County Race War, broke out across the southern part of the county. In 1891 the Democratic-dominated state legislature had passed laws to make voter registration more difficult for illiterate people both black and white, which effectively disenfranchised many of the poorer residents. But tensions were rising in this period, and the economy was poor. Whites resented that freedmen would work for lower wages, even if they knew the latter men seldom had a choice. Whitecappers, also called night riders, were poor white farmers and workers who acted as vigilantes, attacking various residents to enforce their moral views. They met in secret societies to patrol both black and white communities. Their reasons were also economic; they hoped to drive out the black workers.

The blacks resented these attacks. Newspapers printed rumors of armed blacks planning attacks against whites, as was typical in tense times, inflaming existing tensions. There was also violence associated with the September election. Some newspapers reported that a white man named Unsill, an ex-convict, led 42 armed blacks to the polls, "where they demanded to vote." Accounts of this period are contradictory, but agree that major events seemed to take place within several days, beginning about September 17, while incidents were reported over the month of September. An estimated five to eight blacks were killed during the violence, with one or more described as lynched. At least two whites were killed in these encounters; more men on both sides were wounded. Among the dead was a black man murdered by two whites; as he was a key witness in a trial in which they were defendants, this appeared to be a "murder of convenience" done while other violence was prevalent.

Due to such violence, social oppression, economic problems, and mechanization of agriculture, many blacks and whites left the county in the first half of the 20th century. Population declined in every census after 1920 through 1970.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • Harrell
  • Hampton (County Seat)
  • Thornton
  • Tinsman



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