The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA) and the Arkansas State Archives (ASA) hosted their annual workshop on Saturday, June 9, at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.
The event, “Arkansas’s Early Black Fraternal Organizations,” featured five dynamic speakers, who focused on multiple historical perspectives and unique characteristics of African American fraternal organizations in Arkansas.
Dr. John Graves, professor of history at Henderson State University, was the first speaker. He discussed the national history of the Mosaic Templars. Dr. Blake Wintory, assistant director at Lakeport Plantation, spoke on the history of Arkansas’s black fraternal organizations. Cleveland K. Wilson, grand master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, talked about the history of the Masons, and Flora Simon, grand matron of the Eastern Star, discussed the history of her organization.
Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis wrapped up the day with a presentation about gravestones and the symbols that can be found on them. “There are countless stories hidden within the pages of the histories of the African American benevolent societies,” said Tenpenny-Lewis. “They speak to us from thousands of headstones in countless burial grounds. Some stand mightily in our midst today. Our awesome task is to find them.”