The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock sits on the foundation of a cornerstone of African American heritage. The center, whose mission is to preserve and share the history of African Americans in Arkansas, is located in the middle of what was once a thriving black business district for Little Rock, so much so that in its heyday it was called Little Harlem. There were barbershops, restaurants, churches, doctors and lawyers, everything you could want, all on 9th street.
An organization called the Mosaic Templars of America, which was an insurance company, was also located on 9th street. This influential black fraternal organization was founded in the late 1880s by John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts to provide insurance to the black community at a time when it was not widely available to them. The business became so successful that it eventually became one of the largest black organizations in the world. The center is named after this organization and is in a re-created building as the original 1911 structure was destroyed in a 2005 fire.
Many historical factors contributed to changes to and for 9th street over the years, including the creation of the 630 highway, which cut off the African American community from itself.
Visitors can visit the first and third floors of the center. The first floor houses exhibits ( both permanent and traveling ones) and the third floor auditorium has the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. Past inductees have included poet Maya Angelou and civil rights attorney Wiley Branton, Sr. and new members are added annually.
Visitor's can learn more about these influential inductees and also see the Tribute Trophy, which is awarded to the recipients each year. The design has a crystal on it due to the fact that 'Just as each of us is born in the image of our Creator, each of us is blessed with abilities which set us apart. Each Tribute Trophy is similar in design, yet each one is unique. The quartz crystal atop each Tribute Trophy is native to Arkansas and is an unique as each of the recipients. While each quartz is always six-sided in its structure, no two are ever the same. The unique design of this God-made crystal is symbolic of the six honorees inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame each year.'
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is located at the corner of 9th and Broadway in downtown Little Rock. The museum is free and open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more history, you can also visit the nearby Dreamland Ballroom at 800 West 9th Street.