History & Heritage

America's story is, in part, a quilt of 50 patches -- the unique histories of each of her states. In this section, we invite you to experience and celebrate with us Arkansas's place in the fabric of America.

Arkansas Heritage Trails

Explore Arkansas State Parks History and Heritage.

The Arkansas History Commission preserves the world's most significant collection of research materials pertaining to the Civil War in Arkansas.

Arkansas's widely varied landscapes are home to an Arkansas history rich in intriguing subplots. A trip across the state can lead from Mississippi River bottomlands to mid-America's most prominent peaks; from a legacy of Deep South cotton culture to a town on a Wild West frontier.

Among the stories of Arkansas heritage told at stops in between are tales of Native Americans, pioneers who built the state, Civil War battles, an oil boom, blues and mountain folk music, diamonds, nine students who helped forge the spirit of the civil rights movement and a native son who rose to the U.S. Presidency.

Arkansas heritage

Native Americans - Arkansas's Native American population was peaking when the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto reached the state in 1541. There were tens of thousands of people in villages near the Mississippi River and other groups located across the state.

Making a State - In 1686, Frenchmen established the first European settlement on the Lower Mississippi near the Arkansas River. The area became American soil in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Civil War - After a divided Arkansas seceded from the Union in 1861, it became a strategic target for both North and South because of its location on the Mississippi River and its role as a gateway to the Southwest.

20th Century - Symbolizing both Arkansas's progress since settlement and the state's future promise, a new Capitol was built, hosting its first legislative session in 1911. The nation's eyes became focused on Little Rock Central High School in the fall of 1957 during the desegregation crisis. At century's end, Bill Clinton of Arkansas would twice be elected U.S. President.

Regional Histories - Some regional Arkansas histories reflect varied cultural influences upon the state because of its mid-America location; others begin with natural resources.

- The first clear record of African-Americans in Arkansas is from 1721, more than a hundred years before statehood. In the decades that followed, Black men and women maintained an important presence in the state.

Colorful Names - While some people, especially visitors, are amused by some of Arkansas's colorful place names (such as Hogeye, Greasy Corner, Ink, Snowball, Romance, Apt, and
Smackover), others are attempting to learn and record how communities and landmarks received their identities.

Fascinating Facts - Here are intriguing facts about The Natural State's geography, natural resources, industry, agriculture, tourism, climate, population, early Arkansas history, and how Arkansas got its name.

Famous Arkansans - From Gilbert Maxwell "Bronco Billy" Anderson to Sam Walton, listed are several well-known people with their roots in Arkansas.

Arkansas History Commission - Link to the Arkansas History Commission, whose mission is to keep and care for the official archives of this state, collect material bearing on the history of Arkansas from the earliest times, copy and edit official records and other historical material, and encourage historical work and research.

"Heritage Trail Partners of Northwest Arkansas Plan"

Arkansas history

    Explore Arkansas history: Download the Arkansas State Parks Teacher's History Booklet