Tyronza is one of the oldest cities within Poinsett County, with origins dating to the late 19th century. In the 1930s, it was the site where the Southern Tenant Farmers Union began, making history as the first agricultural union to fully integrate both black and white farmers. Women also held leadership roles in the union.
Located just off I-555, midway between Jonesboro and Memphis, the town site once was home to a mound-building culture dating to AD 1300–1400. At one time, as many as 49 Native American mounds existed in the area, with remnants of only three remaining today.
A depot known as Tyronza Station, named for the nearby Tyronza River, was established in 1883 during construction of the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railway. Five years later the post office, previously known as Perkins, changed its name to Tyronza to match the depot. Officially incorporated in 1926, Tyronza began as a lumber town, with the railroad opening up the market for timber from the region. After deforestation, cotton became the region’s main cash crop.
Like other agricultural communities, the Tyronza area was hard-hit by the Great Depression, along with a series of natural disasters including the 1927 Flood and the 1930-31 drought. By 1934, living conditions for tenant and sharecropper families were critical. With the assistance of two local businessmen, H. L. Mitchell and Clay East, a group of black and white tenant farmers met just west of Tyronza and formed the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). Offices initially were located in the dry-cleaning establishment and service station owned by Mitchell and East, until threats of violence forced relocation to Memphis.
In 2003, the city gave the Mitchell-East Building to Arkansas State University to restore as a heritage site. The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum opened in October 2006 and tells the stories of tenant farming and sharecropping in the region, as well as the development and expansion of the union.