Home » Arkansas » Harrison

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Sundown Town in the Past?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
We Have Data on How it Changed

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1960 6,580 0
1970 7,239 1
1990 9,222 0
2000 12,152 14 4

Method of Exclusion

  • Violent ExpulsionReputation

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


A minor crime, alleged breaking and entering,
prompted a white mob on October 2, 1905, to take
African American prisoners from the jail, whip
them, order them to leave town, then burn out
several black homes, shoot out the windows of
many other black homes, and warn every African
American to leave town that night. “About thirty
blacks, who were very well-connected, stayed in
Harrison, although they no longer had a church or a
school.” Then, in 1909, a second mob attempted to
lynch a young black man already sentenced to
death for rape. As Jacqueline Froelich and David
Zimmermann tell it, this mob “completed what had
been left unfinished by the first riot.” Every African
American fled Harrison, which has remained a
sundown town to this day.

“Our reputation is so bad that most black people
will not even stop here to buy gasoline or have
lunch. I’ve talked with black kids who have come
here several times to play in athletic tournaments.
They say they’ve always been treated well but the
place still scares the hell out of them.”
-Harrison newspaper reporter

“Fayetteville’s [a nearby interracial town] Ramay
Junior High School football team, the Indians, had
traveled to Boone County to play against the
Harrison Goblins. The Indians beat the Goblins.
After the game, several of the Fayetteville black
athletes claimed they were racially harassed.
“‘I watched as several of the 8th grade Goblins
refused to shake hands with our black players,’ said
Ken Ball, a Fayetteville accountant and father
traveling with the team. ‘Or they slapped our boys’
hands real hard.’ The Indians left to celebrate their
win at a local restaurant. There, Ken Ball watched as
a large black fullback, a 9th grader, was called
‘coon’ by a white Harrison player.
“‘Then, as the boys were waiting in line to order
their burgers, a kid in a white sheet walked through
the door,’ Ball said. ‘One of my black players was so
afraid, he ran into the bathroom. In his mind all he
could see was the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.’ The
Ramay Indians walked out. They never did order
their food.
“All future games with Harrison were canceled.
Ball said that Fayetteville High School basketball
coaches had long ago terminated any competition
in Harrison, refusing to expose their black players
to the town’s hostile atmosphere.
“‘This has been going on for 40 years,’ Ball said.
‘Back in the day when I played football, the black
players on my junior high team were afraid to go to
Harrison, but they showed up and played real hard.
The more they were called names, the more we ran
the score up.'”
-from a 2003 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Some residents of Harrison have begun more
openly confronting and discussing their town’s
racist reputation. The local paper began ran a series
stories on Harrison’s racist history and current
reputation. 13 Harrison pastors from various
churches drafted a statement, acknowledging
Harrison’s reputation, its historical basis, and a
desire to change. Unfortunately, some outspoken
white racists have been disagreeing quite vocally.

“On Christmas [2005] the Harrison Daily Times
published the wedding photograph of an educated
and attractive couple originally from Lowell who live
and work in Fayetteville and Springdale [nearby
towns]. The bride, whose parents are from
Harrison, is white and the groom is black. Across
much of 2006 America, interracial marriage, while
not the norm, still has become relatively
commonplace. But this particular photograph drew
a letter to the editor on Jan. 8. Among other
comments, [the writer] said that the editor should
be ashamed of glorifying this marriage by
publishing a photograph of the happy interracial
couple, ‘especially on the day we celebrate the birth
of Jesus Christ… God created different races for a
reason, and to mix them up is a slap in the face to
him,’ [he] wrote. ‘It is sad that we have become so
complacent in allowing the filth that has crept into
our society. Please do not offend this Christian area
with any more pictures of this nature.'”
“[Following a barrage of letters to the editor]
more than a thousand area residents signed two
full, facing pages in the newspaper denouncing the
‘blatant racism and bigotry’ of a relative few in the
region while embracing ‘respect, harmony and
acceptance of all people.'”
-Harrison resident