Arkansas Senate Approves Black History Legislation

The bill honors former House member, the late John W. Walker.

Photo courtesy: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Civil rights pioneer John W. Walker will now be part of Black history education in Arkansas schools. The Arkansas Senate unanimously approved House Bill 1029 yesterday afternoon. Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, is the lead sponsor of the bill which advocates for the inclusion of certain Arkansas civil rights leaders in African American history teaching materials in public schools.  

Allen ran a similar bill two years ago that names Martin Luther King Jr. as a civil rights leader to be discussed when teaching Black history. That bill became law. Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, explained HB 1029 simply amends that law by adding her friend Rep. Walker to the list of Arkansans “who have contributed mightily to the civil rights movement.” 

“He has contributed much. Anybody who has contributed something that has not caused controversy has not done very much and John certainly contributed to the discussion in this state,” she said. “He belongs in the Arkansas history.”

In addition to serving as a Democratic member of the Arkansas House of Representatives, Walker was the first African American from Arkansas to graduate from Yale Law School. He also established one of the first racially-integrated law firms in the South.

Having passed both the House and the Senate, HB 1029 now heads to the governor’s desk. 

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.