Arkansas State Archives

Black History Commission of Arkansas

Tamela Tenpenny-Lewis speaks during a Black History Commission of Arkansas symposium.

For years, historians worried that without a concerted collecting and preservation effort, the rich history of Arkansas’s African American community would be lost. In 1991, State Senator Jerry Jewell sponsored Senate Bill 710, adopted as Act 1233 of the 78th General Assembly. This act established the Arkansas Black History Advisory Committee (ABHAC) and charged the commission with preserving the history of Black Arkansans and promoting the teaching of Black history in Arkansas’s schools.

Since the act's pasage, the name of the ABHAC has changed to The Black History Commission of Arkansas (BHCA), but the mission remains the same. The BHCA continues to collect materials on Arkansas's black history and historymakers for the Arkansas State Archives. The commission works to raise awareness of the contributions and impact black Arkansans have had on the state's history. The BHCA sponsors two annual symposiums devoted to black history in February and June and administers a grant program that provides support for preservation and public programming projects related to Arkansas's black history.


The Black History Commission of Arkansas is administered by a seven-member board appointed by the governor with the approval of the state senate. Commissioners serve seven-year terms staggered with one term expiring each January. The Black History Commission of Arkansas meets quarterly throughout the year.

Carla Coleman
Little Rock, Arkansas

Elise Hampton
Conway, Arkansas

Jesse Hargrove
Alexander, Arkansas

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch
Jonesboro, Arkansas

Pat Finley Johnson
Pocahontas, Arkansas

Ricky Lattimore
McGehee, Arkansas

Frank Stewart
Conway, Arkansas

Curtis H. Sykes Memorial Grant Program

The Curtis H. Sykes Memorial grant program is offered by The Black History Commission of Arkansas and the Arkansas State Archives. Click here to learn more