Southeast Arkansas’s African American Legislators, 1868-1893

Reconstruction gave black males (freed former slaves) the right to vote for the first time. This had enormous consequences for civil society.  During Reconstruction and in the following years, eighty-five black men were elected to represent Arkansas in the General Assembly. Of the eighty-five, fourteen were elected from southeast Arkansas. Active participants in the legislative process, black legislators engaged in debate, introduced bills, and voted. They tended to support civil rights, education, public improvements, and immigration into the state. Black legislators from the southeast included the wealthy son of Chicot County’s largest planter; a noted abolitionist from Illinois; a former slave who became a college president and physician; educators; ministers; as well as men who eked out their living as farm laborers into the early 20th century. Laws designed to disenfranchise black voters (poll taxes, complicated election procedures and ballots), ultimately ended the election of African Americans in the late 19th century.

Senate

  • James W. Mason, 1868, 1871   (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • Samuel H. Holland, 1873, 1874   (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • W. H. Logan, 1887, 1889   (Chicot, Desha)
  • George W. Bell, 1891, 1893 (Chicot, Desha)

House

  • Edward A. Fulton, 1871  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • James A. Robinson, 1871, 1874-75  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • John W. Webb, 1871  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • John C. Rollins, 1873  (Ashley, Chicot, Drew, Desha)
  • Isaac G. Bailey, 1885  (Desha) [born in Chicot]
  • Green Hill Jones, 1885, 1889 (Chicot)
  • Hugh L. Newsome, 1887 (Chicot)
  • Henry A. Johnson, 1891 (Chicot)
  • R. C. Weddington, 1891 (Desha)
  • Nathan E. Edwards, 1893 (Chicot) 
Legislator Term Party Birth Antebellum Status Occupations
Bailey, Isaac G. 1885 (H)  R

b. Chicot Co. (1846)

d. 1914

Slave Baptist Minister, Educator, son attended Howard University
Bell, George W. 1891 (S), 1893 (S)  R

b. MS/TN (ca 1855)

d. after 1927

Slave ? Teacher, Doctor, Southland College President, Insurance Salesman
Edwards, Nathan E. 1893 (H)  R

b. AL (1855)

d. 1900-1910

Slave ? Farmer, Farm Laborer; Minister
Fulton, Edward A. 1871 (H)  R

b. KY (1833)

d. St. Louis, MO (1906)

Slave (KY & MO) Abolitionist, U.S. Intelligence Officer, Farmer, Census Taker (1870), Tax Assessor, Editor, Farmer, Postmaster, Laborer (1900 Census)
Holland, Samuel H.

1873 (S),

1874 (S)

 R  b. OH (ca 1844) Free ? Sheriff, Jailer, Principal, Teacher
Johnson, Henry A. 1891 (H)  R  b. Jackson, MS (1856) Slave ? Farmer/Planter, Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, Graduate of Alcorn State University
Jones, Green Hill 1885 (H), 1889 (H)  R  b. TN (1842) Slave (TN & AR) Sharecropper, Farmer, Co. Treasurer; Slave on Kenneth Rayner’s Plantation on Grand Lake in Chicot County. Joined Comp F, 3 U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery in 1863. Educated at Hillsdale College, Michigan, 1870-1873.
Logan, W. H. 1887 (S), 1889 (S)  R  b. OH (1850/55 Free ? Justice of the Peace, Preacher, Teacher, Farmer
Mason, James W.

1868 (S),

1871 (S)

 R

b. Chicot Co. (1841)

d. 1874 (Lake Village)

Slave, Free Planter, Postmaster, Sheriff, Judge
Newsome, Hugh L. 1887 (H)  R

b. Nashville, TN (1848)

d. 1900-1910 (Little Rock)

Slave ? Teacher, Postal Clerk, City Marshal (Little Rock)

Robinson, James A.

1871 (H) 1874-75 (H)

 R  b. AR (ca 1836) Slave Merchant

Rollins, John C.

1871 (H)

 R

b. GA (1812/1835)

d. before 1880

Slave ?

Farmer
Webb, John W.

1871 (H)

 R

b. KY (1824)

Slave ?

Justice of the Peace, Farmer, Farm Laborer

Weddington, R. C.

1891 (H)

 R

b. Rodney, MS (1866)

NA

Farmer, Teacher, Principal

Adapted from Wintory, Blake J. “African American Legislators in the Arkansas General Assembly, 1868-1893.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 65 (Winter 2006): 385-434.

Updated August 17, 2017