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Arkansas History

Arkansas History


Arkansas History

Arkansas (pronounced as AR-ken-saw) is located in the Southern region of the U.S. Its name is an Algonquian Quapaw Indian word (“Akakaze”) meaning “land of the downriver people”. The early French explorers then pronounced it as “Arcansas”. Arkansas is called “The Natural State” because of the abundance of beautiful lakes and rivers, hills and mountains, forests and delta areas. It is a diverse landscape from the flat farmland of the Mississippi River Delta in the East to the Ozark and Ouachita mountains in the west. Arkansas is also known for its dense forests in the southwest. Arkansas is also known for its hunting and fishing. Arkansas is a “well-kept secret” in its ability to create a down-home atmosphere and a cosmopolitan focus for the arts as well as the medical and business realm.

Little Rock, the capital and largest city of Arkansas, is a small city of approximately 200,000 people. The naming of Little Rock is said to have occurred in 1722 when a French explorer, Benard de la Harpe, was leading a group up the Arkansas River from New Orleans on the Mississippi River and came upon two rock outcroppings - one large and one small - on opposite sides of the River. De la Harpe presumably picked up the name 'little rock' from local Indians to contrast with the ‘big rock’ two miles further on the other side of the River.  It was said the inhabitants of the side of the “little rock” were very hospitable…a fact that remains today!

Arkansas was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  What is now part of 15 U.S. states were included in the purchase from France. The total area of Arkansas was part of that 15 million dollar purchase. President Thomas Jefferson wanted this territory especially access to the Mississippi river and the port of New Orleans. The territory of Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the 25th state on June 15, 1836.  Arkansas joined the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

In 1957, world attention was drawn to the Arkansas capital city when Governor Orval E. Faubus and the Arkansas National Guard forcibly tried to prevent the integration of Little Rock Central High School. Integration was mandated by federal law according to a Supreme Court case called Brown vs. the Board of Education. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending U.S. (Federal) troops to the city with orders to enforce the integration and protect the students. This was one of the first events of the Civil Rights Movement. The 9 brave African American students who were the first to enter Central High were called “The Little Rock Nine”

The state of Arkansas is primarily a rural and agricultural state and the nation’s largest producer of rice.  Arkansas is also the only place in the U.S. that has a Diamond mine! 

Little Rock is also the center of the state's historic, cultural, and economic activity, including hundreds of nonprofit organizations which include Heifer International and Winrock International. Little Rock is the home office or U.S. base for many internationally recognized companies such as Welspun Gujarat Rohren and LM Windpower and Dassault Falcon Jets.

Northwest Arkansas is also home to the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, and many national and international industries such as Tyson Foods, and JB Hunt Trucking.  The renowned American Art Museum, Crystal Bridges, is also located in the Northwest part of the state. Northwest Arkansas boasts the home of University of Arkansas main campus in Fayetteville, large international companies and the amazing scenery of the Ozarks.

Arkansas is the home state of former President, Bill Clinton, Senator J. William Fulbright, the founder of the Fulbright Scholars Program, noted author Maya Angelou, Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, and many notable entertainers, sports icons, politicians and military figures.  

Arkansas is a culturally diverse state.  The Capital City is home to not only Caucasians and African Americans but also Asian, Middle Eastern and a large and growing number of Latinos from Central America and especially Mexico. The University of Arkansas Little Rock, an urban public University of about 13,000 students, enrolls a large number of International Students and offers International Studies and foreign language programs, as well as a renowned Engineering, Medical and new Cybersecurity program. Little Rock is also home to a Mexican Consulate that serves Mexicans living in the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Western Tennessee. The Clinton Presidential Center, the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton School of Public Service have helped make great strides in establishing Little Rock as a city with not only a colorful history but a favorable future. 


Arkansas generally has a humid subtropical climate in spring and summer. While not bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Arkansas is still close enough to this warm, large body of water for it to influence the weather in the state. Generally, Arkansas has hot, humid summers and cold, slightly drier winters. In Little Rock, the daily high temperatures average around 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) with lows around 73 degrees F (23 degrees C) in July. In January highs average around 51 degrees F (11 degrees C) and lows around 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). The annual precipitation throughout the state averages between about 40 and 60 inches (1,000 and 1,500 mm). Snowfall is infrequent and the area surrounding Little Rock is more apt to see ice storms. Northwest Arkansas experiences both ice and snow fall during the winter.

Famous Arkansans 

Arkansas Fun Facts

Bill Clinton (president)

William J. Fulbright (senator, Fulbright programs)

Maya Angelou (poet)

John Grisham (author)          

Johnny Cash (singer)

Mary Steenburgen (actress)  

Billy Bob Thornton (actor)        

Scottie Pippen (basketball)

Glen Campbell (singer)  

Douglas MacArthur (general)  

Dizzy Dean (baseball)

Mark Martin (race car driver)

Al Green (singer)

Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys owner)

Sonny Liston (boxer)    

Fay Jones (architect)

Winthrop Rockefeller (governor)    

Sam Walton (Walmart)

Don Tyson (Tyson Foods)

J.B. Hunt (trucking)

William Dillard (department store)

Entered the Union: June 15, 1836 (25)

Capital: Little Rock

Origin of Name: French interpretation of the Algonquin Indian word "ookansa," (referring to the Quapaw Tribe who lived in Arkansas) meaning "south wind"

State Motto: Regnat populus (The people rule)

State Bird: Mockingbird

State Nickname: The Natural State

State Tree: Loblolly Pine

State Flower: Apple Blossom

State Insect: Honeybee

State Mammal: White-tailed Deer

State Beverage: Milk

State Instrument: Fiddle

State Gem: Diamond

Fruit/Vegetable: Vine Ripe Pink Tomato

State Book: The Holy Bible

State Mineral: Quartz Crystal

State Song: “Arkansas”

National Parks: 1 • National Forests: 2 • State Parks: 51

Famous for: America's only Diamond Mine, Hot Springs National Park

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