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History of Ninth Street


Arkansas Connections to the Mosaic Templars Enterprise and Its Multiple Networks

Fraternal connections often brought black Arkansans together on 9th Street. As early as 1898, Professor J. C. Corbin, the first president of Branch Normal College (now UAPB) in Pine Bluff organized a meeting of the Royal Arch Chapter of the Freemasons in Jones Hall. Scipio Jordan, who later started the Knights and Daughters of Tabor - whose headquarters (known as Taborian Hall) at 9th and State is preserved as Arkansas Flag and Banner - was also a member of this fraternal group. The Knights built statewide and national networks for life and burial insurance in the 1920s similar to some aspects of the Mosaic Templars enterprises.

The Templars organization provides a clear example of the strong linkages between black residents and entrepreneurs who lived and worked in Little Rock and others all across Arkansas. The 1917 proceedings of the Mosaic Templar Grand Lodge include chapters with almost 5,000 members in at least 18 Arkansas towns:

  • Conway
  • Fort Smith
  • Maumelle
  • Pecan Point
  • Gilmore
  • Hot Springs
  • Perryville
  • Roland
  • Blytheville
  • Wilson
  • Edmonson
  • West Helena
  • Morrilton
  • Forrest City
  • Palestine
  • Osceola
  • Helena

  • J.E. Henderson in his jewelry store on 9th Street. From Blue Book of Little Rock and Argenta, 1907.
    J.E. Henderson in his jewelry store on 9th Street. From Blue Book of Little Rock and Argenta, 1907.


    These natural networks among black Arkansans are also documented in the world of business through the Colored Business Menís League and in the diverse social arena as black newspapers historically located on 9th Street covered civic affairs in the black community. Various black elected officials, associations, and civil rights organizations (especially the NAACP) from all over the state had central offices around 9th Street.

    Many Mosaic Templar leaders within this network made great contributions to the black community. Scipio A. Jones (1863?-1943) was a politician, attorney, judge, and National General Attorney for the Mosaic Templars. He moved to Little Rock from Tulip, Arkansas before his twentieth birthday and entered Bethel University, where he completed the preparatory course. He next entered the newly established Shorter College in North Little Rock, where he took a teacher training course and received a bachelorís degree in 1885.

    After graduation, Scipio Jones taught at Sweet Home, where he began to study law. In 1889, he was admitted to practice before the lower, and later the higher, courts of Arkansas. He was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 10, 1914. In 1915, he was elected special judge of the Municipal Court in Little Rock. He was also considered for appointment as the U.S. minister to Haiti during the Taft administration, but the appointment was never made.

    Fannie Rowell (bottom left) owned a laundry business near 9th Street in 1907. From Blue Book of Little Rock and Argenta. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas.
    Fannie Rowell (bottom left) owned a laundry business near 9th Street in 1907. From The Blue Book of Little Rock and Argenta.
    Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Arkansas.


    Scipio Jones was also deeply rooted in the struggle between the Lily Whites and the Black and Tans within the Republican Party. In 1902, Jones helped organize a slate of Negro Republicans to challenge the Lily Whites and Democrats in the Little Rock general election. The struggle reached a breaking point in 1920 when the Negroes took an unprecedented course of nominating a Negro candidate, J.H. Blount, for Governor. In that year, Jones was selected as the Black and Tan contender for the Arkansas Republican National Committee. Four years later, Jones, J. H. Blunt, N. R. Parker and J. Hibbler helped organize a Black and Tan protest meeting in Little Rock in which a list of demands for equal political treatment was presented to the Lily Whites. Eventually, a compromise was reached that guaranteed Negro representation on the State Republican Central Committee.

    Jonesí most noteworthy contribution was his defense of legal and political rights of blacks. He was instrumental in securing a state appropriation to finance the training of Negro professionals in out-of-state schools. His most famous civil rights case came in the defense of 12 Negroes sentenced to death in the aftermath of the bloody Elaine race riot of October 1919. Jones appealed the death sentences through the Arkansas courts. When the case, Moore v. Dempsey, finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones prepared the legal briefs that the white lawyer, Moorfield Storey, used in not only freeing the 12 convicted Negroes, but also indicting the entire economic and racial climate of the east Arkansas "black belt."

    History of Ninth Street




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    Mosaic Templars Building Preservation Society

    MOSAIC TEMPLAR BUILDING PRESERVATION SOCIETY
    P.O. Box 45674
    Little Rock, AR 72214-5674
    For information regarding the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center hours of operation or special events, please visit their website at www.mosaictemplarscenter.org
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