Black History Month in Downtown Conway
February is Black History Month, dedicated to learning about and celebrating black history and achievements. Remembering the contributions and the stories of African Americans is essential because it prompts us to reflect upon how far we have come as a society, but also how much work we still have before us. Many influential African Americans both in antiquity and in more recent history have called Conway and its surrounding areas home, and we wanted to share glimpses of just a few of them.
A self-taught sculptor born near Wooster, Arkansas, Cicero Osco Pilgrim worked as a brick-layer, a roofer, and laid railroad track for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. At night, using pocket knives and carpenter’s tools, Pilgrim carved his sculptures at home. His masterpiece, The Last Days, is on display at the Bailey Library at Hendrix College along with ten more of his pieces.
Silas Owens was a stonemason and carpenter who was known throughout Central Arkansas for his skilled use of a style of construction called Mixed Masonry. The 1938 Charlie Hall House is the first known building using this style produced by Owens, and it still stands today as a monument to his creativity.
Elijah Eugene Pitts was a football player born in Mayflower, Arkansas who fielded for the Green Bay Packers as a halfback. Long before that, though, he played high school football at Pine Street High School in Conway. After receiving offers from Big Ten programs, he chose to remain near his home and joined the football program at Philander Smith College in Little Rock. Pitts was chosen by the Packers in the 13th round of the 1961 NFL draft, and in 1967 he scored two touchdowns for the team in the first Super Bowl. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1979.
Kristin Allison Lewis is an opera singer from Little Rock known for her rich and moving soprano. She studied voice with Dr. Martha Antolik at the University of Central Arkansas, and in 2005 she went on to make her European operatic debut as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Germany. She has since performed the title role in Aida, as well as Elizabeta in Don Carlo, Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera, and many more. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2019.
Black History Month “Who I Am” Exhibit
If you would like to learn more about Black History firsthand, visit the UCA Downtown exhibit “Generational Ties: Who I Am. Who We Are.” This display features works curated by five artists of color: Nakeya Palmer, Nick Palmer, Adaja Cooper, Jasmine Jackson, and Rashawn Penister.
The exhibit is intended to create and strengthen a connection to the past – a celebration of the familial and cultural history and the resilience of Black Americans. The exhibit runs until March 5th, and can be viewed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2:00 to 5:00 pm and Fridays from 12:00 to 5:00pm.
The influence and achievements of African Americans are so much more than can be contained in a single month of the year. But by taking time to listen, learn, and appreciate them, we can help create a community that is focused on unity and acceptance, which is the best way to ensure a better tomorrow. #DowntownStrong #YourPlaceIsHere