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Arkansas State Press

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The Arkansas State Press during 1941 to 1959 shows historians different aspects of United States society. The period between 1941 and 1949 depicts how World War II changed the ways that Black citizens celebrated the Fourth of July. Like all areas of daily life, the Independence Day celebrations were affected by large swaths of the population being sent overseas, buying war bonds, and government implemented rations. The decade from 1946 to 1955 mostly published newsletters to the community that included information on church events, reunions, people taking trips, and multiple articles about baseball and softball games. Several articles included safety tips and travel suggestions for families. Articles between 1955 and 1959 covered recent court decisions, such as Brown versus Board of Education, related to the celebrations of the Fourth of July. These select years did not talk a lot about Independence Day besides aspects such as, travel and cooking tips. The main themes that surrounded the Fourth of July found in this paper change over time from being focused on World War II, the minute celebrations of the holiday, and the many inequalities present from racism.

One interesting article from the Arkansas State Press, published in 1951, showed that the school districts in the local area held a conference that discussed the segregation of schools. The differences between white schools and African American schools was dramatic. The meeting took place on the fourth of July because of the symbolism of the holiday. Many public officials in this meeting discussed the subject of unfair treatment between the two races, such as the lack of hot meals and segregation between school bus drivers. The author is trying to argue for a change in educational rights for African Americans.

Another  notable article, written by S.S. Taylor and published on July 15, 1955, argued for the creation of a new holiday, Civil Rights Day. It would be celebrated on July 28, which was the day that the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified. The article explains the meaning of the amendment, and laments how certain parts of the amendment were not being followed. Taylor writes, “The second section provides that a state’s representation shall be reduced when it denies suffrage to some of it citizens. This section has never been enforced. But the law stands there as firmly entrenched as any other part of the Constitution waiting only the time when some bold and capable champion shall agitate it.” The article points to hope for a better tomorrow. This specific article is significant because the author shows the desire of African Americans to celebrate more than just Independence Day. The fact that African Americans were dissatisfied with the Fourth of July during the presence of Jim Crow laws, such as segregation and poll taxes, is very apparent from this article. It is not surprising but this raises the question about whether other people shared this sentiment and how prevalent it was.