The ARKANSAS DELTA is one of the six natural regions of the state of
Arkansas . Willard B. Gatewood Jr., author of The
Arkansas Delta: Land
of Paradox, says that rich cotton lands of the
Arkansas Delta make
that area "The Deepest of the Deep South."
The region runs along the
Mississippi River from Eudora north to
Blytheville and as far west as Little Rock . It is part of the
Mississippi embayment , itself part of the
Mississippi River Alluvial
Plain . The flat plain is bisected by Crowley\'s Ridge , a narrow
band of rolling hills rising 250 to 500 feet (76 to 152 m) feet above
the flat delta plains. Several towns and cities have been developed
along Crowley's Ridge, including Jonesboro . The region's lower
western border follows the
Arkansas River just outside Little Rock
Pine Bluff . There the border shifts to Bayou Bartholomew
, stretching south to the
Louisiana state line.
Arkansas Delta shares many geographic similarities with the
Mississippi Delta , it is distinguished by its five unique
sub-regions: the St. Francis Basin, Crowley's Ridge, the White River
Lowlands, the Grand Prairie and the
Arkansas River Lowlands (also
called "the Delta Lowlands").
Arkansas Delta includes the entire counties of
Arkansas , Chicot
, Clay , Craighead , Crittenden , Cross , Desha , Drew , Greene , Lee
, Mississippi , Monroe , Phillips , Poinsett , and St. Francis . It
also includes portions of Jackson , Lawrence , Prairie , Randolph ,
White , Pulaski , Lincoln , Jefferson , Lonoke and Woodruff counties.
* 1 Geography
* 1.1 Grand Prairie
* 2 History
* 2.1 Early history and frontier
* 2.2 Territorial era through statehood
* 2.3 20th century, through Civil Rights era
* 3 Music
* 4 Today
* 5 Principal cities
* 6 Higher education
* 7 Highways
* 8 See also
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
* 12 External links
St. Francis River , Crowley\'s Ridge , White River
(Arkansas) , and
The Delta is subdivided into five unique sub-regions, including the
St. Francis Basin, Crowley's Ridge, the White River Lowlands, the
Grand Prairie, and the
Arkansas River Lowlands (also called "the Delta
The underlying impermeable clay layer in the Stuttgart soil series
that allowed the region to be a flat grassland plain initially
appeared to stunt the region's growth relative to the rest of the
Delta. But in 1897, William Fuller began cultivating rice, a crop that
requires inundation, to the region with great success. Rice
cultivation still features prominently in the region's economy and
Riceland Foods , the world's largest rice miller and
marketer, is based in Stuttgart,
Arkansas on the Grand Prairie.
See also: History of
EARLY HISTORY AND FRONTIER ARKANSAS
In the earth's history, after the
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico withdrew from what
was Missouri, many floods occurred in the
Mississippi River Delta,
building up alluvial deposits. In some places the deposits measure 100
feet (30 m) deep.
The region was occupied by succeeding cultures of indigenous peoples
for thousands of years. Some cultures built major earthwork mounds,
with evidence of mound-building cultures dating back more than 12,000
years. These mounds have been preserved in three main locations: the
Nodena Site ,
Parkin Archaeological State Park , and Toltec Mounds
Archeological State Park .
French explorers and colonists encountered the historic Quapaw people
in this region, who lived along the
Arkansas River and its
tributaries. The first European settlement in what became the state
was the trading center,
Arkansas Post . The post was founded by Henri
de Tonti while searching for
Robert de La Salle
Robert de La Salle in 1686. The commerce
in the area was not initially cotton but fishing and wild game. The
fur trade and lumber later were critical to the economy.
Early settlers crossed the Mississippi and settled among the swamps
and bayous of east Arkansas. Frontier
Arkansas was a rough, lawless
place infamous for violence and criminals. Settlers, who were mostly
French and Spanish colonists, generally engaged in a mutually
beneficial give-and-take trading relationship with the Native
Americans. French trappers often married Quapaw women and lived in
their villages, increasing their alliances for trade.
Around 1800 United States settlers gradually entered this area. In
1803 the US acquired the territory from France by the Louisiana
Purchase . As settlers began to acquire and clear land, they
encroached on Quapaw territory and traditional hunting and fishing
practices. The two cultures had divergent views of property. Relations
deteriorated further after the
1812 New Madrid earthquake , which was
felt throughout the region and taken as a portent. Some Native
Americans considered the earthquake to be a sign of punishment for
trading with the European settlers.
The beginning point of all subsequent surveys of the Louisiana
Purchase was placed in the
Arkansas Delta near Blackton . In 1993 this
site was named a
National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark and later preserved as
Louisiana Purchase State Park . A granite marker, accessible via a
boardwalk through a swamp, marks the starting point of the survey.
TERRITORIAL ERA THROUGH STATEHOOD
Lakeport Plantation in Chicot
County, built ca. 1850, is one of the few remaining plantation houses
American settlers drained swamps and cleared forests along the river
to cultivate the rich alluvial plain. They began to develop cotton
After achieving territorial status in 1819,
Arkansas reneged on an
1818 treaty with the Quapaw. Territory officials began removing the
Quapaw from their fertile homeland in the
Arkansas delta. The Quapaw
had inhabited lands along the
Arkansas River and near its mouth at the
Mississippi River for centuries.
The invention of the cotton gin had made short-staple cotton
profitable, and the Deep South was developed for cotton cultivation.
It grew well in fertile delta soils. Settlers took these fertile lands
for agriculture and pushed the Quapaw south to
Louisiana in 1825-1826.
The Quapaw returned to southeast
Arkansas by 1830, but were
permanently relocated to
Oklahoma in 1833 under the Indian Removal Act
passed by Congress. High cotton prices encouraged many planters to
concentrate on cotton as a commodity crop, and the large plantations
were dependent on slave labor . The plantation economy and a slave
society were developed in the
Arkansas Delta, with black slaves
forming the majority of the population. This region developed
political interests different from outlying areas where yeomen farmers
African Americans were brought into the Delta throughout the
early-to-mid-19th century to work as slaves on plantations . Counties
maintaining the largest populations of slaves by 1860 included
Phillips (8,941), Chicot (7,512), and Jefferson (7,146). Prior to the
U.S. Civil War
U.S. Civil War , numerous Delta counties had higher numbers of blacks
than whites, because of the thousands of persons enslaved. Arkansas
was developed later and its wealthy planters did not construct as many
grand plantation mansions as in other parts of the Deep South. The
American Civil War
American Civil War ended that prosperous antebellum period.
The Civil War resulted in destruction to the river levees and other
property damage. Expensive investment was required to repair the
levees. The region's continued reliance on agriculture kept wages low,
and the cotton market did not recover. Many freedmen survived by
sharecropping and tenant farming as a way of life.
20TH CENTURY, THROUGH CIVIL RIGHTS ERA
THIS SECTION NEEDS EXPANSION. You can help by adding to it . (June
Like other states of the former Confederacy,
Arkansas passed laws to
reduce black and Republican voting, as well as that of poor whites. It
passed the Election Law of 1891, which required secret ballots, and
standardized ballots, eliminating many illiterate voters. It also
created a centralized election board, providing for consolidation of
Democratic political power. Having reduced voter rolls, in 1892 the
Democrats passed a poll tax amendment to the constitution, creating
another barrier for struggling white and black workers alike, many
unable to pay such fees to register and vote. These two measures
caused sharp declines in the number of African-American and white
voters; by 1895 no African-American members were left in the General
Assembly. It hollowed out the Republican Party and reduced the
farmer-labor alliance. Most blacks were kept off the rolls and out of
electoral politics until after Democratic passage of the Voting Rights
Act of 1965, although a concerted effort in the 1940s increased voter
Social tensions rose in the area after World War I, as black veterans
pushed for better conditions. Unlike other mass riots of Red Summer
1919, when racial unrest erupted in numerous northern and midwestern
cities because of labor and social competition, the Elaine Race Riot
or the "Elaine Massacre" was the result of rural forces. It occurred
Arkansas in the Delta, where local planters were trying
to discourage the formation of an agricultural union among blacks.
The area suffered extensively during the Great Mississippi Flood of
1927 , which put tens of thousands of acres underwater, caused
extensive property damage, and left many people homeless.
In the 1940s the mechanized cotton picker was introduced into
regional agriculture. This led to a significant decline in demand for
manual labor. During World War II, the defense industry in California
and other western locations attracted many African-American workers
Louisiana and Texas in a second wave of the Great
Migration , resulting in a population decrease in the Delta. The lack
of jobs continued to cause a decline. Charles Bowden of National
Geographic wrote, "By 1970 the sharecropping world was already
disappearing, and the landscape of today—huge fields, giant
machines, battered towns, few people—beginning to emerge."
Arkansas Delta is known for its rich musical heritage. While
defined primarily by its deep blues/gospel roots, it is distinguished
somewhat from its
Mississippi Delta counterpart by more intricately
interwoven country music and
Arkansas blues musicians
have defined every genre of blues from its inception, including
ragtime , hokum , country blues ,
Delta blues , boogie-woogie , jump
Chicago blues , and blues-rock . Eastern Arkansas'
predominantly African American population in cities like Helena , West
Pine Bluff , Brinkley ,
Cotton Plant , Forrest City and
others has provided a fertile backdrop of juke joints, clubs and dance
halls which have so completely nurtured this music. Many of the
nation's blues pioneers were either born in the
Arkansas Delta or
lived in the region highlighting their craft. As a result, the region
hosts several blues events throughout the year culminating in the
Arkansas Blues and Heritage Fest. The festival averages about 85,000
people per day over its three-day run and is rated in the top 10 music
events in the nation by festivals.com.
Gospel music, the mother of Delta Blues, is enshrined in the lives
and social fabric of residents. Many popular Delta artists in all
other genres had their start singing or playing in church choirs and
quartets. Given the historic racism and entrenched segregation in the
Delta, the African-American church and, by extension, its music, have
taken on a central role in the lives of residents. African-American
gospel music's roots are deep in the Delta. Unlike the blues, which
has been historically dominated by men throughout the Delta, women
established a pioneering role in gospel music. From the quartet
traditions that dominate south
Arkansas to the classic and
contemporary solo artists who have found national prominence in the
east, gospel music in the Delta has made and continues to make a
significant mark on the cultural landscape.
Arkansas Delta's country music roots have depth, with legendary
performers coming from the area. While more geographically dispersed
throughout the region, these artists represent the very best in
country genres, including bluegrass , rockabilly , folk music , and
alternative country . This music expresses the long-standing
relationship between blues and country. As young country musicians
continue to develop in the Delta, they continue to help the genre grow
R&B music has also had a presence as an outgrowth of the strong blues
and gospel traditions. The East Central Delta area has produced a
small number of talented and influential R">
Cotton fields in
Poinsett County. This flat, rural landscape is typical of the Arkansas
Delta Jonesboro , the largest city in the delta region
Arkansas Delta economy is still dominated by agriculture. The
main commodity crop is cotton ; other crops include rice and soybeans
. Catfish farming has been developed as a new source of revenue for
Arkansas Delta farmers, along with poultry production.
The Delta has some of the lowest population densities in the American
South , sometimes fewer than 1 person per square mile. Slightly more
than half the population is African American, reflecting their deep
history in the area. Eastern
Arkansas has the most cities in the state
with predominately African-American populations. Urbanization and the
shift to mechanization of farm technology during the past 60 years has
sharply reduced jobs in the Delta. People have followed jobs out of
the region, leading to a declining tax base. This hampers efforts to
support education, infrastructure development, community health and
other vital aspects of growth. The region's remaining people suffer
from unemployment, extreme poverty, and illiteracy.
Delta Cultural Center in Helena seeks to preserve and interpret
the culture of the
Arkansas Delta along with the University of
Pine Bluff 's University and Cultural Museum. The Arts and
Science Center for Southeast
Pine Bluff is charged with
highlighting and promoting works of Delta artists.
The ivory-billed woodpecker , which had not been sighted since 1944
and is believed to be extinct , was reportedly seen in a swamp in east
Arkansas in 2005.
* West Memphis
* Forrest City
* Helena-West Helena
Arkansas State University
Arkansas Community College
* Phillips Community College of the University of
* University of
* University of
Arkansas at Monticello
* Interstate 40 - From Brinkley to West Memphis
* Interstate 55 - From West Memphis to Blytheville
* U.S. Highway 278
* U.S. Highway 49
* U.S. Highway 61
* U.S. Highway 62
* U.S. Highway 63
* U.S. Highway 64
* U.S. Highway 65
* U.S. Highway 165
* U.S. Highway 67
* U.S. Highway 70
* U.S. Highway 79
* U.S. Highway 82
* ^ Williard B. Gatewood Jr. and Jeannie M. Whayne, eds. (1996).
Arkansas Delta: Land of Paradox. University of
Arkansas Press. p.
3. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link )
* ^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, p. 3.
* ^ Smith, Richard M. (1989). The Atlas of Arkansas. The University
Arkansas Press. p. 19. ISBN 1557280479 .
* ^ "The
Arkansas Delta - The Region".
Arkansas Delta Byways.
Retrieved July 31, 2012.
* ^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, N.Pag..
* ^ Lancaster, Guy (December 16, 2011). "Grand Prairie". Retrieved
August 28, 2016.
* ^ A B C D E F G Bowden, Charles. "Return to the
(Archive) National Geographic . November 2012. Retrieved on June 3,
* ^ Early, Ann M. (November 5, 2011). "Indian Mounds". Encyclopedia
of Arkansas. The Butler Center. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
* ^ Smith, Darlene (Spring 1954). "
Arkansas Post". Arkansas
Arkansas Historical Association. 13: 120.
* ^ Mattison, Ray H. (Summer 1957). "
Arkansas Post: Its Human
Arkansas Historical Quarterly.
Association. 16: 119.
* ^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, pp. 8-9.
* ^ Gatewood and Whayne 1993, pp. 9-10.
* ^ Arnold et al 2002, p. 78.
* ^ Arnold et al 2002, p. 89.
* ^ Baker, William D. (September 16, 1991). "National Historic
Louisiana Purchase Survey Marker / Louisiana
Purchase Initial Point Site" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved
July 31, 2012.
* ^ White, Lonnie J. (Autumn 1962). "
Arkansas Territorial Indian
Arkansas Historical Quarterly.
Association . 21: 197.
* Arnold, Morris S.; DeBlack, Thomas A.; Sabo III, George; Whayne,
Jeannie M. (2002). Arkansas: A narrative history (1st ed.).
Fayetteville, Arkansas: The University of
Arkansas Press. ISBN
OCLC 49029558 .
* Gatewood, Willard B; Whayne, Jeannie (1993). The
Arkansas Delta: A
Land of Paradox. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of
ISBN 1-55728-287-0 .
* Dollins, Mike. Blues Guitar News: A listing of
Legends and Blues Highway 49 History.
* Ecoregions of the
Mississippi Alluvial Plain - Environmental