Dedication of the Elizabeth Eckford Commemorative Bench: Honoring a Courageous American Life


On September 4th, 2018, Elizabeth Eckford walked slowly down Park Street to sit on a special commemorative bench dedicated in her name. Surrounded by an applauding crowd of over 300 people, Ms. Eckford was escorted with honor by students, including the team from the Little Rock Central High Memory Project that led the effort to create and install the bench. Ms. Eckford reflected on her historic experience after the racially diverse group of students presented their work to an audience that included numerous community sponsors and civic leaders. The moving event was covered by local and state press and featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Honoring a civil rights hero, healing the wounds of history

The dedication ceremony took place on the sixty-first anniversary of the day when a young Ms. Eckford rushed down the same street to sit on the original city bus bench. That day in 1957, she was pursued by an angry white mob that opposed allowing her to integrate Central High School as a member of the Little Rock Nine. The bench now dedicated to her is a faithful replica of the one at which she took refuge from the mob.


The iconic, painful photographs of Ms. Eckford, only a girl at the time, have etched themselves into American history, a permanent record of the sacrifices endured by civil rights pioneers. That day was only the beginning of a long year of abuses from white students who objected to attending school with black students. In her speech at the bench dedication, Ms. Eckford referred to her long struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder after her high school years, but she added an unforgettable postscript. “I don’t cry anymore when I talk about the past, and that is because of the efforts of students,” Ms. Eckford said. “It is very, very endearing when students want to know about the past.”

Students design bench, mobile app for living history walking tour

The students on the Memory Project team researched and edited a living history walking tour adapted as a mobile app for digital devices. Now, visitors to the Little Rock Central High Historic Site can listen on their cell phones to the sounds of the time and hear about the desegregation crisis moment by moment as they retrace Ms. Eckford’s steps. The Memory Project student team also participated in the bench construction, and they are still at work on an ongoing oral history podcast project.

The initial momentum for the project came from student Adaja Cooper, who realized she could design the bench on her EAST classroom computer. Adaja spoke at the National Rotary Club meeting in Central High’s library on Martin Luther King Day, and the Rotary Club was inspired by her speech to pledge a generous $15,000.  Stella Cameron (LRCH media specialist), Tamara McCormack (EAST Lab Facilitator) and David Kilton (NPS Ranger) worked with students to plan the event. CALS Butler Center historian George West mentored the team throughout the project. Many other individuals and organizations contributed time and financial support (see endnote).

ColinandMilofromGeorge1Students gain insight, context from historical project

Jessie Bates, a junior at Central High, worked with the National Park Service and Oncell to create the app to house the walking tour, including an audio transcript and historical photos. She found her work rewarding. “The project provides a more personal view of the history we’re so familiar with,” she said. “Textbooks often gloss over it, but reading the primary sources in the words of the students who were there helps us connect to the history.”

MsEckfordStudentsBenchBrighterZaria Moore, also a junior working on the Memory Project, said that she enjoyed coming up with ideas to “bring history back,” such as the bench. “I appreciate getting to meet people who made history, like the Little Rock Nine,” she said. Zaria is related to another member of the Little Rock Nine, Thelma Mothershed-Wair, a connection that reflects the personal relevance of the 1957 crisis to so many people still living in Little Rock.

Words of courage and grace

MsEckfordPodiumMs. Eckford conveyed dignity and peace as she described her successful decades-long journey to come to terms with her past experiences at Central High. Her stated desire to continue working toward “true reconciliation” exemplified the engagement and grace that has made her a beloved figure in the city. The CALS Butler Center salutes Ms. Eckford for her contribution to Little Rock and to American society. Thanks to the student team on the Memory Project  for the successful completion of this well-deserved monument to a life of sacrifice and bravery.

The Elizabeth Eckford Commemorative Bench project was a collaboration between the Central High Memory Project and the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site (administered by the National Park Service). Other community partners included the Central Arkansas Library System’s Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, Bullock Temple C.M.E., Central High School and their EAST LAB, the Little Rock School District, the City of Little Rock, Good Earth Garden Center, Friends of Central High Museum Inc., Home Depot, Little Rock Club 99 and other Rotary International Clubs, Washitaw Foothills Youth Media Arts & Literacy Collective, Unity in the Community, Central High Museum Inc., and others.BenchPhotofromGeorge Crop

Resources Related to Cooper v. Aaron, UALR Altheimer Symposium

Sixty years ago, John and Thelma Aaron and others filed suit in federal court in Arkansas for the purpose of integrating Arkansas schools.

The resulting U.S. Supreme Court case, Cooper v. Aaron, established the supremacy of the federal constitution as well as the supremacy of the Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution.

The issues raised by Cooper are still the subject of vibrant debate. Increasingly, state and local officials seek to avoid enforcing or following federal mandates ranging from the same-sex marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in NFIB v. Sebelius.

The Altheimer Symposium on September 28 will discuss the history and impact of Cooper v. Aaron, the local significance of the case, and its continuing vitality in an age of political and legal polarization.

The experts at the Butler Center’s Encyclopedia of Arkansas have compiled a list  of our most helpful entries to provide background on Cooper v. Aaron.

Encyclopedia of Arkansas: Cooper v. Aaron

Books Relating to the Landmark Cooper v. Aaron Supreme Court Decision

Anderson, Karen. Little Rock: Race and Resistance at Central High School. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Freyer, Tony.  
The Little Rock Crisis: A Constitutional Interpretation. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Little Rock on Trial: Cooper v. Aaron and School Desegregation. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007.

Jacoway, Elizabeth. 
Turn Away Thy Son: Little Rock, the Crisis That Shocked the Nation. New York: Free Press, 2007.

Kilpatrick, Judith. 
There When We Needed Him: Wiley Austin Branton, Civil Rights Warrior. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007.

Kirk, John A. 
Beyond Little Rock: The Origins and Legacies of the Central High Crisis. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2007.

Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940–1970. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.

Kirk, John A., ed. 
An Epitaph for Little Rock: A Fiftieth Anniversary Retrospective on the Central High Crisis. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2008.

Reed, Roy. 
Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

Stockley, Grif. 
Daisy Bates: Civil Rights Crusader from Arkansas. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.


The Symposium is open to the public and will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Reception to follow, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Butler Center, 401 President Clinton Ave


UALR Altheimer Symposium Fall 2018


Fairy Tales in a Minor Key by Painter Amily Miori

An Art Exhibition for the Whole (Addams) Family

When you walk into the gallery, the oil paintings look like the best fairy tales: colorful, layered, and slightly too vivid for comfort. The scenes should be familiar bedtime stories, but instead each painting feels unexpected and off-kilter, to such an extent that you may take a moment to figure out which story the painting interprets.

MioriCinderellaWhen you look a little longer, you see that these vivid characters are coming out of their frames into our world.  These people won’t stay where they belong. And they don’t seem to know whether they’re living in two dimensions or three. So, like fairy tales, these paintings have an uncanny ability to get inside your head and stay with you.

The mystery and unsettling appeal of Amily Miori’s work aren’t surprising, coming from an artist who has always incorporated surrealist elements in her paintings.

Miori’s search for a universal theme

This series, exhibited as “Au Pair Don’t Care,” takes a new direction for the artist.

MioriMulan“I thought, what if I could do something a little more relatable, that could reach a wider audience?” Miori said. “And then I saw online some pages of very old, original fairytales, and I started to research them. And I was fascinated by all the changes in today’s tales since the original stories, which were often disturbing.”

She looked for the original illustrations, but found they were rare. “I decided I was going to paint some of those illustrations that should go with the darker, old stories,” Miori said.

MioriPinocchioThrough the Looking Glass

As she adapted her work to larger canvases, she found through a happy accident that her central scenes needed more framing. And that led to one of the most interesting features of the series, the trompe l’oeil embossed frames that suggest wood or leather. These frames, which could be covers or pages, present the surface of a much deeper world that these characters inhabit, like the other side of the looking glass. And behind the characters, as in many of Miori’s previous works, there are textiles or textile-like patterns: brocade, botanical prints, curtains, or even stylized trees or brick that create the same subtle interiority. Symmetry, repetition, and layering create a space that is simultaneously flat and deep.

A storyteller based on an old family photo

The exhibition is entitled “Au Pair Don’t Care” after its putative storyteller, a character based on an old family photo of a woman who looks as if she is going to tell “a dark story,” as Miori explains it. This storyteller, described as a rebellious au pair (or nanny), is the interpreter who has created these charming but unsettling works.

A perfect introduction to the allure of an artistic vision

MioriLittleRedRedingHoodIt takes a unique artistic gift to create a work that initially seems innocent and perhaps childlike, but contains subtleties that modulate its mood to a minor key. Though this exhibition is sophisticated and humorous enough for adults, it would also be appropriate for most children. The youngest won’t notice or understand the darker notes of the paintings, while tweens will get a kick out of discovering them. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better exhibition to introduce young people to what it means to have an artistic vision, a particular way of seeing the world that draws others into the artist’s consciousness.

By taking these familiar stories and making them strange, Amily Miori has indeed created a spectacle with wide interest and appeal.

Amily Miori’s “Au Pair Don’t Care” opens this Friday, September 14, with a reception from 5:00 – 8:00 pm in the Galleries at Library Square.

Highly recommended for adults and children with parental guidance.

Starting Your Family History Research? Get the Basics Here

Who am I? How did I end up here?

A fascination with family history sometimes begins with simple personal curiosity. Most people don’t know their complete family trees, and a mysterious past naturally leads to questions: Were my ancestors rich or poor? Did they overcome hardship?  Did a certain talent or health problem run in my family?

Genealogy provides answers to questions of identity

FFquiltshelvesOur family histories can explain much about why we live in our current geographical regions, and our ancestors’ lives still influence our current values and beliefs. The cultures that formed previous generations of our family still leave deep imprints on our lives.

Once we have questions about our past that we want to answer, where do we start? With so many online and print sources available, knowing how to find reliable information can feel like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Free introductory how-to sessions at the Butler Center

The Butler Center offers free, expert help every month from our resident genealogist, Rhonda Stewart. In her small group presentation, “Finding Family Facts,” Rhonda introduces new researchers to the process of finding reliable information and to the many resources at the Butler Center.

A complex legacy of migration has brought people from all over the globe to the USA. Some Americans know that their families have only been in this country for two or three generations, and so they must trace their ancestry back across oceans.

RYanDonnabookshelfcropbrightMary H., who came to a recent “Finding Family Facts” session, was in exactly that position, having recent immigration in her family history.

“I had my DNA tested,” Mary said. “And the DNA confirmed our main family stories, which was really good because some of those stories conflicted! We didn’t know if we were Italian or French, but we’re Italian.”

In response to Mary’s specific research needs, Rhonda was able to recommend resources such as Social Security applications that are helpful for seeking ancestors who are recent immigrants to the USA.

Years of experience equip Stewart with many tips for seekers

Rhonda Stewart has been working in genealogy for many years, and has a talent for being able to get through “brick walls” when a trail of information seems to vanish.

“My mother’s sister said that our family stories weren’t true, so I set out to prove her wrong,” Rhonda said with a smile. “And here I am, thirteen years later, working in genealogy.”

laurenmicrofilmcropThe work of family research is often creative detective work, which is why many people fall in love with the process.

“Sometimes, your relative’s friends will really tell you the truth after your relative passes,” Rhonda said. “Have a cup of tea with one of those friends and say, ‘tell me what Mamaw was really like–you know you used to get up to trouble back in the day!’ You may be surprised at what you learn.”

The Butler Center offers extensive local history resources for those who may have roots in Arkansas. The research collection also contains print resources that address wider genealogy and history questions, as well as public computers and microfilm readers. A tour of the research room is part of “Finding Family Facts.”

“Finding Family Facts” takes place on the second Monday of each month from 3:30-5:00pm. The next session will occur on September 10 on the second floor of the Roberts Library (formerly known as the Arkansas Studies Institute) in Library Square.




An Artist in Prison is Still an Artist

Installing “Arrival at Jerome” by Henry Sugimoto

He was an award-winning artist with a BFA in painting, and he lived in California.

He had studied the French masters in Paris.

His paintings had appeared in prestigious shows such as the Salon d’Automne.

And in 1942, he was taken from his California home, along with his wife and children, and imprisoned behind barbed wire in an Arkansas camp.

His crime? Being of Japanese descent in the United States of America.

Americans descended into wartime paranoia and racism after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a result, over 100,000 Japanese Americans were deprived of their homes, their jobs, their belongings and their pets, as they were imprisoned in camps across the country by the federal government.

The artist, Henry Sugimoto, was incarcerated first at Jerome, Arkansas, and then at Rohwer, Arkansas from 1942 until 1945. The two camps collectively held 17,000 people.

After arriving at Jerome, devastated from the trauma of losing his life’s work, Henry Sugimoto began to create sketches of life at the prison camp. He rediscovered a sense of purpose as he decided to document through his art the incarceration experience of Japanese Americans.

“Arrival at Jerome,” one of his powerful camp paintings, was exhibited in 1944 at Hendrix College, while Henry Sugimoto was still incarcerated. This exhibition was the result of the advocacy of several Hendrix art faculty members including Louis Freund, Elsie Freund, and Floyd K. Hanson, who had visited Sugimoto at the Jerome prison camp.

Now “Arrival at Jerome” joins artworks from others imprisoned at the Rohwer Camp in “A Matter of Mind and Heart,” the Butler Center’s ongoing exhibition at Concordia Hall.

See  “Arrival at Jerome” and “A Matter of Mind and Heart: Portraits of Japanese American Identity” at 2nd Friday Art Night’s reception, August 10 from 5pm to 8pm.


This project was funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.

The Butler Center thanks Hendrix College for loaning Henry Sugimoto’s work to “A Matter of Mind and Heart,” as we honor and commemorate those Japanese Americans incarcerated in Arkansas during WWII. We are also indebted to the research and source material from Hendrix that informed this piece.

Uncovering the Secrets of Family History: Our Free Workshop with an Expert

Annual Genealogy Workshop brought gasps of surprise, cries of discovery

“I want to show you how many people are buried under this headstone.”

The speaker clicked to the next slide. An audible gasp arose from several hundred people as onscreen cemetery records revealed a single plot stuffed with 17 inhabitants.

WorkshopGraveyardCloserThe overstuffed gravesite was only one of many moments of revelation for the crowd that filled the Ron Robinson Theater on July 21. The CALS Butler Center’s Genealogy Workshop with’s expert, Juliana Szucs, was by all reports a great success, offering helpful strategies for both beginning and advanced seekers of family history.

Hidden treasures for history detectives

Ms. Szucs introduced the audience to hidden treasures on, the chief online resource for building family trees, searching for family history, or even seeking living relatives.GWearlybirds

“I travel to these events to let people know that there are a lot of ways to find that missing family member in your past,” Ms. Szucs said. “People think they have come to the end of the line when their hints are gone, but there’s so much you can do with the other records we have online.”

The wealth of information online became clear as Szucs presented resources such as with images of headstones and records,  African-American newspapers, passenger lists, Native American records and many more. The sheer number and variety of documents was astounding, especially when most can be seen with just the click of a button.

These records can be priceless to those whose own records are scanty or nonexistent: immigrants, people subjected to slavery or ethnic relocation, migrants across state lines, or those whose ancestors changed their surnames.

Finding long-lost connections with strangers

Family history research events can produce dramatic or funny discoveries, and this free CALS Butler Center workshop had its share.

GWJayneMarthaeditWhen an excited cry of “My great aunt!” echoed across the auditorium, we had to go find out the rest of the story. It turns out that Jayne S. (left) and Martha C. (right) had never met. After striking up a conversation about Jayne’s t-shirt, the two discovered that Jayne’s mother was named after Martha’s great aunt!

Jayne said, “Martha asked me about my t-shirt for DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) and said that her mother had been a member. I asked her if she had any relatives in Cleveland County, and from there we figured out the connection.”

A shared interest, with laughs on the side

GWlineentersMichael P. and Rae-Lene W. had a funny story about why they were at the workshop. The two friends both have family stories that imply Native American ancestry, so they challenged each other to take the Ancestry DNA test and find out for certain who had more Native American genes. The answer: no one. Zero percent Native American. All those family legends were just fun stories, on both sides!

But the challenge spurred the two friends to learn more about their family trees. Rae-Lene said, “I have an ancestor who was orphaned in Eastern Europe, so now I have the World subscription to This workshop was very helpful. And I come to the Butler Center all the time.”

More than a list of names: it’s our personal story

Presenter Juliana Szucs emphasized that “we don’t look for family history to find a list of names. What we’re really seeking is our stories. We want to know who these people from our past were, and what they wanted from life.”

USSFortJacksonMs. Szucs told a couple of anecdotes from her own research to show the real interest and power of family history. By using, she found out that her great-great-grandfather had served as a fireman on the USS Fort Jackson after enlisting in the Navy for the Civil War. Ms. Szucs would never have known about his military service, because as she later discovered, he enlisted under a false name in order to avoid discovery by his pregnant wife. His wife didn’t find out that her husband had enlisted until someone told her at the last minute that he was in the Navy shipyard, about to depart, and she had better come say goodbye. We can only imagine that dramatic scene.

In other cases, family name changes reveal a family’s trials or hardships. Ms. Szucs showed records for Jan Mekalski, who changed his name to “Wagner” in the early twentieth century to avoid anti-Polish prejudice. Unfortunately for “Jan Wagner,” World War I broke out within a few years, and Jan had to change his name back to “Jan Mekalski” because of rising prejudice toward Germans due to the war.

German WWI_posterThese name changes may seem extreme, but animosity toward various European immigrant groups could be so intense in the early 20th century that people could not get jobs to support their families if they belonged to the wrong ethnic group. In some cases, members of despised groups were publicly reviled or beaten. Knowing about Jan Mekalski’s name changes tells his descendants that this was a man who survived considerable prejudice and hardship.

Jan’s name changes also show the culture of the time Jan lived in, which reveals our shared national history as well as personal history. In fact, the greatest lesson of genealogy research may be that the distinction between personal and national history is a false one. Our national history IS our personal history.

American history is our personal history

Ms. Szucs told a story over lunch that underlined the same lesson. When asked what had been her favorite project for in her many years working there, she said, “Maybe the Declaration Descendants commercial.”


“In one month, we identified 149 living descendants of signers of the Declaration of Independence. It was a very diverse group,” Ms. Szucs said, referring to the striking ethnic diversity in the 60-second commercial.

“I worked on finding a lot of Ben Franklin’s descendants. Many of the descendants of the signers knew they were descendants and had heirlooms in the family. Some had no idea and were completely amazed. When they all got together, they felt a real connection because they were all related to a signer. They were exchanging contact information,” Ms. Szucs said.

Individual attendees find helpful tips, further assistance

Workshop attendees were seeking answers to their own heritage questions, and they universally agreed that the material from Ms. Szucs was helpful at all levels, for beginners and for experts.

WorkshopAfricanAmNewspapersKim P., who has been researching for a few years on Ancestry, is planning to continue her family history search, in part by seeking the help of the Butler Center’s resident expert. Genealogist Rhonda Stewart is skilled in tracing African-American ancestry through fragmented records. Kim described her own challenge in that area, saying, “My great-great grandmother shows up on the 1850 Census, but I couldn’t find her before or after. Her children are listed as “mulatto” and no father’s name is recorded.”

Attendee Wendy W., who is planning to become a professional genealogist, chuckled as she described her father-in-law’s hopes for her research. “His greatest dream was that I would find a criminal or outlaw in our family line, like Billy the Kid.”

Wendy has larger goals, however, having achieved her genealogy certification from Boston University. Though she noted that genealogists can work in many fields like criminal justice or law, she would like to use her work to reunite families.

More workshops and help available at the Butler Center

Representatives of local family history societies and clubs had informational displays at the workshop. Mary Evans of Heritage Seekers encouraged attendees to come to the Heritage Seekers Research Day at the Butler Center on July 28, open from 10am to 4pm. The group regularly holds research days by meeting together in the Butler Center’s Research Room. There, members with years of experience volunteer to help newcomers trace their family histories and find missing information.

DSC_1096Another good resource to help those new to family research get started is a monthly introductory workshop by the Butler Center’s genealogist Rhonda Stewart, titled “Finding Family Facts.”

This CALS Butler Center offering will next take place on August 13 from 3:30pm to 5:00 pm on the 2nd floor of the Butler Center at the Roberts Library, 401 President Clinton Ave. Ms. Stewart gives both an overview of research strategies and a tour of the resources in the collection.

The CALS Butler Center offers a major genealogy workshop free of charge annually. We would like to thank this year’s speaker, Juliana Szucs, who is a genealogist and senior community manager for, where she has worked for over twenty years. She contributed the “Computers and Technology” chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy and has authored many other genealogy articles. Szucs holds a certificate from Boston University’s online Genealogical Research Program.

Panel Discussion on Japanese American Internment Camps Harnesses the Power of History for Positive Change

“Just the other day, they were talking about building another [immigrant prison] camp in Kelso, Arkansas. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, you know that’s a bad idea. I was out there the other day at Kelso. You could see the smokestack of the Rohwer camp from that site.” Richard Yada

RelocationPanelwithVivienneThe Ron Robinson Theater was filled with memory, emotion, and hope on Friday, July 13 at an unforgettable screening of Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration.

Sponsored by the CALS Butler Center, the Clinton School for Public Service, and the Arkansas Psychological Association, the screening was followed by a panel discussion. Survivors and descendants of Japanese American internment camps appeared in person for the discussion, led by director Vivienne Schiffer.  President Bill Clinton was in attendance along with many leaders and well-known social justice figures from recent Arkansan history.

RelocationFilmIn the present day, the United States government faces an ethical crisis sparked by the incarceration of thousands of immigrants in prison camps. The audience heard in person from survivors of a similar imprisonment in American history that scarred psyches and families for decades. Testimony from survivors, descendants, and witnesses of past injustice brought home the power of historical lessons to change our present-day actions.

The film Relocation, Arkansas examines the aftermath of the internment of Japanese Americans in prison camps during World War II, when a wave of paranoia and prejudice caused the US government to imprison over 100,000 Japanese Americans nationwide. The families in the film were among the 8000 imprisoned in the Rohwer camp in Arkansas.

WomanRohwerPortraitThe incarceration had lifelong consequences not only for survivors, but for their children. The incarceration deprived these families of their jobs, their communities, and their homes, and left them to start over in strange towns. Even after release, the families still faced intense prejudice from many in the American population.

Paul Takemoto, cast member, grew up knowing that his mother Alice had survived the Rohwer incarceration. He had difficulty understanding or accepting the effects of that traumatic history on his own life and identity. At the age of 46, he met Rosalie Santine Gould, former mayor of McGehee, Arkansas, who had dedicated herself to supporting and hosting the survivors of the Arkansas internment camps.

“Sometimes you have these transformative single moments or events in life,” Mr. Takemoto said in the panel discussion. “For me, that event was hearing Ms. Rosalie talk about honoring the memory of events and people I had done my best to forget. There’s no greater gift you can give someone than their pride, and that’s what Ms. Rosalie did for us.”

Mr. Takemoto went on to relate how the artwork created by Japanese Americans incarcerated at Rohwer had been willed to Rosalie Gould, and was now on display at the Butler Center.

PresidentClintonLieRosaliecrop (4)
President Clinton with film director Vivienne Schiffer and activist Rosalie Santine Gould

“Giving Ms. Rosalie their art was the most appropriate gift [survivors] could give,” Mr. Takemoto said. “Places like the Butler Center are now using that art as an expression of the humanness of the experience.”

Rev. Don Campbell, also on the panel, was in high school in Arkansas during the incarceration. He described the silence about the camps in the American media. “I read two newspapers a day and never heard of the camps until the summer of 1945 as a freshman at Yale.”

Rev. Campbell spoke movingly of the prejudice that dominated American culture then. “I think you need to know the mindset in this country at the time. I remember saying that we might one day make peace with the Germans, but that the Japanese were not human. I believed that because all the movies and propaganda depicted the Japanese as fierce and subhuman. You need to know how powerful propaganda can be, and how it can change people’s minds. And we need to remember that today.”

His words were followed by a loud burst of applause.

Director Vivienne ‘Lie’ Schiffer pointed out the courage of the Takemoto family, Richard Yada, and the others in the film who had exposed their personal lives with vulnerability in order to preserve the history of the camps and their consequences.

ElizabethEckfordwithPanelists (2)
Elizabeth Eckford of the Little Rock Nine greets Alice and Paul Takemoto

That bravery was apparent to Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock Nine who appeared in the film and was present at the screening. Ms. Eckford knows personally of racial prejudice and its effects, and though she had seen the film before, she saw a new aspect at this screening. “What struck me this time,” she said, “was that the older generation of survivors was reluctant to talk about this experience. So it was very brave that Paul’s mother [Alice Takemoto], was willing to come forward and speak in the film.”

The clear injustice and cruelty faced by the families in the film left attendees deeply moved.

WomanTraditionalPortraitAttendee Mariah Hatta said, “That is the hardest film I’ve ever watched. I am Japanese American, and my father is still a Japanese national. He fought in the Japanese army during World War II.”

Another attendee, Liz, had a very personal connection to the film. “My father was an assistant administrator at the Jerome camp [the other Arkansas internment camp]. I was living there when I was 3 or 4, though I don’t remember it. But the film gave me a new perspective, because my father never talked about it.”

Skip Rutherford, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, said, “The timeliness of the film can’t be overstated. We never thought it could happen again, but here we are today facing many of the same issues.”

DavidLeadsPanelists (2)
Butler Center Director David Stricklin and George West escort guests of honor Paul and Alice Takemoto

Butler Center Director David Stricklin said, “The CALS Butler Center work on the story of the camps in Arkansas is easily one of the most important things we’ve ever done. It is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.”

At the close of the panel discussion, Rev. Campbell emphasized both the need for action and hope for the present day. After telling the audience how certain young Arkansans had voiced fiercely racist sentiments and shunned the Rohwer survivors after their release, he explained that those persecutors later became the chief defenders of the Japanese Americans in school. He reminded the audience of one simple truth.

“Prejudice can be overcome.”

The artwork of the Rohwer camp survivors is now on display at the CALS Butler Center in Concordia Hall through December. The exhibition is a reflection on American identity entitled “A Matter of Mind and Heart.”


Three Generations of Artistry: Brewer Family Exhibition Brings Famed WWII Painting, Luminous Landscapes

“Sentinel of Freedom”

“A Legacy of Brewers” is now open in the West Gallery, featuring works by three generations of Brewer painters. Some of the paintings have not been on public display for twenty years. Others have never been available to the public at all. The most famous painting, Adrian Brewer’s “Sentinel of Freedom,” is on loan from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. This celebrated depiction of the American flag soared to popularity after its creation in 1941 and was used countless times as a patriotic emblem during and after WWII.

The Brewers contributed their significant talent to nurture the art scene in Arkansas in the 1930s. Nicholas (known as ‘N.R.’) and his son Adrian painted striking landscapes depicting southwestern states as well as Arkansas scenes. Edwin, the youngest, showed stylistic variety in his work as well as a more contemporary edge.

The three Brewers’ lush paintings, usually kept out of public view in private collections, will be exhibited together thanks to collaboration among Adrian’s grandsons, Larry and Lou Graham, and a number of other collectors who have loaned paintings to the Butler Center Galleries.

Viewers will be able to see common elements in the Brewers’ work as well as how trends in the art world may have influenced their stylistic differences and choice of subjects.

by N.R. Brewer

Nicholas ‘N.R.’ Brewer, the first generation painter, was known for romantic, moody landscapes as well as his portraits. Described by those who knew him as “grandiose,” and “larger than life,” N.R. had six sons. Three of them showed artistic talent, but Adrian was the one who inherited his father’s mantle and brought the family legacy to new heights. There was reportedly some rivalry between father and son after Adrian won a Texas art competition they had both entered, but they patched up their differences eventually.

by Adrian Brewer

Adrian’s work often shows brighter colors and sharper relief. His expert use of ‘raking light’ makes many of his landscapes appear to glow from within.  Adrian completed many southwestern landscapes. When Adrian was offered a commission to paint Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he instead gave the commission to his father N.R., who had always wanted to paint a president.

Adrian founded a teaching art studio in 1932 in downtown Little Rock, where he spent time with famed Arkansas poet John Gould Fletcher as guests played violin, recited poetry, or listened to Josef Rosenberg play the piano. The Brewers also assisted in the establishment of the Little Rock art community.

by Edwin Brewer

Youngest of the line was Edwin Brewer, who moved one step farther from the realistic landscapes of his father and grandfather. In addition to impressionistic scenes like the one shown here, Edwin’s work in the show includes black and white lithographs of Vietnam as well as one completely abstract painting.

There are some fascinating details in the life of the Brewer family that can only be imagined, even with the insightful commentary offered by Adrian Brewer’s grandsons Larry Graham and Lou Graham. Those details add to the human story for the thoughtful visitor to the exhibition.

Only one of N.R.’s sons became a celebrated artist, even though two of the other five sons tried their hands at art or craft.

Edwin had a twin brother named Adrian Jr., who finished only one painting before abandoning art in favor of hunting and outdoor pursuits.

One is left to wonder whether the sons of this family chose their careers from nature or from nurture. The talent may have been present in the genes, but it only blossomed in a few of the Brewers.

Were the fathers tender with their sons’ youthful work, as the boys grew up surrounded by paintings in art studios? Did adult hands guide young hands on brushes, and did fathers praise promising efforts? Or did N.R. and Adrian, both known for their passionate artistic temperaments, ever critique their sons harshly?

We may never get that glimpse of fathers and sons behind closed studio doors, but the paintings give us at least some idea of the rich artistic environment that nurtured these considerable talents.

The Brewer paintings are popular with collectors and have sparked an active collector community. “A Legacy of Brewers” opened at the Butler Center Gallery West on July 13 and will remain on view through October 27.


The Butler Center is grateful to Larry Graham and Lou Graham, grandsons of Adrian Brewer, for their insightful commentary on the lives of the Brewers in an interview conducted at the Butler Center on July 12, 2018. Their comments are one source for this article.

Also consulted: Adrian Brewer: Arkansas Artist. Text by Jolynda Halinski with the assistance of Betty Brewer Rice and the family of Adrian Brewer. Department of Art, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 1996.


Survivor of Japanese-American Internment Camp and Son Will Speak at Film Screening on July 13


Will history repeat itself as the USA faces an immigration crisis and incarcerates immigrants in camps?

Voices of experience will speak on the painful cost paid by their own families after a similar confinement of Japanese Americans in Arkansas during World War II.

Relocation, Arkansas: Aftermath of Incarceration will show on July 13 at 3:00 pm in the Ron Robinson Theater at Library Square. A panel discussion after the screening will feature the filmmaker and several participants from the film, one of whom is a survivor of the internment camp and others who are descendants of survivors. Admission is free.

The film is a powerful testimony to the ongoing effects of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. The psychological consequences continue to this day, not only for those confined in the camps, but also for their descendants. Relocation, Arkansas was produced and directed by Vivienne “Lie” Schiffer, a native of Rohwer.

The film screening accompanies the opening of  “A Matter of Mind and Heart,” the fourth exhibition of a Butler Center series on the Japanese internment camps at Rohwer, Arkansas.


The film touches directly on current ethical debates in the news.  The New York Times reported on June 22, 2018 that the Department of Health and Human Services was looking for a site for a new detainment camp to contain Latino children who have crossed the south border of the United States.  Reports said the federal agency was considering placing that new camp in Arkansas, only a few miles from the original Rohwer internment camp.

George Takei, beloved Star Trek actor who spent his youth in the Rohwer internment camp, posted the following Twitter comment:

“Just heard that they are considering a detainment center for immigrant children just two miles from where I spent my childhood behind barbed wire in a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. I have no words.”

The screening is co-sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service and the Arkansas Psychological Association.

Ron Robinson Theater at Library Square

(on the campus of the CALS Main Library in downtown Little Rock)

100 River Market Avenue

Little Rock, AR 72201

For more information, call 501-320-5715

“This kind of thing doesn’t just end with the person who was in the camp.” Ruth Takemoto McInroy