The spring semester will present Arkansas history and music enthusiasts with the opportunity to learn more about the two famous Arkansans who have been selected to represent the state in the U.S. Capitol.


Dr. John Kirk, George W. Donaghey Distinguished Professor of History at UA Little Rock, will teach the new class HIST 4396/5396, an Arkansas history seminar on Daisy Bates, a renowned civil rights leader, and Johnny Cash, the legendary country singer and songwriter, during the spring 2023 semester.


“Daisy Bates and Johnny Cash are two Arkansas icons recently chosen to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.,” Kirk said. “Why did the state choose those two particular people? What is the historical reality behind the myths and legends about the two figures? It seemed timely to explore these issues and to provide students with a more informed take on current events in public history.”


Arkansas currently has statues of attorney Uriah Rose and U.S. Sen. James Clarke, also a former governor, on display in Statuary Hall. Both statues are more than a century old. In 2019, the state legislature approved replacing them with Cash and Bates.
UA Little Rock alumnus Kevin Kresse, the Cash sculptor, and Benjamin Victor, the Bates sculptor, both visited UA Little Rock earlier in the year to work on their sculptures and visit with the public in the Windgate Center of Art and Design. The statues are expected to be installed in the U.S. Capitol in 2023.


John Kirk UA Little Rock

Dr. John Kirk


In this first of its kind class at UA Little Rock, students will learn how race, gender and class helped shape Arkansas in the 20th century through an exploration of two of the state’s most iconic figures. The class’s two main texts are Daisy Bates’s 1962 memoir, “The Long Shadow of Little Rock: A Memoir,” and Johnny Cash’s 1997 autobiography “Cash: The Autobiography.”


The class will also examine representations of Bates and Cash in film, documentary and other media, as well as guest lectures by experts and writers. Each student will complete a class research project that explores topics related to Bates and Cash.


Kirk, who is an expert on the civil rights movement and Arkansas history, met and interviewed Bates during the course of his research. He appeared in the definitive documentary about her life, “Daisy Bates: The First Lady of Little Rock,” which was broadcast nationally on PBS in 2012.


The class, which is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, will be taught in downtown Little Rock at the Bobby L. Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Registration is now open for spring 2023 classes.


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