In 1864 Alida and Calvin Clark, two abolitionist members of the Religious Society of Friends from Indiana, went on a mission trip to Helena, Arkansas. The Clarks had come to render temporary relief to displaced war orphans but instead found a lifelong calling. During their time in Arkansas, they started the school that became Southland College, which was the first institution of higher education for blacks west of the Mississippi, and they set up the first predominately black monthly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in North America. Their progressive racial vision was continued by a succession of midwestern Quakers willing to endure the primitive conditions and social isolation of their work and to overcome the persistent challenges of economic adversity, social strife, and natural disaster. Southland’s survival through six difficult and sometimes dangerous decades reflects both the continuing missionary zeal of the Clarks and their successors as well as the dedication of the black Arkansans who sought dignity and hope at a time when these were rare commodities for African Americans in Arkansas.
About the Author
Thomas C. Kennedy is the author of The Hound of Conscience: A History of the No-Conscription Fellowship, 1914–1919 and British Quakerism, 1860–1920: The Transformation of a Religious Community. He has also written numerous articles on Quakers in Arkansas.
“Thomas C. Kennedy’s meticulous and exhaustive research has given us the most detailed portrait we will ever have of Southland College, a story that ended in failure but can still instruct and even inspire us.” —Thomas Hamm, author of Quakers in America
“An intriguing read that delves deeply into religious sponsorship of higher education and the complexities of leadership during uncertain racial times.” —Indiana Magazine of History, March 2012