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Arkansas State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1541—Spain explores Arkansas

1673—France explores the Mississippi River

1686—France founds Arkansas Post, the first permanent settlement

1803—The purchase of the Louisiana Purchase from France

1819—Arkansaw Territory is formed

1830s—The removal of all Native Americans to reservations

1836—Arkansas becomes the 25th state

1861—Arkansas joins the confederacy during the Civil War

1868—The end of war, Arkansas rejoins the United States

1957—US troops help African Americans enter Central High School

Native Americans lived in Arkansas when Europeans arrived in the valley.  There were three principal tribes—the Caddo, Osage, and Quapaw.

In 1541, Hernando de Soto of Spain was the first European to explore Arkansas.  In 1682, the French claimed the entire Mississippi Valley for France.  The French founded the first permanent settlement, Arkansas Post, in 1686.

In 1763, Spain received the land west of the Mississippi River, which included the Louisiana Territory.  In 1800, this territory returned to French control.  Three years later the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase, which included Arkansas.

By 1819, about 14,000 settlers had moved into Arkansas.  Fort Smith had been established to keep peace among Indian tribes in the region.  People mined lead, iron, and coal. They built large cotton plantations along the Mississippi River, and lumbered in the forests.  That same year, the Arkansas Territory was organized.  It included Arkansas and part of Oklahoma.

Arkansas became the 25th state on June 15, 1836, with Little Rock as its capital.  At that time, many people began debating over slavery.

In 1861, the Civil War began.  Arkansas withdrew from the United States and joined the Confederacy.  Many battles took place in Arkansas, the most important at Pea Ridge in March 1862.  When the war was over in 1865, Arkansas had to accept the laws against slavery.  Congress readmitted Arkansas into the United States in 1868.

In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools should not be segregated.  Most people in Arkansas did not want to stop segregation.  In 1957, President Eisenhower had to send US troops to help African Americans attend Central High School in Little Rock.  By the 1970s most schools were open to all students. 

The Arkansas River Development Program was completed in 1970.  It allowed navigation across Arkansas from the Mississippi River into Oklahoma.