The Ozark Foothills African-American History Museum is located in the scenic hamlet of Twin Groves, AR (in Faulkner County). It is here where the combined communities of Solomon Grove and Zion Grove nurtured the rich legacies of several African-American families whose stories are told in the museum exhibits.
HOW WE GOT STARTED
In 1991, the Solomon Grove and Zion Grove communities incorporated into the city of Twin Groves. As plans came together to celebrate this moment, we began to look back on our history, and discovered... nothing. No history had been kept of these places where families had dwelt for generations. How did the former slaves who started these communities get into the mountains? What did they do to tame this land, and to make a home for themselves and their neighbors? What happened between now and then, to bring us to today?
The museum, originally known as The Gus & Eunice Thompson Cultural Center, arose to answer those questions. With the help of the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the Arkansas History Commission, we began to research the history of the region (Faulkner, Conway, and Van Buren counties). With the help of many members of the community, we collected pictures, stories, and information about the towns those ex-slaves worked together to build, and we put it all together into exhibits for everyone to see.
The building which housed the original museum, the Solomon Grove Smith-Hughes building, was created during the Great Depression by local pioneering mixed-masonry craftsperson Silas Owens, Sr., with the support of the Works-Progress Administration (WPA). It originally served as a school building, but once schools began to be integrated, the building was no longer needed as a school, and it fell into disrepair. In 1998, however, the building was renovated, and it reopened in 1999 as a branch of the Faulkner County Library--and a home for the exhibits and artifacts that made up the Cultural Center.
During those years, we had visitors from nations all over the world! Students and tourists from China, South Korea, Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Rwanda, and a variety of other places—as well as, of course visitors from all over the U.S. Professors from local schools and universities brought their students, churches brought their congregations, and many people visited on their own. The video below highlights the diversity of our visitors during that time.
Eventually, however, the library needed the extra space, so the Center agreed to move to a new building, constructed next door in 2009. The new building served well, for the time, but we eventually discovered that additional space was needed. The building also lacked certain key amenities, such as restrooms and air conditioning! Ultimately, this was a temporary home, and it was decided that we needed a new facility needed to display the rich history of our community. We are now in the process of creating a new, permanent space, and we have a new name to go with it--the Ozark Foothills African-American History Museum.
We wouldn't be at this exciting stage of growth without the support of many people who have granted us interviews, gotten the word out about the museum (in person, and on social media), donated funding, and provided many other sorts of organizational support. We thank everyone for your help, your generosity, and your encouragement.
We look forward to seeing you all at our new home:
176 Solomon Grove Rd.
Twin Groves, AR 72039
Check out pictures of the site, and the design for our new building below!