The El Dorado-Union County chapter of the NAACP is resuming a history project that aims to raise awareness about the contributions of African Americans in El Dorado.
The purpose of the project is to commemorate black culture and heritage and to erect markers highlighting the historical significance of African American communities around town.
“We are excited about this project. It is our desire to recognize and salute the origin and impact of the African American,” said Janice Bush, president of the NAACP.
Bush said the group has set its sights on the Fordville community and residents are invited to attend a meeting that is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday in the Fellowship Hall of New Olive Branch Baptist Church, 1548 N. Roselawn.
Bush said Fordville installment of the project is a continuation of an effort that began in 2015 with a section of Hill Avenue, which was once the home of a cluster of black-owned business and other businesses that served and employed African Americans during the era of racial segregation and Jim Crow.
In August 2015, the NAACP held an event in the area of Cedar and Hill to gauge interest in erecting a historical marker in the area and to gather more information and feedback from the community.
The group worked with the Murphy Arts District on the project and presented several ideas, including a mural and a park detailing the history of Hill Avenue and the African American businesses and professional offices that once thrived there.
The plan stalled due to a lack of funding and other issues but there were more gains than losses, Bush said.
“When we did the Hill Street awareness project, it sparked a lot of research and there’s so much information out there about El Dorado and the contributions of African Americans,” she said.
As a result, the NAACP broadened the scope of the project to cover other AA communities in El Dorado, starting with Fordville.
“This project is an offshoot of (the Hill Avenue) project,” Bush said.
“What we want to do is highlight African American communities and put a marker there and we will talk to people in those communities and find out what they want to tell us about their community and what they want to put on the marker there,” she explained, adding, “We also want to encourage them to find a place to archive all of these things and we’re going to try to find the funding.”
The Fordville community is generally believed to be area north of Champagnolle between Martin Luther King and 19th, just south of the Lions Club Municipal Golf Course and the Union County Fairgrounds.
Bush said one of the issues that will be addressed Thursday is a clarification of the boundaries of the community.
Bush said she also plans to reach out to the El Dorado Historic District Commission, who is developing a citywide historic preservation plan.
Like the NAACP, the EHDC is seeking public input to help identify historic properties and residential neighborhoods throughout the city.
Historic district commissioners have said once the plan is completed, the El Dorado City Council will be responsible for implementing it.
For more information call Bush at 870-863-7437.
Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.