History of Little Rock
There is archaeological evidence suggesting that the area around the Arkansas River in Central Arkansas had been inhabited by Folsom and Mississippian Culture peoples for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Europeans. Their presence and culture were recorded in 1541 by the members of the Hernando de Soto’s expedition, who noted that some of the tribes in the area included Cherokee, Choktaw, Osage, Caddo and Quapaw. The small rock formation on the south bank of the Arkansas River was named “Le Petite Roche” in 1721 and it was used as a landmark not only for the river navigation but also as a point separating the Mississippi Delta from the foothill region of the Ouachita Mountains. It is believed that the French trader and explorer Jean-Baptiste Benard de la Harpe was the first to land there and name the area.
Most of the present-day Arkansas, including Little Rock, was included in the Louisiana Purchase by the United States in 1803. The first settlers started arriving on the north bank of the river, but they were still few. When Louisiana became a US state in 1812, Arkansas became a part of the Missouri Territory. Americans negotiated with native tribes who finally ceded most of the land around present-day Little Rock. The Territory of Arkansas was created in 1819 and it was only then that the large land speculators became increasingly interested in the area, especially south of the Arkansas River. Little Rock became the territorial capital in 1821 and in 1831 it was officially founded and incorporated as a city.
Growth and development were steady yet slow, because, despite the central position and the favorable water body, Little Rock was still far from everything else. The city was small, rustic and its residents had a reputation of being rough. In 1836, Arkansas became a US state with Little Rock as its capital. It wasn’t until the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Reconstruction era that the city started experiencing some real growth, mainly thanks to the completion of the railroad that connected Little Rock with Memphis. By the early 20th century, Little Rock finally transformed from a small and neglected frontier town to an actual modern city. The first government buildings were built and the suburban expansion of the city (mostly westward) had begun. The industrialization of the city was also in full swing.
One of the events that marked the history of Little Rock and also one of the most important events in the African-American Civil Rights Movement was when a group of black students (today known as the Little Rock Nine) were first prevented from entering a segregated high school and then, after an intervention of the president Eisenhower, allowed to enroll. At the time, Arkansas was the third most segregated US state. Racial tensions and conflicts were always intense in Little Rock but after many efforts the city became what it is today - a center of racial and cultural diversity.
Little Rock was in the center of global attention in 1992 when Bill Clinton, who at the time was the Governor of Arkansas, entered the presidential run and won.
Little Rock Geography and Climate
The main geographic feature of Little Rock and its surrounding area is the Arkansas River. Two smaller rivers - Fourche Creek and Rock Creek, also run through the city and flow into the Arkansas. Some parts of the city to the west are located at the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. The Pinnacle Mountain lies to the northwest of the city, together with Lake Maumelle, from which the city gets its drinking water.
Little Rock has a humid subtropical climate, with humid, hot and long summers and mild winters. Snowfall is not very frequent.
Little Rock Population
The population of Little Rock is 52.7% White, 42.1% African American, 4.7% Hispanic or Latino, 2.1% Asian, 0.4% American Indian and 0.1% Pacific Islander. In 2000, the median household income was $37,572 and 14.3% of the population lived below the poverty line. As for the religion, Little Rock (as well as the entire Arkansas) is part of the Bible Belt region, which means the population is predominantly Protestant.
Economy in Little Rock
Some of the largest companies in Little Rock include Dillard’s Department Stores, Acxiom, Windstream Communications, Dassault Falcon Jet, Fidelity National Information Services and Metropolitan National Bank.
Little Rock is generally considered to be good for business, with one of the most diverse economies in the country. In 2011, Forbes magazine named Little Rock the second cleanest city in the entire USA.
Culture and Education
The city hosts the largest cultural institution in the state, the Arkansas Arts Center, and other important institutions include the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, William J. Clinton Presidential Center and the Historic Arkansas Museum. Other places of interest in the city include Arkansas River Trail, Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Arkansas Arboretum, Wildwood Park for the Arts, Little Rock River Market District and, of course, the historic Old State House.
The two major universities in Little Rock are the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. There are also several smaller, historically black colleges in the city, most notably Philander Smith College and Arkansas Baptist College.
Air transportation in the city is operated through Little Rock National Airport. Amtrak has one line, the Texas Eagle, with trains to and from Little Rock twice a day. There are also buses to and from the city operated by Greyhound Lines and Jefferson Lines.