Black residents ‘are here, been here and belong here,’ heritage group’s founder says at Bentonville event

Group holds event in Bentonville

Sharon Killian, one of the founders of the nonprofit group NWA Black Heritage, speaks at the Hope Beyond Boundaries event Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville as Hunter Adkisson, a landscape architect, listens.
Sharon Killian, one of the founders of the nonprofit group NWA Black Heritage, speaks at the Hope Beyond Boundaries event Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024 at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville as Hunter Adkisson, a landscape architect, listens.

A Green Book house remains in the area of the proposed Black Historic District in Fayetteville, said Sharon Killian, one of the founders of the nonprofit group NWA Black Heritage.

The group is working to make the district a reality. Its goal is not only to preserve Black history and contributions of Black residents in Fayetteville, but also in Northwest Arkansas.

A program -- Hope Beyond Boundaries -- was held Thursday at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art with the historic district as the focus.

The proposed district would roughly touch Spring Street to the north, Wood Avenue to the east, 15th Street to the south and College Avenue to the west, Emma Willis, a consultant acting on behalf of NWA Black Heritage, previously said.

Killian stressed the importance of not only preserving the history in the area, but also bringing it more economic opportunities.

The Green Book was published from 1936 to 1966 and informed Black travelers of safe places to eat, rest and sleep on their trips, Killian said.

It's important to recognize Black people "are here, been here and belong here," Killian said. She added a historic Black district would acknowledge that belonging.

Killian noted Fayetteville once had a large and vibrant Black community.

Hunter Adkisson, a landscape architect, gave a presentation on the history of zoning in Fayetteville and how it affected Black communities.

Willis previously said a majority of property owners would have to agree in order for the neighborhood to become a historic district. A petition will be submitted by May to the Fayetteville City Council and then later to the state, she said.

A portion of Thursday's program also focused on naming of the district. People at different tables discussed name ideas and their suggestions were gathered. Killian said NWA Black Heritage will review the ideas as well as gather more input from the community regarding the name.

Jimmy Deffebough Whitfield said she was born in 1943 in Fayetteville and integrated schools in 1954. She strongly supports the historic district.

Whitfield said she remembers her mother working and fighting for the community. She said it's important to acknowledge the contributions of Black residents.

"We were here," she said. "We contributed to the town."

Upcoming Events