UA Little Rock’s next Evenings with History lecture will discuss the importance of the Reconstruction period and its effect on Arkansas.
Dr. Charles Bolton, a professor emeritus of history at UA Little Rock, will be presenting “Railroads and Reconstruction in Arkansas,” at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, virtually on zoom. You may register via this link.
At the end of the Civil War, Arkansas had one working railroad that ran from Little Rock to DeValls Bluff on the White River. When Radical Reconstruction ended in 1874, the capital city was connected by rail with St. Louis to the north and Texarkana and Texas railroads to the south. A branch line extended east to Memphis and another nearly to Fort Smith in the west.
“The situation got better, but the question is why Arkansas remained a poor state for so long, even though the state has resources and it has one of the most fertile lands,” Bolton said. “After the war, The confederates in the South, back being citizens of the United States, were really anxious to modernize the economy, they wanted to compete with the North, and the railroads were the big thing at that point. They took over the government and loaned bonds to build railroads, and when it was time to pay back the loans, they refused. If you don’t pay your debt, nobody is going to loan you money anymore, which results in economic consequences for years later.”
A former chair of the Department of History, Bolton retired from UA Little Rock in 2009 and serves on the editorial board of the Arkansas Historical Quarterly. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University and completed master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Evenings with History series, sponsored by the University History Institute, features presentations by UA Little Rock faculty members sharing their current research. Admission to the series is by subscription to the University History Institute, although visitors to individual talks are welcome to attend for free. UA Little Rock students may attend free of charge.