The University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s next Evenings with History lecture will address the history of the AIDS epidemic in Arkansas through a conversation between Ruth Coker Burks, who is known as the “Arkansas Cemetery Angel,” and Dr. Andrew Amstutz, a former assistant professor of history at UA Little Rock.
The lecture, “A Conversation with Ruth Coker Burks, the ‘Arkansas Cemetery Angel’: AIDS Activism & New Archives in Arkansas,” will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. Nov. 7, at the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock. Refreshments will be served at 7 p.m., and the talk will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Burks was a caregiver and AIDS activist in Arkansas from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s who provided a final resting place in the Files Cemetery in Hot Springs for some of the men she cared for. In turn, the Files Cemetery has become an important and contested site of LGBTQ+ memory. In recent years, renewed newspaper coverage and the publication of Burks’ memoir, “All the Young Men,” has brought both wider acclaim and criticism to Burks’ work.
Amstutz, who is now an assistant professor of history at Queens College, will discuss the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture’s ongoing efforts to collect Burks’ archive along with the archival materials of other AIDS caregivers and activists in Arkansas. Following this, he will interview Burks to discuss her life and work.
The Evenings with History series, sponsored by the University History Institute, features presentations by UA Little Rock faculty and guest speakers sharing their research and teaching interests. Admission to the series is by subscription, but visitors are welcome to attend individual talks for free. UA Little Rock students may attend free of charge.