Black Boys Burning
The 1959 Fire at the Arkansas Negro Boys Industrial School

By Grif Stockley

210 pages (approx.), 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, 1 b&w illustration, bibliography, index

9781496812698 Cloth $35.00T

Cloth, $35.00

The devastating, tragic consequences of structural and institutional racism in a segregated boys' prison work farm

On the morning of March 5, 1959, Luvenia Long was listening to gospel music when a news bulletin interrupted her radio program. Fire had engulfed the Arkansas Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, thirteen miles outside of Little Rock. Her son Lindsey had been con ned there since January 14, after a judge for juveniles found him guilty of stealing from a neighborhood store owner. To her horror, Lindsey was not among the forty-eight boys who had clawed their way through the windows of the dormitory to safety. Instead, he was among the twenty-one boys between the ages of thirteen and seventeen who burned to death.

Black Boys Burning presents a focused explanation of how systemic poverty perpetuated by white supremacy sealed the fate of those students. A careful telling of the history of the school and fire, the book provides readers a fresh understanding of the broad implications of white supremacy. Grif Stockley's research adds to an evolving understanding of the Jim Crow South, Arkansas's history, the lawyers who capitalized on this tragedy, and the African American victims.

In hindsight, the disaster at Wrightsville could have been predicted. Immediately after the fire, an unsigned editorial in the Arkansas Democrat noted long-term deterioration, including the wiring, of the buildings. After the Central High School Desegregation Crisis in 1957, the boys' deaths eighteen months later were once again an embarrassment to Arkansas. The fire and its circumstances should have provoked southerners to investigate the realities of their "separate but equal institutions." However, white supremacy ruled the investigations, and the grand jury declared the event to be an anomaly.

Grif Stockley, Little Rock, Arkansas, has authored several books, including Blood in Their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919; Ruled by Race: Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to the Present; and Daisy Bates: Civil Rights Crusader from Arkansas, the latter published by University Press of Mississippi. Stockley is recipient of the Arkansas Historical Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for "pioneering investigations of Arkansas's racial history."

210 pages (approx.), 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, 1 b&w illustration, bibliography, index