Welcome to Thoughts Camera Action #ProvokingThought
On March 5, 1959, twenty-one African-American boys burned to death inside a dormitory at an Arkansas reform school in Wrightsville (Pulaski County). The doors were locked from the outside. The fire mysteriously ignited around 4:00 a.m. on a cold, wet morning, following earlier thunderstorms in the same area of rural Pulaski County. The institution was one mile down a dirt road from the mostly black town of Wrightsville, then an unincorporated hamlet thirteen miles south of Little Rock (Pulaski County). Forty-eight children, ages thirteen to seventeen, managed to claw their way to safety by knocking out two of the window screens. Amidst the choking, blinding smoke and heat, four or five boys at a time tried to fight their way forward through the narrow openings as the fire began to devour them. Survivors never forgot the horror of that fire. The wife of one of the survivors later said, in an interview before her husband’s death from cancer, that he had continued to dream about the fire.
On April 21, 2018, a monument was placed in Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock, where fourteen of the twenty-one victims—those who could not be identified—had been buried in an unmarked mass grave. Those buried at the site were: Lindsey Cross (age fourteen), Charles L. Thomas (fifteen), Frank Barnes (fifteen), R. D. Brown (sixteen), Jessie Carpenter Jr. (sixteen), Joe Crittenden (sixteen), John Daniel (sixteen), Willie G. Horner (sixteen), Roy Chester Powell (sixteen), Cecil Preston (seventeen), Carl E. Thornton (fifteen), Johnnie Tillison (sixteen), Edward Tolston Jr. (fifteen), and Charles White (fifteen).