The historic Arkansas Old State House opened in 1836, serving as Arkansas's first state capitol building until 1911. This Greek Revival-style structure is nationally recognized as the backdrop for President Bill Clinton's 1992 and 1996 election-night celebrations.
Now known as the Old State House Museum, the building houses an Arkansas history museum and the National Historic Landmark is the oldest standing state capitol building west of the Mississippi River. Permanent exhibits include: Pillars of Power, exploring the history of the Old State House; Arkansas's First Families, featuring 30 Arkansas First Ladies' gowns; Grandmother's Cottage, and a hands-on children's exhibit; the Arkansas Wilderness gallery and the 1836 and 1885 House of Representatives chambers. Visit the Arkansas Old State House in downtown Little Rock!
During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces alternately occupied it. During Reconstruction, with many black men registering to vote, eight African Americans were delegates to the 1868 Constitutional Convention, held in this building. The new constitution recognized the equality of all persons before the law, provided suffrage for freedmen, and required a system of free public education for blacks and whites (in separate schools.) By 1874, twenty black men were serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. In 1891, African American Senator George W. Bell and Representative John Grey Lucas gave inspiring speeches against the Separate Coach Law. Now a museum, the Old State House exhibits include ones relating to African American history. “On the Stump: Arkansas Political History” explains civil rights issues from statehood (1836) into the twentieth century. Its collections, which are searchable on-line, include quilts by black Arkansans, photographs by African American photographer Geleve Grice, and music by Louis Jordan. Portions of the Arkansas Slave Narratives, collected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1940s, are available on the web-site.