Twenty-One Black Boys Burned to Death in Segregated Wrightsville Arkansas "Reform" School

Twenty-One Black Boys Burned to Death in Segregated Wrightsville Arkansas "Reform" School

The "Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959" is as gruesome as it sounds. That is what this tragic indecent is now known as to the few who remember.  

On March 5, 1959 twenty-one African American young men lost their lives inside a dormitory at an Arkansas reform school. The school was in a predominantly black town. According to many different sources the reform school was for "troubled negroes" between the ages of 13 to 17. The offenses of most which were extremely minor. One example includes a one boy who rode a white kids bike who's mother testified that it was ok, yet was still sent off to this reform school. 


The cause of this incident is still unknown today.The fire had mysteriously ignited around 4AM on a cold, wet morning. Not only that, the doors were locked from the outside, locking in all of the children to burn in the flames. Luckily forty-eight of the children were able to escape breaking through a window. However, twenty-one of the children were killed in the process. 

This is one of the many stories from the Jim Crow Era spread across the South. Many effects from that era are still felt today and still plague the minds of many Southerns and others alike. 

It's quite ironic because this took place in the town in which I grew up, Wrightsville Arkansas. Yet after nearly twenty-four years the story of these men has been what seems to me as forgotten or swept under the rug. This story is so puzzling to me because I don't understand how it's something I hadn't been informed of until about two years ago which is insane because I've resided in these parts my whole life. So if their story was lost to me who's being is of this land, then how will anyone else know of their story?  



Source : The Encyclopedia of Arkansas - Website:  "Negro Boys Industrial School Fire of 1959" AKA: Wrightsville Fire of 1959 written by Grif Stockley  (updatedJanuary 19, 2024)

Other sources: Auntie Beverly, Auntie Gale & Grandma Jackie 










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