Butler Center for Arkansas Studies 100 Rock Street Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201 (501) 320-5700
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
Panel of American Women. (Little Rock, Ark.)
Panel of American Women Records
3.0 Linear feet
This collection contains records from the Panel of American Women.
These records are arranged topically, except for personnel files, which are arranged alphabetically by the name of the employee.
Scope and Contents
This collection contains records from the Panel of American Women. The Panel's records were destroyed by a fire on November 2, 1977. Records prior to this date are limited.
The Panel of American Women was organized in 1963 by Sara Murphy, upon the dissolution of the Women's Emergency Committee. Murphy had been one of the leaders of the Women's Emergency Committee, an organization founded in 1958 to fight Governor Orval Faubus's order to close Little Rock's public high schools, rather than integrate them. Murphy believed that much work remained to be done in changing public attitudes about race and prejudice, and that communication was the key. She envisioned the Panel as an authoritative yet nonthreatening means of bridging the gaps between people of different races, cultures, and religions. The panel began with about 30 women, most with children in the public schools. The women arranged to speak before social, civic and religious groups all over the state of Arkansas, sharing their own stories of how they had been affected by prejudice. The people would appear as a panel of 5 or 6, which would include an African-American, a Jew, a Catholic, a white protestant, and sometimes an Hispanic or Asian, along with a moderator. Many of the women became active in school board elections and local civil rights organizations such as the Council on Community Affairs, the Arkansas Council on Human Relations, and the Arkansas Conference on Religion and Race. As the 1970s began and the last remaining vestiges of institutional segregation were removed in schools, businesses, and public buildings, the Panel adapted their work to meet the changing times. The Panel incorporated as a nonprofit organization and received annual federal grants to expand their work within the Little Rock Public Schools. During this period they developed and presented multi-cultural curricula for public school classrooms, including the Green Circle, a flannel board program for elementary school children about accepting diversity. As part of this expanded focus new volunteers were recruited and trained, an inservice course for teachers was developed, and forums promoting cultural diversity were held at parent meetings. Panelists broadened their focus even more in the 1980s, becoming involved with issues relating to economic justice. Forming coalitions with like-minded groups, they worked on legislative reapportionment to increase African-American representation and compiled revenue and tax studies for use in advocating fairer taxes and more effective services for low-income citizens. By the mid-1980s, the Panel had developed a database of supporters and officially changed its name to the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. Many Panelists branched out even further. Some raised funds for and enlisted four UALR professors to edit and publish an Arkansas history of primary sources that would promote more accurate and less racially-biased teaching of Arkansas history. Others organized additional nonprofit groups (including Arkansas Career Resources, Arkansas Peace Center, Peace Links, Arkansas Women's Political Caucus, and the Arkansas Fairness Council) to serve as advocates for other under-represented constituencies. Recognizing the inter-related nature of the many issues affecting low-income, minority, and other disadvantaged citizens, in the 1990s the Arkansas Public Policy Panel added environmental and agricultural issues to their work on civil rights and economic justice. The Panel staff began organizing and training grassroots and community groups around the state to deal with these issues through public policy. In 1998 representatives of these groups convened the Arkansas Citizens First Congress in Hot Springs, the culmination of a dedicated effort to build a statewide, multi-issue alliance of citizen groups to increase citizen involvement and impact upon public policy in the state. The congress, made up of 90 delegates from 43 groups, set a wide-ranging agenda, formed and incorporated a Citizen Lobby Corps, and turned out over a hundred citizen lobbyists for the 1999 legislative session. The Arkansas Citizens First Congress has already become a significant voice in the Arkansas legislative process. In the year 2000 the Arkansas Public Policy Panel purchased the Progressive House at 1308 W. 2nd Street, rented space to other nonprofit organizations working on related issues, and continues, in 2001 and beyond, to organize and provide training to help grassroots citizens all over Arkansas impact state and local policies that affect their lives.
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Arkansas -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century.
Panel of American Women. (Little Rock, Ark.)
Women -- Arkansas -- Social conditions.
Restrictions on Access
Unrestricted access, except where noted. Use of personnel files is restricted. Access is by permission only.
Restrictions on Use
Non-circulating; in-house use only.
Panel of American Women Records, MSS 99-25, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute