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Showing Mena in AR...

Basic Information
Type of PlaceIndependent City or Town
Metro Area?Independent City or Town
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status
Confirmed Sundown Town?Surely
Year of Greatest Interest
Was there an ordinance?Don't Know
Sign?Don't Know
Still Sundown?Probably

Census Information
TotalWhiteBlackAsianNativeHispanicOtherBHshld
1860
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
19303,1180
19403,5100
19504,4450
19604,3880
19704,5300
1980
19905,4750
20005,6375,46311154912328

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Method of Exclusion
Threat of Violence;Private Bad Behavior

Main Ethnic Group(s).
Unknown

Group(s) Excluded
Black

Comments
An ad (c. 1920-1925) for Mena read "No Mosquitoes / No Blizzards/ No Malaria / No Drought / No Negroes." In 1901, Mena's black residents were run out after the lynching of "Nigger Pete", Pete Berryman, an older resident of Mena thought to be mentally ill. in Pete had "a fracas with 12-year-old Essie Osborne," in which "he kicked her a severe blow, knocking her down, and injuring her quite badly. Later in the evening Pete was arrested and placed in jail 'as has often been done before in similar offenses.' The episode flashed across town and it soon created strong feelings against the Negro." Whites then lynched him. They shot him, fractured his skull, and cut his throat. The Mena newspaper was outraged at the lynching. Prominent businessmen deplored the act. But no one was ever arrested for his death. "Mena, and all of Polk County did exclude Black people, and still pretty much do. I understand there are a couple living in Mena now, but don't know if they actually live in the county, or just work here. There was said to have been a sign at both ends of the town which said, 'Don't let the sun set on your black ass in Mena, Arkansas.' "While in my working career, and in any town in the USA, I could mention Mena, Arkansas to any black person (several were friends) and they knew where it was, and adamantly would say they would not go there. "When I was in school as a junior and senior back in 1960-61 the local boys would threaten with words and knives Negroes who would come through town, and follow them to the outskirts of town shouting 'better not let the sun set on your black ass in Mena, Arkansas' and they often 'bumped' the car with their bumper from behind. I was along in a car which did this, once, and saw it done more than once. At that time I had only seen one Negro in my life, and had no outside world connections to let me know the problems which existed. "Mena, as a whole, would now accept Black people, but there are still those who would not... The truth is, there is an 'unspoken' prejudice in the county, but because it is no longer 'politically correct' you won't get many to admit to being prejudiced. I think you could still ask any Black person over the age of 50 and they would tell you about Mena, Arkansas. "I would NOT like to be one to disgrace Mena, and Polk County by making all these things known. It is unfortunate that it happened, and hopefully if any Black people move to the county they would be accepted just like any other newcomer." This woman has invited various black friend to Mena, to "see the area and meet my mother, but none would come. All responded the same way, 'I ain't going no where near that place, I don't want dead.' It wasn't until I started researching county history that I understood what they meant, which, of course, was many years later."
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