Fort Smith Museum Celebrates Black History Month

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- Black History Month is celebrated every February in the United States, and one museum in our area is using the month to honor the accomplishments of local African American leaders.

The Black History Month exhibit will be displayed on the second floor inside the Fort Smith Museum of History. The display is filled with stories and the history behind the African American culture in the area.

Pictures, newspaper clippings, and letters of notable people, businesses, churches, and schools from Fort Smith's African American community dating back to the early 1800s adorn the walls.

"There's been a presence of the black community here since Fort Smith started, and that might not be something that people know," said Caroline Speir, exhibit designer.

A few of the people who are part of the exhibit are Dr. Harry McDonald, who was the first black physician in Fort Smith with his own practice, and Lawrence Tidwell, who was the first African American police officer.

"Some of them are just ordinary people and others you'll recognize and are a little more significant," Speir said.

People can also learn about Lincoln High School, which was where African American students went before integration. The school closed in 1966 and was torn down.

Organizers said the exhibit allows everyone to celebrate the rich history and traditions of African Americans in our area.

"It's important to know more of your community and that it includes more than just the place you grew up," Speir said.

The Fort Smith Museum of History is open Tuesday through Saturday.

The museum costs $7 for adults and $2 for children.