Dunbar neighborhood

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The Dunbar neighborhood is a historically-black neighborhood surrounding Paul Laurence Dunbar Junior High School in Little Rock. The neighborhood is roughly bounded by Wright Avenue, West Fifteenth Street, High Street, and Izard Street. Into the 1950s, black residents considered the Dunbar neighborhood one of the most vital areas for minority life in the city.

The neighborhood underwent extensive revitalization beginning in May 1951 under the Urban Progress Association's Central Little Rock Urban Renewal Project. More than $2.2 million in federal money approved under Title I of the Housing Act of 1949 was spent on the effort. The Dunbar "slum clearance project" was only the third of its kind approved under the 1949 Housing Act. One hundred and forty-two "slum shacks" (shotgun houses) were torn down in a ten block area encompassed by High Street, Izard Street, Wright Avenue, and Eighteenth Street in May 1952. Wright Avenue was also upgraded and widened during the project. By 1961 more than 214 houses had been torn down in the neighborhood.

Black housewives in the neighborhood protested the slum clearance activity, issuing the statement, "we have given almost everything we have except our very life blood over a long period of years to pay for these homes, improvements, and educate our children. Now the housing authority to come and say that we must move away to a much less desirable, convenient, and suitable location is far more than we can understand or submit to willingly. Is there a law anywhere in the United States that says one private property owner must sell what he has so another private owner can buy it to make a profit?" One hundred and eighteen property owners signed a petition circulated by Charles Bussey of the black [[Veterans Good Government Committee], to no avail. A lawsuit filed in the Chancery Court was dismissed.

Only a dozen original shotgun houses remain in the neighborhood. One of the most prominent landmarks demolished during the project was the Lena Jordan Hospital, originally the home of Mosaic Templars co-founder John E. Bush. On the site of the hospital the city built the Dunbar Community Center in 1954.

Eleven structures in the Dunbar neighborhood are on the National Register of Historic Places.


  • John A. Kirk, "'A Study in Second-Class Citizenship': Race, Urban Development and Little Rock's Gillam Park, 1934-2004," Arkansas Historical Quarterly 64.3 (Autumn 2005): 278-279.
  • Sara Alderman Murphy, Breaking the Silence: Little Rock's Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, 1958-1963 (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997), 23-24.
  • Matilda Tuohey, "Little Rock Has Massive Urban Renewal Program," Arkansas Gazette, February 17, 1963.
  • Martha Walters, "Little Rock Urban Renewal," Pulaski County Historical Review 24.1 (March 1976): 12-16.

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