A few weeks ago I was sitting in on a virtual community meeting when something magical happened. One of the participants mentioned the name of a woman who moved to Little Rock many many moons ago and ended up changing the lives of generations of African Americans.
The first name that probably popped into your mind just then was probably Mrs. Daisy Bates. While she was undoubtedly amazing (I met her when I was a teenager and, WOW). However, there is a lesser know Black woman who creates opportunity for education and community-economic developement in the early 1900s and her name was Mrs. Josephine Pankey.
This community meeting was not the first time I’d heard this name. About a year or so ago I saw a post from my Mayor’s LinkedIn mentioning this Black community in Little Rock not far from where I live today that was built by Mrs. Pankey. A Black, female real estate maven in Little Rock, Arkansas in the early 1900s?!? I HAD to learn more about this woman!
Fortunately the meeting participant who had brought up Mrs. Pankey in the meeting happens to be Nancy Robinson Lott, one of the co-authors of a book about the Pankey. So, of course I ran to my friendly neighborhood Pyramid Bookstore and bought two copies. Why two, you wonder? Because I KNEW that when I told my Mama about this woman that she would want her own copy.
This woman cleared the pathway to home ownership for dozens of Black families in an era of Jim Crow laws in the South. Mrs. Pankey was also a female pioneer—negotiating the buying and selling of property at a time before women had even obtained the right to vote in America.
Mrs. Pankey’s story needs to be made into a movie. It is frightening to me that so few people know about what she did, people who were born and raised in Little Rock and those of us who migrated here.
I strongly encourage those of you who are local to go buy a copy of this book so you can read it and put it on your shelf in a place of honor. For those of you who can wait to get your hands on a book, check out her entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
Marta is an award winning filmmaker, writer and producer committed to sharing the rich and complex stories of America’s Heartland region. Marta wears several hats as Chief Creative-in-Charge of MartaGwyn Productions, LLC as well as the Co-Founder and Senior Grant Writer of Youngblood and Associates, LLC and Chief Operations Officer of Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services, LLC.
Marta is also the founder and editor-in-chief of TheWRITEaddiction. An online community of writers that publish creative and inspirational works daily at www.TheWriteAddiction.com.
Marta is an alumna of The Ohio State University and Tougaloo College with degrees in Sociology and English-Journalism and resides in Little Rock, Arkansas, with her husband and unconventional college sweetheart of 10 years, Terrance Youngblood.