Little Rock: The 2005 American Heritage Great American Place

I’ve been thinking about windows. When I wrote this article, I was looking out my apartment window to the Pyrenees mountains in the south of France, where my wife and I had been living for the previous year while I researched and wrote a book about the painter Henri Matisse. Windows were an important motif in Matisse’s art, but that is only part of the reason I’ve been thinking about them.


Little Rock, hot air balloons
arkansas department of parks and tourism2005_5_50-51
Read more »

Clio And The Clintons

An Interview With the President and the First Lady

On a busy Wednesday morning last August, President and Mrs. Clinton found an hour to speak with me in the Oval Office of the White House. Defense Secretary William Perry and Attorney General Janet Reno were preparing for a live noontime conference in the West Wing press room to announce new legal policy regarding Cuban refugees; the taken-for-dead crime bill would finally pass the fol- lowing day; the tumult over the future of the President’s health-care proposals was still very much in the air.Read more »

The New Creationists

The foremost student of a belief held by nearly half of all Americans traces its history from Darwin’s bombshell through the storms of the Scopes trial to today’s “scientific creationists”—who find William Jennings Bryan too liberal

The year 1963 brought the death of George McCready Price, whom the science writer Martin Gardner described as “the last and greatest of the anti-evolutionists.” The greatest perhaps, but certainly not the last. That year also witnessed the birth of the Creation Research Society and—more generally—the age of scientific creationism. By the end of the decade battles were being waged over including creationism in public school curricula; the fight culminated in the 1981 court challenge to the Arkansas creationist law. If the proceedings lacked the carnival atmosphere of the 1925 Scopes trial, they compensated by attracting an impressive list of expert witnesses from the ranks of scientists, philosophers, and theologians. Unfavorable court decisions have settled for the moment the issue of equal-time state laws, but creation science as a movement has hardly slowed. Several creation research institutes continue seeking evidence to confute evolution, and the theory’s proponents have evolved new tactics for including special creation in public school curricula. The phenomenon of scientific creationism has evoked a cottage industry of analysts: journalists, sociologists, philosophers of science, theologians, and particularly scientists, who believe they have the most to lose from a theory that denies Darwin. The call to arms that went out among various scientific groups characterized creationists almost uniformly as dangerous quacks who were gulling the public with a specious science.

The Double Life Of Hot Springs

Its waters were so precious it was made a federal preserve in 1832. Ever since, it has been both a lavish spa for the robust and an infirmary for the frail.

The fifty-five-mile drive south and west from Little Rock on U.S. 70 leads into oak-and hickory-covered hills known as the Zig Zag Mountains. Road cuts reveal the great folds of sandstone and novaculite underlying this terrain, ancient seabeds, compacted and pushed upward in tightly arching swales, then eroded down to these steep ridges of the most resistant rock.Read more »

Southern Women & The Indispensable Myth

How the mistress of the plantation became a slave

“WE’RE USED to living around ‘em. You Northerners aren’t. You don’t know anything about ‘em.” This is or was the allpurpose utterance of white Southerners about blacks. Everybody from Jefferson Davis to Strom Thurmond has said it, in some version, at one time or another. Turned on its obverse, the old saw means, “You can’t know how bad they are.Read more »

Arkansas Encounter

The Story Behind a Legend

For reasons best known to the muse of history—or to the gremlin of tradition—the state of Arkansas has contributed more than its share to that agglomeration of legend, myth, tall tale, music, raucous humor, bawdry, and regional peculiarity known as American folklore. Perhaps the most famous, and certainly the most durable, of those contributions is a story-song inspired by the encounter celebrated here in a painting by “C. Gear” in 1899. The song is “The Arkansas Traveler,” and the encounter was real. Read more »

A Heritage Preserved

Arkansas saves fragments of the rich but distant past.

There is something almost atavistic in the appeal of an archeological dig.Read more »