Founded in 1876 and relocated to its current campus in 1890, Hendrix College was an intellectual hub for the Lost Cause in early twentieth-century Arkansas. Two Hendrix figures were instrumental in tailoring the early academic study of Arkansas history to suit the Lost Cause: longtime President John Hugh Reynolds, the son of an Arkansas Unionist and Hendrix Class of 1893; and Professor of History and Dean Thomas Starling Staples. Their publications, teaching, and leadership in founding the state’s history commission and archive reflected their association with the Dunning School, which used the historical study of Reconstruction to justify white supremacy in the Jim Crow South. Building names, portraits, a retired student prize, and a grave on Hendrix’s campus mark this era in the institution’s history. 

By incorporating the perspectives and experiences of African Americans and white women living during Reconstruction, subsequent Hendrix professors and alumni, including early women’s historian Mary Elizabeth Massey (Class of 1937) and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Douglas A. Blackmon (Class of 1986), have since challenged the Dunning School in their teaching and publishing.

This Hendrix history of the study of Reconstruction is the focus of Jonathan Hancock’s seminar course, “Race, History, Hendrix.” During the fall 2023 semester, eleven students in the course used the Hendrix College Archives to investigate campus memorials and contribute to this database. This student research marks a new age in the Hendrix history of the study of Reconstruction – one that examines the propagation of the Lost Cause at the institution.

Pictured: Martin Hall Dedication Ceremony, 1919 (Historical photographs of buildings are courtesy of the Hendrix College Office of Communications)