Helena-West Helena, Arkansas
|Helena-West Helena, Arkansas|
Clockwise from top: Cherry Street Historic District, the Delta Cultural Center, Phillips County Courthouse, the Helena Bridge over the Mississippi River and the Spirit of the American Doughboy Monument
Location of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas
|Founded||2006 (Helena established 1833)|
|• Mayor||Arnell Willis|
|• Total||13.3 sq mi (34.6 km2)|
|• Land||13.3 sq mi (34.6 km2)|
|• Water||0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)|
|Population (2010 census)|
|• Density||1,128.7/sq mi (433.9/km2)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
Helena-West Helena is the county seat of and the largest city within Phillips County, Arkansas, United States. The current city represents a consolidation, effective on January 1, 2006, of the two Arkansas cities of Helena and West Helena. West Helena is located on the western side of Crowley's Ridge, a geographic anomaly of the typically flat Arkansas Delta. Helena is nestled between the Mississippi River and the eastern side of Crowley's Ridge. The Helena Bridge, one of Arkansas' four Mississippi River bridges, carries U.S. Route 49 across to Mississippi. The combined population of the two cities was 15,012 at the 2000 census and at the 2010 census the official population was 12,282.
The municipality traces its historical roots back to the founding of the port town of Helena in 1833 on the Mississippi River. Helena was occupied by the Union Army early in the American Civil War. The city of Helena was the site of the Battle of Helena fought in 1863. The battle was started by Confederate forces in an unsuccessful attempt to oust the Union Army from Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Helena later served as the launching point for the Union Army in the capture of Little Rock, the state capital, later in the year.
The city grew into a thriving blues community in the 1940s and 1950s. The city continued to grow until the closing of Mohawk Rubber Company, a subsidiary of Yokohama Rubber Company, in the 1970s. Unemployment surged shortly after.
Today, Helena-West Helena is home to just over 12,000 people, the Delta Cultural Center, the Pillow-Thompson House (owned and operated by the Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas), the King Biscuit Blues Festival (renamed back in 2010 on a 25th anniversary performance by B.B. King) held each October and a Confederate Army Generals Graveyard, which holds the remains of seven Confederate Army generals.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (March 2011)|
The city's roots trace back to the founding of the city of Helena in 1833, along a port on the Mississippi River. Crowleys Ridge provided elevation and some protection against flooding, a rare feature along the right/west bank of the lower Mississippi River. During the Civil War, the Union Army occupied Helena prior to the Battle of Helena in 1863. In the early morning hours of July 4, 1863, Confederate forces attempted to retake Helena in order to help relieve pressure on the strategic river town of Vicksburg, Mississippi. However, Confederate forces in Vicksburg had already arranged to surrender to General U.S. Grant on the morning of July 4. Many of the old battle sites are still intact and several historians agree that Helena is in a unique position to develop and protect these historic areas. Prior to consolidation, Helena contained 6,323 people within 23.1 km². Neighboring West Helena had 8,689 people in 11.5 km². Merger proposals began as early as at least 2002 and a March 2005 vote among citizens of both cities approved the merger. The surrounding county is one of the poorest of Arkansas's 75 counties. Proponents of the consolidation stated that combining the cities would strengthen the bargaining power for its surrounding region in competing for projects to improve the overall economy and standard of living. Among the combined city's council's first tasks was the hiring of a new police chief, Vincent Bell.
Based on U.S. Census reports for both cities prior to the merger, the 2000 population of the area comprising Helena-West Helena was 15,012. There were 5,516 households, and 3,765 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 31.85% White, 66.63% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.27% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 0.89% of the population.
The median income for a household in the city was $19,896, and the median income for a family was $23,274. Males had a median income of $25,087 versus $17,238 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,131.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,323 people, 2,312 households, and 1,542 families residing in the city of Helena. The population density was 710.7 people per square mile (274.3/km²). There were 2,710 housing units at an average density of 304.6/sq mi (117.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 30.59% White, 67.93% Black or African American, 0.13% Native American, 0.60% Asian, 0.17% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.73% of the population.
There were 2,312 households out of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.8% were married couples living together, 28.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.3% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62 and the average family size was 3.28.
In the city the population was spread out with 32.5% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 22.1% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 83.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $18,662, and the median income for a family was $21,534. Males had a median income of $27,203 versus $17,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,028. About 38.4% of families and 41.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 54.9% of those under age 18 and 24.1% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,689 people, 3,204 households, and 2,223 families residing in the city of West Helena. The population density was 1,956.6 people per square mile (755.6/km²). There were 3,518 housing units at an average density of 792.2/sq mi (305.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 32.77% White, 65.69% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 0.58% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.01% of the population.
There were 3,204 households out of which 36.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 29.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.6% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.32.
In the city the population was spread out with 34.1% under the age of 18, 10.1% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 80.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $21,130, and the median income for a family was $25,014. Males had a median income of $22,971 versus $17,225 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,234. About 30.9% of families and 35.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 49.5% of those under age 18 and 27.2% of those age 65 or over.
With a median income of $19,896 for a household, the city is one of the poorest in the nation. One potential advance for the combined city, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on July 12, 2006, is an ethanol fuel refinery to be built by Las Vegas-based E-Fuels. Whether the consolidation had any bearing on the decision is not certain. Should the project come to fruition, the addition is expected to bring a significant increase in traffic to the region's port on the Mississippi River as well as several new jobs.
A more recent development is the effort to reopen the city's regional landfill, from which Helena-West Helena could also potentially reap economic benefit. Closed on June 30, the facility reopened by 2007, according to a newspaper report in The Daily World. 
Helena-West Helena's chief economic influence continues to be agriculture, specifically cotton cultivation. Barge traffic at the city's port on the Mississippi River is another significant factor, in addition to retail and tourism.
Arts and culture
It has been said that Helena was a little Chicago back in the 1940s and 1950s because, much like Chicago, blacks from rural Arkansas and the Mississippi Delta were arriving. They were drawn to Helena because they could make money there. By then Helena was 70% black and juke joints employed blues pianist such as Sunnyland Slim, Memphis Slim and Roosevelt Sykes.
In November 1941, a white businessman put together the staff for the town's first radio station KFFA. A group of blues musicians were given a one-hour radio spot on the condition that they sign a sponsor, which King Biscuit Flour agreed to do. Thus was born King Biscuit Entertainers and the beginning of King Biscuit Time, eventually leading later to the popular King Biscuit Blues Festival, renamed Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in 2005, one of the largest blues festivals in the world. The celebration is held in downtown Helena on Cherry Street.
- DeSoto School (K through 12).
The Helena-West Helena School District operates public schools.
- Central High School - Grades 9–12 high school, located in West Helena.
- Eliza Miller Junior High School - Grades 7–8 junior high school, located at the western junction of U.S. Highway 49 and U.S. Highway 49-B in West Helena.
- Beechcrest Elementary School - Grades 1–6 elementary school, located in West Helena.
- J.F. Wahl Elementary School - Grades 1–6 elementary school, located in Helena.
- Westside Elementary School - Grades 1–6 elementary school, located in West Helena.
- Woodruff Kindergarten School - Grade K, located in West Helena.
- Stars Academy - Alternative school, located in Helena.
KIPP: Delta Public Schools operates an independent, open enrollment charter school district in Helena-West Helena that serves over 500 students, at no cost to families, in grades K–12 from Helena-West Helena, Elaine, Arkansas, Marvell, Arkansas and Marianna, Arkansas.
- KIPP: Elementary Literacy Academy (grades K–4) - a public charter elementary school located in downtown Helena-West Helena, currently serving grades K-3 and adding one grade each year.
- KIPP: Delta College Preparatory School (grades 5–8) - a public charter middle school located in downtown Helena-West Helena, serving grades 5-8. A member of the national KIPP charter school network. The fifth, seventh and eighth grade mathematics and literacy scores outperform the state of Arkansas average. Recognized as a 2008 National Blue Ribbon School.
- KIPP: Delta Collegiate High School (grades 9–12) - a public charter high school located in downtown Helena-West Helena, currently serving grades 9-12. A member of the national KIPP charter school network. The 130 student school became the seventh KIPP high school in the nation in the 2008-2009 school year.
- John Hanks Alexander - second African-American West Point graduate
- Fred Childress - all-star football player in Canadian Football League
- Patrick Cleburne - Confederate Civil War general
- Ken Hatfield - college football coach at Clemson, Air Force, Arkansas, and Rice
- Levon Helm - musician, member of The Band
- Alex Johnson, Major League Baseball player
- Mary Lambert, music video director
- Blanche Lincoln, U.S. senator from Arkansas
- Robert Lockwood, Jr., blues musician and stepson of Robert Johnson
- Robert Lee McCollum, blues musician
- John Stroger, Jr., longtime president of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Illinois
- Roosevelt Sykes - blues pianist
- Conway Twitty (born Harold Lloyd Jenkins), country music star whose family moved to Helena from Friars Point, Mississippi when he was 10 years old
- Ellis Valentine - former Major League Baseball player
- Sonny Boy Williamson II, blues musician
- Richard Wright, author of such works as Black Boy and Native Son
- Parasha Vincent Flowers Army Aviatior, Army First Sergeant, Army Combat War Veteran of Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rap Musician (Fresh Sha) of the DEF BOYZ. His siblings are Devern, Bakaris, and Karmen Flowers. His famous and popular parents, Charles and Iola (Parker) Flowers were born, reared, retired, and continue to live and impact the people of the community in positive ways.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Helena-West Helena, Arkansas.|
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Delta Dreams documentary airing on PBS Dec. 19, 2007
- Helena-West Helena, AR Historical Marker at the intersection of US 49 and US49B
- "Ethanol refiner sets sights on Delta". Delta Regional Authority. Retrieved 2006-10-31.
- Palmer, Robert (1981). Deep Blues. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 0-14-006223-8.
- "King Biscut Time Radio". Archived from the original on 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) . The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th edition ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8.
- Helena-West Helena City Council
- Delta Dreams, A PBS Documentary of the story of Helena-West Helena told by residents of helena - men and women, young and old, who live and work in the community.
- Main Street Helena, information regarding Downtown Helena-West Helena
- Consolidation information archive from The Daily World
- Transition information archive from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- KIPP Delta College Prep, Helena's KIPP School
- HelenaHarbor.com, the official site of the Phillips County Port Authority, with general Helena-West Helena community information
- Helena-West Helena District Schools, website of the public schools in Helena-West Helena
- PCCUA, the community college
- The Phillips-Thompson House, a publicly owned mansion in Queen Anne architecture in Helena
- The Delta Cultural Center, the site for the Delta Cultural Center
- Helena Civil War Archives, information about the civil war in Helena
- Helena Tourist Information, from the Arkansas Tourist Website