Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

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Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
Established 2008
Location 501 West Ninth Street
Little Rock, Arkansas, Southern United States
Coordinates 34°44′27″N 92°16′37″W / 34.74074°N 92.27694°W / 34.74074; -92.27694Coordinates: 34°44′27″N 92°16′37″W / 34.74074°N 92.27694°W / 34.74074; -92.27694
Type African American history museum
Website www.mosaictemplarscenter.com

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is a Department of Arkansas Heritage museum located in Little Rock, Arkansas, United States. Its mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and celebrate African American history, culture and community in Arkansas from 1870 to the present, and informs and educates the public about black achievements, especially in business, politics and the arts.

The Mosaic Templars of America[edit]

The Mosaic Templars of America was a black fraternal order founded by John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts, two former slaves, in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1883.[1][2] The organization originally provided illness, death, and burial insurance during an era when few basic services were available to black people.

According to the lore of the Mosaic Templars of America it was pure happenstance that led to the founding. John E. Bush and a white acquaintance were standing on the corner of Ninth and Broadway in Little Rock, when an elderly black women requested a donation to help with the final expenses of her husband. Bush was moved to act upon the request. He met with a close friend, Chester W. Keatts, and the two had the idea to form Mosaic Templars of America.[3] The name metaphorically linked the organization's services to African Americans and the oppressive conditions of the Jim Crow South to Moses' leadership during the Israelites exodus from slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land.[4]

By 1900 Mosaic Templars' industries grew to include an insurance company, a building and loan association, a publishing company, a business college, a nursing school, and a hospital.[1] By the end of 1922 the MTA had 87,069 members.[5]

The MTA's goal was "to unite fraternally all persons of African descent of good character of every profession, business and occupation and to give all possible moral and material aid in its power to its members." It did not interfere with the political and religious opinions of its members. In 1923 the group's "Acting Grand Scribe" wrote to Arthur Preuss saying that "not as much stress is laid on the secret side of the organization as the business side." [6]

By 1905 it had lodges across the state and thousands of members. Its headquarters were housed in a handsome new building that opened in 1913 at Ninth and Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas; Booker T. Washington delivered the dedication speech.[1] In the 1920s it claimed chapters in twenty-six states and six foreign countries, making it one of the largest black organizations in the world.

In the 1930s, the MTA began to feel the effects of the Great Depression and eventually ceased operations. However, a single chapter remains, in Barbados.

Various businesses rented the Cultural Center building into the late 20th century, but changing business climates, urban renewal, and the construction of a nearby highway through the old business district left the building without occupants and in disrepair.[1]

Museum[edit]

In 1992, the building was slated for demolition so that a fast-food restaurant could be built on the lot.[7] On January 19, 1993, the Society for the Preservation of the Mosaic Templars of America Building, a group of urban preservationists, was incorporated to lobby against the building's destruction.[7] The city of Little Rock purchased the building for $110,000 in late 1993, marking the first time the city purchased a building for historic preservation.[8]

The structure burned to the ground on March 12, 2005.[1] City voters passed a $185,000 1993 bond initiative to purchase additional property lots around the building, and planning began for an African American culture and history museum on the site.[8] In 2001, the Society won passage of two laws in the Arkansas state legislature. The first law provided money to fund the creation of the museum, and the second turned the museum over to the Department of Arkansas Heritage, a state agency.[9]

A new building was constructed on the site, and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center was turned over to the state.[10] The four-story museum opened on September 19, 2008.[11] Members of the Barbados lodge attended its opening.[12]

The museum consists of four permanent exhibits on the first floor, and an Arkansas Black Hall of Fame on the second, and the Bush-Remmel genealogical research center.[10] The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center has more than 8,000 square feet (740 m2) of interactive exhibit and education space. A third-floor auditorium provides the opportunity to explore the story of Arkansas's African Americans through public forums, conferences, and performing arts.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Davis, Ryan. "A Cultural Icon Rises From the Ashes in Historic Little Rock." The Crisis. Summer 2009, p. 39.
  2. ^ Preuss, Arthur A Dictionary of Secret and other Societies St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co. 1924; p.282
  3. ^ Bush and Dorman, A.E. and P.L., ed. (2008). History of the Mosaic Templars of America: Its Founders and Officials. Fayetteville, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Press. pp. vii–viii. ISBN 1557288828. 
  4. ^ Wintory, Blake; Hampton, Ashan. "Encyclopedia of Arkansas". Mosaic Tempalrs of America. Butler Center for Arkansas History & Culture. Retrieved February 18, 2016. 
  5. ^ Preuss p.282
  6. ^ Preuss pp.282-3
  7. ^ a b Finley, Randy. From Slavery to Uncertain Freedom: The Freedman's Bureau in Arkansas 1865-1869. Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1996, p. xlix.
  8. ^ a b Finley, p. l.
  9. ^ Finley, p. li-lii.
  10. ^ a b Davis, p. 40.
  11. ^ "Black History Museum to Open in Little Rock." USA Today. August 6, 2008.
  12. ^ Gambrell, Jon. "Black Fraternal Society Resurfaces in Barbados." Washington Post. November 16, 2008.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bush, A.E. & P.L. Dorman. History of the Mosaic Templars of America. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. ISBN 1-55728-882-8. 

External links[edit]