Did Arkansas Cover Up a Secret Black Holocaust?

March 5, 2019

The Negro Boys Industrial School was the last resort for many boys who were homeless or deemed “criminal” by white society. 

Despite deplorable conditions - where students were forced to defecate in buckets - it became home to 69 Black teen boys.

Home, that is, until a horrifying tragedy struck in 1959.

On March 5, the boys were padlocked into their dormitory - as usual. What wasn’t usual was the fire that set the entire dorm ablaze as they slept.

With only two windows to freedom, the boys fought for survival, clawing their way through enmeshed metal screens to escape the fiery inferno.

When the smoke cleared, 48 boys survived. The bodies of 21 others lay stacked in a corner.

The disposal of the deceased boys was ruthless. Their burned body parts were wrapped in newspapers. Even more disturbingly, the flames may not have been an accident.

According to Frank Lawrence, whose brother tragically perished in the fire, a pro-segregation governor and businessman wanted ownership of the land to turn a profit… but they first had to dispose of these Black boys.

As such, he refers to the fire’s cover-up as Arkansas’ “Secret Holocaust.”

Today, the school is a correctional facility. No markers indicate the school ever existed - or that a “Secret Holocaust” claimed the lives of so many Black boys.

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