In the early 2000’s community leaders in Pocahontas joined together to preserve one of the area’s most historic buildings and create the Eddie Mae Herron Center and Museum in honor of a very special school teacher.
Miss “Eddie Mae,” as she was known, taught students in grades one through eight at the “Pocahontas Colored School” from 1948 until Pocahontas schools were integrated in the fall of 1965. Today, the center features items related to the time when this simple single-story structure was a one-room schoolhouse. Located on Archer Street in one of the town’s older neighborhoods, it was built in 1919 as the MAE Church and later became the school.
According to Pat Johnson, the center’s board chairwoman, the purpose is to identify, protect, and preserve the history and to foster widespread appreciation of and the respect for the African-American culture, and those goals are being accomplished. The board wants people to be able to come to the Eddie Mae Herron Center and Museum to talk and to go forward, and not be ashamed…black or white people. They want this Center and Museum to be a place where all people feel like they belong, like they are a part of the community.
However that was not the way it was for African-Americans in this northeast Arkansas community when Pat Johnson was growing into adulthood. In fact according to her people then did not feel like we belonged, “we were here in the community but we were silent. We were skittish about being involved.”
Today this tiny building that once stood as a hub for the small African-American community in Pocahontas now welcomes 2,000 to 3,000 registered visitors per year. Johnson noted that “our lifestyles or our culture may be differ, but we are just people, and we all have so much in common.”
Story and photo’s by Jan Fielder Ziegler who is a Pocahontas-based freelance writer. For more information visit www.herroncenter.org. Article can be found at http://www.aecc.com/arkansas-living-magazine