Arkansas Boys Industrial School for Negroes

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Arkansas Boys Industrial School for Negroes
Opened 1931
Closed 1981
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location Wrightsville, AR
Alternate Names


The State of Arkansas established a juvenile correctional facility at Wrightsville in 1931. The facility was dedicated to the housing and instruction of young African-American males. The main building of the facility was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The school held up to sixty-nine young men between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, all of whom had been convicted of minor infractions. A fire on March 5, 1959, claimed the lives of twenty-one residents of the facility, who were trapped behind locked doors when the fire began. Charley Meadows, a 16-year old night sergeant, broke open one window, allowing for egress. 48 boys managed to escape, while 21 died. The families of the deceased said that authorities told them that 14 of the dead boys were wrapped in newspapers and deposited in an unmarked grave.

A new state correctional facility opened in 1981. The Wrightsville Unit has capacity for 800 inmates. It housed a boot camp program until the program was moved to the Tucker Unit in 2010. The unit raises beef cattle and manufactures furniture, and it is the largest employer in the Wrightsville area. The 3,300-acre unit, formerly outside the city limits, was annexed by the city of Wrightsville in 1998.