Sunday, February 3, 2019


The Wrightsville 21

On March 5th, 1959, 21 black teenagers were burned to death at the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, Arkansas after their dorm was padlocked from the outside & mysteriously caught fire.

The old, run-down, & low-funded facility , just 15 minutes south of Little Rock, housed 69 teens from ages 13-17. Most were either homeless or incarcerated for petty crimes such as stealing bikes & doing Halloween pranks. 48 boys ages thirteen to seventeen, managed to claw their way to safety by knocking out two of the window screens. Amidst the choking, blinding smoke and heat, four or five boys at a time tried to fight their way forward through the narrow openings as the fire began to devour them. Survivors never forgot the horror of that fire. The wife of one of the survivors later said, in an interview before her husband’s death from cancer, that he had continued to dream about the fire.

Some said the fire could have ignited from faulty wiring, but locals & experts who examined the case believe it was murder. The Arkansas State Commission awarded $2,500 to the estates of each of the 21 boys. No one was ever indicted.

Victims: Amos Gyce, 16; Frank Barnes, 15; R.D. Brown, 16; Jessie Carpenter Jr., 16; Joe Crittenden, 16; John Daniel, 16; Willie G. Horner, 16; Roy Chester Powell, 16; Cecil Preston, 17; Carl E. Thornton, 15; Johnnie Tillison, 16; Edward Tolston Jr., 15; and Charles White, 15. William Piggee, 13,  O.T. Meadows, 13; Henry Daniels, 15; John Alfred George, 15; Roy Hegwood, 15; Willie Lee Williams, 15; Lindsey Cross, 14; Charles L. Thomas, 15

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