On March 5th, 1959, 69 African American boys, ages 13 to 17, were padlocked in their dormitory for the night at the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville. Around 4 a.m., a fire mysteriously ignited, forcing the boys to fight and claw their way out of the burning building.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 doing pranks. 48 boys managed to escape the fire.The doors were locked from the outside and fire mysteriously ignited on a cold, wet morning, following earlier thunderstorms in the same area of rural Pulaski County.
Forty-eight children, between the ages of thirteen to seventeen, were able to get away 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. The survivors never forgot the horror of that fire.
The horrific event brought attention to the deplorable conditions in which the boys lived. The boys all slept in a space barely big enough for them to move around & theyre one foot apart from one another & their bathroom was a bucket at the corner where they had to defecate in.In an ironic twist, the land in which the school stood is now the Arkansas Department of Correction Facility Wrightsville Unit. In 2019 a plaque was finally placed after 60 years.