News & History

Author makes Arkadelphia part of statewide book tour

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

It starts with a simple quiz.

The participant hears from a list of eight names of African-American Arkansans. If the participant recognizes at least half of them, they pass; if not, they fail. 

It’s a quiz doled out by author Phyllis Hodges, who’s been on a statewide tour promoting her two published books, 8 Years of Unforgettable History and Girl Power. In her touring Hodges sits down with superintendents and mayors across The Natural State, asking which, if any, of the names they recognize.

All but one participant — the superintendent of Jacksonville’s school district — have failed the quiz horribly, with most unable to recount even one of the names from Hodges’ list. Arkadelphia Superintendent Nikki Thomas and Mayor Scott Byrd were no different when they met with Hodges on Monday afternoon, as they each recognized only one name on the list — the name of a local resident (we, too, failed the quiz miserably and vowed not to share the names so as not to tip off future quiz-takers).

Arkansas author Phyllis Hodges, left, poses with Arkadelphia Superintendent Nikki Thomas. | Courtesy photo

Regardless of how poorly they perform on the quiz, Hodges said the school and city leaders always share a boisterous laugh. Then comes Hodges’ pitch: You need this book to educate yourself and others on African-American leaders in Arkansas.

Arkadelphia Mayor Scott Byrd poses holding Hodges’ books. | Courtesy photo

Girl Power is a motivational tome in which Hodges highlights the lives of notable women, including former First Lady Michelle Obama and Hodges’ mother, Rose Wright. Similarly, 8 Years emphasizes some of the state’s trailblazers. “It’s so much more than politics,” the author said. “It’s a living history book, an African-American history book, and an Arkansas history book.”

Classrooms and libraries in Arkadelphia may soon have Hodges’ books on their shelves. “Having my books available to local students and citizens was a very promising idea for them,” she said of her separate visits with Thomas and Byrd. “We’re talking about literacy. It’s not just our children who need to know what’s taking place in our cities and states, our mayors and city leaders need to know as well.”

Hodges said Ouachita Baptist University’s Riley-Hickingbotham Library pledged to include her works in its catalog, and both books could land in the catalogs at campuses across Arkadelphia Public Schools as soon as mid-January, according to Hodges, who added that Byrd invited her to appear at a future city board meeting. Her book tour began in Central Arkansas, and has since taken her to cities throughout the state, including Hot Springs and El Dorado. The next stop on her tour is West Memphis.

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