Thursday, February 14, 2013


Hey everybody!!!  This week's Black History Month spotlight is on Mosaic Templars of America.  At this point you might be wondering who or what is the Mosaic Templars of America.  Well, for those of you who live near Little Rock, Arkansas are living next to a priceless piece of history.

Mosaic Templars Headquarters, circa 1924 Source: Encyclopedia of Arkansas
Picture it, post-Emancipation Proclamation, black people are free from slavery but life is still hard.  Jim Crow laws are put in place to keep whites and blacks separate in all aspects of life: schools, restaurants, buses, etc.  Black people decide to open their own businesses in the 9th St. area of Little Rock, which becomes a city within a city.  This becomes the social and economic boom of the black community.  Something else comes from this booming area: the Mosaic Templars of America, a fraternal organization offering aid to black families. 

Souvenir Program 1925
Source: Mosaic Templars Building Preservation
This organization was founded during a time when both black and whites were joining fraternal organizations for insurance and camaraderie. Since white fraternal organizations would not issue charters to black groups, some created their own.  And this is how Mosaic Templars of America (MTA) came about.  The MTA, who get it's name from the biblical character Moses, was created by two former slaves,  John Edward Bush and Chester W. Keatts.  During a time when white insurers refused to treat black customers fairly, MTA assisted with illness, death, and burial insurance.  The MTA not only provided insurance but included a building and loan association, the Mosaic State Hospital, and the Mosaic Guide newspaper.

Ninth Street 1941
9th Street circa 1941 Source: Mosaic Templars Building Preservation
As stated before this was a area of black businesses.  One could look down 9th Street and see barbershops, restaurants, hotels, dentists, and physician offices all owned by black people.  This area also offered a night life for the black community.  During the Great Depression, there was a decline in businesses but there was some growth during the 1940's and 1950's.  Due to urban renewal and construction in the 1960's, there was, yet again, a decline in businesses in the 9th street area. 

It is hard to believe how much history there is in this area.  If you want to learn more, take a visit to the Mosaic Templars Center on the corner of Broadway and 9th in Little Rock.  The admission is free and you will not be disappointed. 

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