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Black History: How 21 Black Students Were Padlocked In A School And Burned To Death In Wrightsville In 1959

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 unfortunate incident and it’s victims has come to be known simply as the Wrightsville 21.

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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 managed to escape the fire.

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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.

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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.

The others were Edward Tolston Jr., 15; 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