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Dunbar Historic Neighborhood Association

ADDRESS

501-372-6822

 

1001 Wright Ave

Little Rock, AR 72206

 

info@dunbarhna.com

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© 2016 by DHNA. 

Sue Cowan Williams represented African-American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in the case challenging the rate of salaries allotted to teachers in the district based solely on skin color. The tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is named after her.

Sue Cowan

Williams

Library

Standing for Equality

"People are taking it for granted that [the Negro] ought not to work with his head.

And it is so easy for these people among whom we are living to believe this;

it flatters and satisfies their self-complacency."

~Paul Laurence Dunbar

     Sue Cowan Williams represented African-American teachers in the Little Rock School District as the plaintiff in the case challenging the rate of salaries allotted to teachers in the district based solely on skin color. The tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) is named after her.

     Born in Eudora (Chicot County) to J. Alex Cowan and Leila Roberts Cowan on May 29, 1910, Sue Cowan began life in a small town in Arkansas. Her mother died soon after her birth. Raised until age four by her maternal grandmother in Texas, Cowan returned to Arkansas to live with her father. From fifth grade until high school, she attended Spelman, a religious boarding school in Atlanta, Georgia. She undertook undergraduate studies at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, and extended her education to receive a degree from the University of Chicago. 

     Cowan’s teaching career at Dunbar High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County) began in 1935. She resided with her father at 1518 Cross Street. Seven years later, she had apparently married, as the city directory shows her last name changing to Morris (though what happened to her husband is unknown), and became the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit seeking a balance of salaries between black and white teachers in the segregated South. The suit, Morris v. Williams, was filed on February 28, 1942, and followed a March 1941 petition filed with the Little Rock School Board requesting equalization of salaries between black and white teachers. The trial, heard in Judge J. W. Trimble’s court, lasted one week, with the verdict going against her. Morris’s appeal was heard in 1945 in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, and was decided in her favor.

Read more at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas of Arkansas History and Culture.