Historic Museum to Get Touchup

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Ryan Anderson

June 12, 2023

An area near the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in northeast Arkansas is going to get a bit of a touch-up.

Workers will renovate grain bins across from the museum in Tyronza, work that would restore the historic character of the Tyronza Commercial Historic District.

The Arkansas State University board of trustees approved the renovation project at a meeting Thursday in Beebe.

“The grain bins will serve as a large-scale exhibit of agricultural history and methods that would add new depth to the interpretation of the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum,” according to the Arkansas State University System. The interior of the largest grain bin would house critical visitor services, including accessible restroom facilities.

ASU received a grant of $1,916,383 from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council, which will cover the renovation, according to the ASU System.

The museum — which has exhibits that focus on the farm labor movement in the South and the tenant farming and sharecropping system of agriculture — opened in 2006 in the historic Mitchell-East Building in Tyronza.

STFM 15th Anniversary Oct. 6

JONESBORO — Southern Tenant Farmers Museum (STFM) officials will host a celebration honoring the 15th anniversary of the center, Wednesday, Oct. 6. The event is from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the STFM, 117 S. Main Street, Tyronza.

The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum is a part of the Arkansas Heritage Sites of Arkansas State University.

“I am looking forward to the celebration of our 15th anniversary,” said Heritage Sites executive director Dr. Adam Long. “We have several new components to the museum. Oral histories are now available on surface tablets placed throughout the museum and exhibit panels containing our original content have been updated.”

Several events are planned, including live entertainment by Charley Sandage. Sandage grew up in rural Hot Spring County, Arkansas. After undergraduate work at Henderson State, a hitch in the U.S. Army, and two graduate study stints at UA-Fayetteville, he went to a career mainly in teaching and administration at several Arkansas public schools, colleges and universities. Exceptions included time at AETN and on staff at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View when it first opened.

Retirement afforded him time to expand on a 25-year old project called “Arkansas Stories,” based on original songs about people and events in Arkansas history. Long-form projects currently growing out of that interest include two musicals, one historical novel, and a concept for programming at A-State’s STFM.

Free tours will be available during this time along with a lunch of soup beans, cornbread, and cobbler provided by Armor Bank of Tyronza. Recent renovations of the museum were made possible by a private donor. 

Museum director Penny Toombs added, “One of our additions is a timeline.  This digital program provides guests with the history of the Mississippi Delta, beginning with the 1500s. New additions also include artist renditions of farm tools, a front facade of a tenant farming house, and space for traveling exhibits. I hope people come out on Oct. 6 to see the renovations, have lunch, and enjoy the music of Mr. Sandage.” 

The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum was the second A-State Heritage Site to open, in 2006. The museum enhances knowledge and understanding of tenant farming and agricultural labor movements in the Mississippi River Delta. The museum is located in the historic Mitchell-East Building in Tyronza, with the restoration of the building and development of the museum made possible through grants from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council and a “We the People” Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Heritage Studies Ph.D. program at Arkansas State utilizes the sites for opportunities for research, independent study, practicums, field work and hands-on experience for students. In addition to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, other Heritage Sites include Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home, Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center, and Lakeport Plantation. 

STFM joins the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

We are so happy and honored to announce that Southern Tenant Farmers Museum has been accepted into the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience! This global network of museums, historical sites and memorial initiatives includes some of the leading institutions maintaining sites of civil and human rights history, including the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and the first Coalition member in Arkansas, the Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site.

For more information, see our A-State news article at:

New Signage on I-555


JONESBORO – People traveling on I-555 through Tyronza now know there is a first-class attraction to visit at Exit 8.  Highway signs pointing the way to the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum made their appearance on Wednesday, April 12.

Thanks to the long-term efforts of State Rep. Dwight Tosh and Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer, along with additional financial support from First Delta Bank, Ritter Communications, and the City of Tyronza, funds were contributed to produce, install and maintain the signs along both sides of the interstate and at the exit ramps. 

Travelers can take a break from driving between Jonesboro and Memphis and learn about an important part of Arkansas and U.S. history.   The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum preserves the legacy of tenant farming, sharecropping and agricultural labor movements in the Mississippi River Delta. 

The nation’s first agricultural union involving black and white farmers in the same organization, along with women in leadership positions, was established in Tyronza in 1934.  The museum is located at 117 S. Main Street in Tyronza, in the building that once served as informal headquarters for the union.

The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, which opened in October 2006, is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site. 

Tour duh Sunken Lands wins tourism award

The 16th annual Delta Awards, recognizing tourism achievement in Eastern Arkansas, were presented last Friday during festivities at the Brinkley Convention Center. The Tour duh Sunken Lands, a cultural bike ride that brings participants to several attractions in Poinsett and Mississippi Counties each year, won the Boot Strap award.

Put on in November by Tour duh Sunken Lands-2the Sunken Lands Chamber of Commerce, the Tour duh Sunken Lands is an annual 52-mile touring/cycling event highlighting cultural sites in the Sunken Lands in Northeast Arkansas. Stops include the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum at Tyronza, Dyess Colony Museum and Johnny Cash Boyhood Home at Dyess, Rivervale Tunnels, the Painted House at Lepanto, and the Marked Tree Delta Area Museum with an after-ride meal at Tyboogie’s Cafe at Tyronza. Hot soup is served at the Painted House, and drinks and snacks are served at all other stops. The chamber began the bike ride in 2009 as a way to include the Sunken Lands’ many cultural sites in a yearly event.

“It was such an honor for the Tour duh Sunken Lands to win this award,” said Sunken Lands chamber member Linda Hinton. “This ride has grown over the past seven years, and it is because of the wonderful workers and volunteers. We have had riders from Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Mississippi, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. The Sunken Land Regional Chamber members have created this touring ride as a way to focus on our local cultural heritage as well as giving the riders a good dose of Delta hospitality!”

This year’s ride will be on Saturday, Nov. 5. For more information about registering for the ride, visit or

First published here.


JONESBORO — As part of the celebration of February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum (STFU) is hosting a lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. in the Mockingbird Room at the Carl R. Reng Student Union on the Arkansas State University campus.

Dr. Jarod Roll, associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, will speak on the 1939 Missouri Bootheel demonstration focusing on the Southern Tenant Farmers Union’s involvement and the role women played in the demonstration. The title of his lecture is “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: The STFU and the 1939 Roadside Demonstration in Southeast Missouri.”

The Southern Tenant Farmers Union was formed 81 years ago at Tyronza, Ark., to help sharecroppers and tenant farmers who found themselves homeless because of the Great Depression and was intensified by the New Deal’s Agriculture Adjustment Act. The act, which was created to help these farm laborers, contained loopholes that landowners used to help lift themselves out of the Depression while sending many sharecroppers to live on the side of the road.   The union was made up of black and white members—something unheard of in 1934. It also let women be in leadership positions, another unusual event of the era.

It was those evicted sharecroppers and tenant farmers who caught the attention of Rev. Owen Whitfield, a pastor of a local church in Charleston, Mo. Rev. Whitfield was a sharecropper himself and understood what these families were enduring during the hard winter of 1939. Serving as the vice president of the local STFU, Whitfield suggested that the homeless families move their tents out of the woods to the side of the road to bring attention to the plight of the farmers during one of the worst times in American history. Little did he realize at the time he would soon have more than 100 miles of evicted farmers living on the highways of Missouri.   More than 1,000 men, women and children took part in what is now known as the Missouri Bootheel demonstration.

Roll is a historian of modern America specializing in labor and working-class history, history of religion and history of the South. He is the author of Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South (Illinois, 2010), which won the C. L. R. James Award, the Herbert Gutman Prize and the Missouri History Book Award.

Roll is the co-author with Erik S. Gellman of The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America (Illinois, 2011), which won the H. L. Mitchell Award from the Southern Historical Association. He also published research in the Journal of Southern History, Religion and American Culture, Labor History, Southern Spaces, Radical History Review, and, most recently, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. During 2012-13, Roll was a research fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University.

He joined the University of Mississippi in 2014 after teaching for seven years at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. Roll earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Missouri Southern State University, and his Master of Science and doctoral degrees from Northwestern University.

This event is sponsored by the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, an Arkansas State University Heritage Site, located at 117 S. Main Street, Tyronza. For further information, contact Linda Hinton, director, at (870) 487-2909 or email at

First Published Here

Meet the Author of “Sharecropper’s Troubadour” set for Feb. 5

The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum will be hosting a “Meet the Author” for the book “Sharecropper’s Troubadour” by Dr. Michael Honey as part of the museum’s Black History Month events. The event will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, at the museum. Dr. Honey, of the University of Washington Tacoma, will be present to read from his book, answer questions, and perform John Handcox songs. The event is free and open to the public.

The book tells the story of folk singer and labor organizer John Handcox. Born in Brinkley, Ark., in 1904, Handcox was a Great Depression era tenant farmer. He joined the Southern Tenant Farmers Union in Tyronza in 1935, a year after the union was founded, and wrote songs and poetry to rally union members.

He became known as the sharecropper’s troubadour. His use of African-American song traditions helped organize poor sharecroppers, both black and white, in what was possibly the most successful agricultural union of the time. His songs became popular folk songs in their own right and continue to be sung today after being promoted by folk artists like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Joe Glazer. In 1985, Seeger introduced Dr. Honey to Handcox at a labor arts forum, and the Smithsonian Institution asked Honey to interview Handcox about his life and music, which eventually led to the book.

The Southern Tenant Farmers Museum is an Arkansas State University Heritage Site located at 117 S. Main Street in Tyronza. For further information, contact Director Linda Hinton at 870-487-2909 or email at

First Published Here.

A-State Tour Duh Sunken Lands Bicycle Tour Adds New Features

TYRONZA, Ark. – The seventh annual Tour duh Sunken Lands bicycle tour is set for Nov. 7, 2015, and includes two new features for riders on the 50-mile cultural cycling event.

Added to stops at local museums and nationally known tourist sites, the ride concludes with an Americana “blue plate” dinner at regionally acclaimed restaurant Tyboogie’s in Tyronza. Also, a warming soup is available for riders near the half-way point at the Painted House in Lepanto.

The ride begins and ends at the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum in downtown Tyronza at 10 a.m. Registration is $45 per rider prior to Oct. 1 — $50 after Oct. 1 – and includes admission to all the museums along the 50-mile path, which serve as rest stops.

Once again, the world-renowned Johnny Cash Boyhood Home is among the tour stops. Along with experiencing the unique geography of Poinsett and Mississippi counties that resulted from the nation’s greatest earthquake, riders can visit the A-State Heritage Site at Dyess Colony, the Painted House featured in the Lifetime movie of the John Grisham novel in Lepanto, the Marked Tree Area Museum and the Rivervale Siphons.

Registration for the event is online now at Museum admissions, the post-ride meal, and t-shirt are included in the registration fee.

Proceeds from the event benefit programs of the Sunken Lands Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, visit the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum website at and click on events.

Pack & Paddle Newsletter Posted

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 9.13.14 AMThe December 2014 Pack & Paddle newsletter is now available for view. The newsletter includes an article by Janet Nye on the recent Ozark Society Delta Biking Tour. Pack & Paddle – Winter 2014

Southern Tenant Farmers Union to celebrate 80th anniversary

2174205-LIn the Poinsett County Democrat Tribune article, “Southern Tenant Farmers Union to Celebrate 80th Anniversary,” the celebration of the eightieth anniversary of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union is discussed. In celebration of the anniversary, the Southern Tenant Farmers Museum and Arkansas State University Heritage Studies are hosting a talk by Dr. Michael Honey, the author of the book Sharecroppers Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and the African American Song Tradition. The program will be held at the Arkansas State University Student Union in the Spring River room on September 29, at 10 a.m. A book signing/reading will follow at 2 p.m. on the third floor of the Arkansas State University library. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information, please see the full article here.