Josephine Pankey Heritage Trail
Josephine Pankey was an educator, realtor and philanthropist. Discover how she made history in the Little Rock area.
Josephine Pankey, with the encouragement of her husband Samuel, was on a mission. Blacks, by law, were restricted to where they could buy land and live, and financing was not generally available from banks. In 1907 she purchased land thirteen miles northwest of Little Rock and founded a community for blacks.
As the Pankey community grew places of worship were needed. In 1911 Josephine Pankey began donating land for places of worship. First Baptist Church of Pankey was the second of these. The land was donated in 1929. The first church was Pankey Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and no longer is in existence.
Josephine Pankey donated land for this church in 1940. She was dedicated to serving her community through providing for their spiritual needs as well as their educational needs. This was the third of four churches that Mrs. Pankey donated land for its establishment. One was never built, and only two of the other three still exists.
This center opened on November 15, 2016 after much struggle for its existence. It sits on land that once had a one-room school building on it, and then in the 1950s Pankey Elementary School was built on the land. The school was torn down in the late 1980s, and a joint effort of the Pankey community and the City of Little Rock made the opening of the center possible.
The Couple met at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Josephine Irvin Harris was a divorced educator, and Samuel Pankey was a widower with seven children. They married in 1904, and she would become a real estate powerhouse. She acquired over 500 acres of land and made homeownership possible for many African Americans in the Little Rock area.
Mrs. Pankey was honored by being placed on the trail in 2016. The Trail acknowledges the sacrifices and achievements of those who fought for racial and ethnic justice in Arkansas. Each year has a theme and selected honorees names are placed on the Trail. The theme in 2016 was “Economic Advancement.”
Josephine Pankey, along with her husband, Samuel, and two of her step-children, Willie and Theo, are buried in the Oakland-Fraternal Cemetery. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They were buried in a method performed in cemeteries in Ohio, and Mrs. Pankey's parents were buried in the same method.