top of page
We celebrate Annie Zachary Pike - a landowner, farmer, activist, and former politician from Arkansas.
Miss Annie.png



Rural and agricultural history are replete with stories about African American lives, particularly in the South. However, they have either been about enslaved laborers or, in the twentieth century long, suffering sharecroppers and tenants who endured racism and lacked political and economic opportunity. In my work, I challenge that narrative by actively researching African Americans in rural spaces, mainly in the Jim Crow South, to unearth a more textured rendering of these individuals and the places in which they lived.  In doing so, I have uncovered a rich, nuanced, and still largely unexplored world where African Americans thrived despite and because of racism and injustice. One of the greatest examples is Marvell, Arkansas’s Annie Zachary Pike, a Black woman landowner, farmer, activist, and former politician.

Annie  Davidson was born in 1931 to Mississippi-born farmer Cedel Davidson and his native Arkansan wife Carrie (née Washington) in Big Creek, Arkansas, in Phillips County. She was first educated at Trenton Elementary School in Trenton, Arkansas, a town located in Phillips County. Later, she attended the Consolidated White River Academy (CWRA), a co-educational boarding school in Monroe County. Founded by Black Baptists in 1893, CWRA was one of nearly 100 Black boarding schools that existed in the country before the US Supreme Court’s Brown decisions of 1954–1955. While at CWRA from the middle to the late 1940s, Davidson became class secretary and eventually class president. She also played baseball and basketball and was a member of the Glee Club.[1]

In 1949, after graduating from CWRA the previous year, Davidson moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the Homer G. Phillips Hospital School of Nursing. Founded in 1937 and named after a Black attorney trained at Howard Law School in Washington, DC, this hospital provided medical training to hundreds of Black doctors, nurses, and technicians.[2]

Davidson completed nursing school in 1952 and returned to Arkansas. Two years later, she married Grover Cleveland Zachary, a Black landowner nearly forty-three years her elder.  In 1959, the organizers of an Arkansan competition called “Plant to Prosper” crowned the Zacharys champions of a “landowner sweepstakes.”[3]

In 1962, Grover Zachary suffered a stroke that resulted in partial paralysis. Annie  Zachary assumed control of their farming operation.  She assumed an active role in the productive work of the farm, adopted new technologies, and learned innovative farming techniques. Attempting to operate her family’s farm more effectively, she turned to her black Phillips County contemporaries who worked for the Arkansas Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service (AACES). They performed soil fertility tests to determine her land's type and best use. Zachary forged extension service agents to learn about fertilizers. Reading federal agricultural circulars bolstered her knowledge, and the farm, which grew soybeans, oats, wheat, milo, and cotton, thrived as a result.[4]     

While Zachary was a successful farmer, she also was a community activist in Phillips County. She was a member of the Arkansas Negro State Home Demonstration Council, a network of rural black women’s clubs organized in 1936. In 1963, she was elected vice president.  In 1965,  Zachary was named “home demonstration woman of the year” during a convention held at the segregated National Baptist Hotel and Bathhouse in Hot Springs.[5]


Annie Zachary was additionally involved in local and state politics during the 1960s. Of the 44,000 individuals residing in Phillips County, 60 percent were Black. However, less than one-fourth of the county’s voting-age Black population was registered to vote.  Black Arkansans had been kept from exercising their political rights and privileges since the end of Reconstruction through White primaries, poll taxes, physical violence, and comparably unjust means. In the 1960s, a cadre of black Republicans that included Zachary organized a sociopolitical campaign to break the Democratic stranglehold in the state.[6] They joined forces to back  New Yorker Winthrop Rockefeller, a White Republican and millionaire who had relocated to Arkansas in 1953 and founded Winrock Enterprises and Farms in Conway County. Rockefeller ran for governor in 1964. During the contest, he sent campaign operatives to counties such as Philips to locate people to help him establish a two-party political system in Arkansas. Ultimately, almost fifty-seven percent of the state’s electorate voted to keep Faubus in office.[7]

When Rockefeller ran for governor again in 1966, Zachary became the coordinator of the Phillips County Republican Party.[8] She traveled door to door to convince African Americans to vote for Winthrop Rockefeller because he had a feasible plan to integrate Black people into Arkansas politics in a way unachieved since the first Reconstruction by emphasizing  Rockefeller’s commitment to reforming the state’s cruel penitentiary system.

Winthrop Rockefeller won the 1966 gubernatorial election, garnering 80 percent of the Black vote. Once inaugurated the following years, he became the first Republican in Arkansas to hold the state’s highest political office since Elisha Baxter in 1873–1874. Governor Rockefeller rewarded Ms. Annie’s work by appointing her to the Arkansas Welfare Board. She was the first black statewide board appointee by an Arkansas governor in the twentieth century.  Zachary quickly became known as the black lady who challenged the system, who cared about the poor, the needy, and the indigent.”[9]

Zachary’s prominence within the Arkansas Republican party led to an assortment of political appointments from the late 1960s into the early 1970s. In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon appointed her to the White House Conference on Aging. She was further a member of the Technical Committee on Nutrition which allowed her to address concerns about elderly malnutrition and food insecurity, particularly in rural Arkansas and elsewhere in the South. In 1970, Zachary was appointed to the Arkansas Economic Development Advisory Council, the Arkansas Farmers Home Administration (AFHA) Advisory Committee, and the United States Department of Agriculture Citizens Advisory Committee on Civil Rights.[10] She was also on the White House Conference on Aging as well as on the Technical Committee on Nutrition allowed her to address concerns about elderly malnutrition and food insecurity, two rampant problems among African Americans in rural Arkansas and across the South.[11] 

In 1972, Arkansas Republicans elected Zachary to represent them at the Republican National Convention (RNC) held in Miami, Florida, from August 21 to 23. She was named co-chairperson of the platform subcommittee and sat on the RNC’s resolutions committee (a position that allowed her to introduce a formal statement demanding increased attention to sickle cell anemia). She was co-chair of an RNC subcommittee on human concerns. Two other black women from Arkansas, Marianna,  farm wife Willa Howard, and Little Rock educator Mildred Tennyson, were alternates for the state delegation to the RNC, thus making the Arkansas delegation the most diverse in the state’s history.[12]

While in Miami, Florida, Zachary met with the National Federation of Republican Women. American first lady Thelma Nixon and her daughters Julie and Tricia attended the meeting, as did Elinor Agnew, wife of former vice-president Spiro Agnew.  She not only served as a state delegate to the RNC but also, in 1972, she became the first black person in Arkansas to vie for an elected office during the twentieth century when she competed for a seat in the state senate.[13]  She did not win, but she demonstrated that Black and White Arkansans would vote for a qualified candidate irrespective of his or her skin color.[14] Zachary’s influence within the Arkansas Republican led to her being elected Vice President of the Arkansas Minority Republican Organization, a group whose members sought to bring more African Americans into the Arkansas Republican party. She additionally inspired Black women to run for public office throughout Arkansas.[15]

After her husband died in 1973, Zachary assumed full responsibility for the family farm, but she remained politically and socially active. She joined the Arkansas Social Services Board, became a member of the National Conference of Christians and Jews Board of Directors, the countywide and local Marvell board of the Office of Equal Opportunity, the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and was vice-president of the Marvel Rural Water Commission. [16]

In 1975, Ms. Annie and other members of the MRWC met with the Delta Utilities Service Company, which operated under the auspices of the National Water Demonstration Project headquartered at Marianna in Lee County, Arkansas. Delta Utilities provided grant money and loans to rural communities to help their leaders plan and design water and sewage systems. In 1970, she and her husband used a company grant to develop forty-seven acres of land they called the Zachary Subdivision. As a result, poor and working-class African Americans in Marvell were able to their own homes. Arkansas governor Winthrop Rockefeller was among those who attended the ground-breaking ceremony in 1975.[17] Zachary also remarried in 1977 to Lester Pike of Postelle, Arkansas (he died in 1997) and in 1979, utilized local and national connections to help establish National Teachers’ Day.[18]

Zachary Pike’s substantial record of public service continued into the 1980s. In 1985, the Arkansas Education Association recognized her years of volunteer service.[19] Additional public service included a stint on the Arkansas Tobacco Control Board from 1999 to 2001.  In 2002  in recognition of her dedication to the community, Phillips County Road 125, which ran through Zachary farmland, was renamed Annie Zachary Pike Road.[20]

Now over ninety years old, Annie Zachary Pike still resides on the family farm in Marvell, Arkansas. She continues to participate in community events and is a longtime member of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church.  However, Zachary Pike’s life in the rural South yields important lessons about the different ways that Black women leveraged their limited resources to address social, political, and economic issues in the rural South.  It additionally forces us as scholars to engage in analyses of agrarian Black lives in ways that meaningfully demonstrate their fullest complexity within the field of agricultural and rural history. 

[1] See Amanda Manatt, “Consolidated White River Academy,” (accessed June 10, 2016); and United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Education, Negro Education: A Study of the Private and Higher Schools for Colored People in the United States … , vol. 2 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1917), 123. Neither the tuition that parents such as Cedel and Carrie Davidson worked so hard to pay nor the students’ energetic fundraising was enough to sustain the Consolidated White River Academy. This historically black institution closed in 1950 due to a lack of financial support.

[2] See Adrienne Wartts, “Homer G. Phillips Hospital (1937–1979),” (accessed July 21, 2016); Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Courier, June 27, 1931; and Sedalia (Missouri) Democrat, June 19, 1931.

[3] Arkansas Gazette, December 12, 1959; and (Memphis, Tennessee) Commercial Appeal, December 12, 1959. See also “Annie R. Zachary for State Senate, Dist. 34,” in series 1, box 16, folder 36, Tom Dillard Black Arkansiana Collection, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Little Rock, Arkansas (hereafter cited as BCAS); and “Annie Zachary,” in box 12, folder 30, Republican Party State Headquarters Collection, 1964–1984, BCAS.

[4] Kilmer, Women of the Arkansas Delta, 30. See also Berlage, Farmers Helping Farmers, 35; and Katherine Jellison, Entitled to Power: Farm Women and Technology, 1913–1963 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993), 15.

[5] M92–06 Zachary Interview, UCAA (first quotation); “29th Annual Meeting of the Arkansas State Home Demonstration Council, August 29–31, 1965” (second quotation), in box 8, file 4, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Records, 1914–1988, MC 1145, Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas (hereafter cited as UACESR and UAL, respectively). See also Camden (Arkansas) News, July 13, 1967; Hope (Arkansas) Star, November 29, 1958 (referencing Ms. Annie’s membership in the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation); and “Thirteenth Annual 4-H Club Congress, November 14–15, 1963,” in box 8, file 4, UACESR, UAL. The State Home Demonstration Council merged with the white Arkansas State Home Demonstration Council in 1966 and was renamed the Arkansas Homemakers Extension Council. In 1968, the Arkansas Homemakers Extension Council became the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. See Hope (Arkansas) Star, December 10, 1966; and Charline J. Warren, ed., An Official History of National Extension Homemakers Council, Inc.: 1930–1990 (Burlington, Ky.: National Extension Homemakers Council, 1991), 44.

[6] July 2016 Pike Interview; Randy Finley, “Crossing the White Line: SNCC in Three Delta Towns, 1963–1967,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 65 (summer 2006): 119, 121; United States Census Bureau, Arkansas: 2000—Population and Housing Unit Counts (Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Commerce, 2003), 2 (listing 43,997 residents of Phillips County in the year 1960).

[7] Finley, “Crossing the White Line,” 128. See also Billy B. Hathorn, “Friendly Rivalry: Winthrop Rockefeller Challenges Orval Faubus in 1964,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 53 (winter 1994): 446–73; Roy Reed, Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal (Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1997), 139–40, 303–4; and John Ward, The Arkansas Rockefeller, 2d. ed. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978). Winthrop Rockefeller was a grandson of Standard Oil Company founder John Rockefeller.

[8] M92-06 Zachary Interview, UCAA. Voters in Arkansas elected to ban poll taxes in 1964. They chose a registration system to replace these taxes.

[9] M92–06 Zachary Interview, UCAA.

[10] See Arkansas Outlook, October 1968; Memorandum, October 7, 1970, in box 136, folder 13, Rockefeller Collection III, UAL (hereafter cited as October 7, 1970, Memorandum); Rogerline Johnson to Winthrop Rockefeller, July 12, 1970, in box 205, folder 5, Rockefeller Collection III, UAL; and Toward A National Policy on Aging: Proceedings of the 1971 White House Conference on Aging, November 28–December 2: Final Report, vol. 1: Background, Organization, Program (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1971), 160.

[11] See Arkansas Outlook, October 1968; Pete Daniel, Dispossession: Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013); “Field Report,” March 24, 1970, in box 172, folder 6, Rockefeller Collection III, UAL; and Toward A National Policy on Aging.

[12] See Arkansas Democrat, July 9, 1972; Arkansas Gazette, July 27 and August 22, 1972; Arkansas Outlook, August 1972; Official Program, 30th Republican National Convention, Miami, Florida, August 1972 (New York: Franklin/Rapid/Dart Organization, 1972), 89; “Annie Ruth Zachary Pike, Citizen of the Year, Sphinx Temple #25,” October 2007 (photocopy in possession of the author); “Temporary Roll of Delegates and Alternate Delegates to Republican National Convention, Miami Beach, Florida, August 21, 1972,” in box 268, file, 5, record group 4, Rockefeller Collection, UAL; and “Ticker Tape U.S.A.,” Jet 42 (September 7, 1972): 11.

[13] M92–06 Zachary Interview, UCAA.

[14] Kilmer, Women of the Arkansas Delta, 30; M92–06 Zachary Interview, UCAA.

[15] See Arkansas Outlook, October 1971, July 1972, and November 1974; Camden (Arkansas) News, May 12, 1973; and Hope (Arkansas) Star, September 15, 1972.

[16] See October 7, 1970 Memorandum, UAL.

[17] Ibid.; and Marianna (Arkansas) Courier Index, December 4, 1975.

[18] M92-06 Zachary Interview, UCAA.

[19] See Northwest Arkansas Times, October 10, 1985; C. Calvin Smith, ed., Educating the Masses: The Unfolding History of Black School Administrators in Arkansas, 1990–2000 (Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 2003), 92 (referencing the Arkansas Teacher’s Association); M92–06 Zachary Interview, UCAA; and West Helena World, (accessed October 3, 2016).

[20] Arkansas Tobacco Control, “Board Members,” (accessed October 3, 2016); “Governor Appoints Pike to State Tobacco Control Board” (photographed image in possession of the author); July 2016 Pike Interview.


By: Cherisse Jones-Branch, Ph.D.

Dean of the Graduate School / Professor of  History

Arkansas State University

Buy her book here

bottom of page