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TRUE, 69 boys were affected, 21 die in 1959 fire at Arkansas Negro Boys Industrial School

A POST which states that in 1959, 69 African-American boys, aged 13 to 17 were padlocked in their dormitory for the night at the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, Arkansas and a fire started which led to the death of 21 of them has garnered a lot of reactions on social media.

Arkansas is a state in South Central region of the United States of America.

The post which was published on Facebook here on February 13, 2020 has 58,000 reactions, 25,000 comments and 169,000 shares.

THE CLAIM:

That in 1959, 21 boys died from a dormitory fire that affected 69 African-American boys in a Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, Arkansas.

THE FINDINGS:

Checks by the FactCheckHub shows that the post is TRUE.

It has been the subject of several media reports in the 1950s when it happened and even after the millennium.

In 2008,  Arkansas Times did a report which takes a look at the event and also spoke to the mother and brother of one of the victims.

The Arkansas Times also published a video interview with one of the survivors.

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The FactCheckHub traced the image used to illustrate the Facebook post to a report by KATV.

The reporter told the FactCheckHub that  “the image is just a generic class photo of the boys. It’s unclear if the victims that died are in the photo.”

The investigative report titled  ‘Tragedy in Wrightsville: What really happened in 1959’ followed Frank Lawrence who it says dedicated  majority of his life to trying to solve the tragedy.

“It was a carefully calculated murder that involved 21 boys but was designed to kill 69 that were housed inside of this dormitory,” said Lawrence.

The event is also the subject of Grif Stockley’s book ‘Black boys burning’.

“Most of the boys that were killed had run back to a corner of the building. If you look at the diagram, you can see that although there were a couple of doors, in fact we know there was no one there to unlock the doors,” Stockley told KATV.

A description of the book on the University Press of Mississippi states that Black Boys Burning “presents a focused explanation of how systemic poverty perpetuated by white supremacy sealed the fate of those students. A careful telling of the history of the school and fire, the book provides readers a fresh understanding of the broad implications of white supremacy.

Grif Stockley’s research adds to an evolving understanding of the Jim Crow South, Arkansas’ history, the lawyers who capitalized on this tragedy, and the African-American victims.”

In April 2019, the Arkansas Department of Correction remembered the “Wrightsville 21”  by dedicating a memorial site to the 21 lives lost in the  fire.

A few months later, the tragedy was the subject of a Fact-Check.

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The post surfaced on the Nigeria cyber space  in 2020 when a news platform which has a branch in the country republished the content of the Facebook post.

THE VERDICT:

The claim in the post is TRUE. A fire started in a dormitory housing 69 African-American boys which led to the death of 21 of them.

This report was originally published by FactCheckHub

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