Born a slave in Alabama about 1861, Pickens Black Sr. moved to Arkansas as a teenager, worked on the railroad, and started buying land, eventually amassing more than 8,000 acres. Black and his sons ran a plantation that included a cotton gin, sawmill, and grain elevator. He employed 360 families as sharecroppers, whites as well as blacks, to work the land around his unincorporated town of Blackville. Black died in 1955.