Keo, Arkansas is in Lonoke County. Keo is about 80 percent black, while Lonoke County is 91 percent white.
That kind of demographic difference is not all that unusual in Arkansas. For six years, my mailing address was Hensley, Arkansas. Hensley’s racial makeup is around 65-35 black. Just up the road from Hensley is Woodson, roughly 75-25 black. A few miles south of Hensley is Redfield, about 92 percent white and 5 percent black.
What the numbers show is where farm workers lived and where farm owners lived. In other words, blacks who picked the cotton lived on or near the fields where cotton grew.
In 2000, Keo’s population was 235. The highest population was 325 in 1920. The smallest population was 154 in 1990. For a black-majority small town in Arkansas, Keo does not have a high percentage of people living in poverty – 10 percent of families and 7 percent of those 65 and older. The median family income was $43,333 in 2000. More surprising, women have a higher median income than do men -- $26,000 vs. $24,000. Official government figures do not offer a reason why.
Wikipedia says: “Keo has become particularly notable in recent years for its marketing of antiques, with the largest dealer — Morris Antiques — operating a 10-building complex including space for item sales and antique restoration. As in much of the surrounding region, agriculture is the other driving economic force in the area around Keo, primarily in the raising of catfish and cultivation of cotton and pecans.”
In a satellite image, pecan plantations and catfish ponds are quite visible.
The town’s web site says Keo is “Key to the good life” and mentions it as “one of the few well-preserved cotton plantation towns in existence today. We are located on U.S. Highway 165, 23 miles south of North Little Rock, Arkansas.”
The Toltec Archaeological Mounds are nearby as is a plantation museum.