Elaine Race Riot: Estimated 856 Black Sharecroppers Murdered Who Just Wanted Better Pay

5 Posted by - December 26, 2015 - Injustices, JIM CROW, LATEST POSTS

The Elaine Race Riot, also called the , began September 30, 1919, in Elaine in Phillips County, Arkansas, in the Arkansas Delta.   The conflict started when approximately 100 African Americans, mostly sharecroppers on the plantations of white landowners, attended a meeting of the Progressive Farmers and the Household Union of America at a church in Hoop Spur (Phillips County), three miles north of Elaine. The group led by Robert Hill, who was the founder of the Progressive Farmers and the Household Union of America. The purpose of the meeting, one of several by sharecroppers in the Elaine area during the previous months, was to obtain better payments for their cotton crops from the white plantation owners who dominated the area during the Jim Crow era. Black sharecroppers were often exploited in their efforts to collect payment for their cotton crops.

 

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Whites resisted such organizing by blacks, and two white men took it upon themselves to attend, one a deputy sheriff,  and the other a railroad worker showed up it was then that a fight developed. The guards standing shot one of the white men. A black trustee raced back to Helena, the county seat of Phillips County, and alerted white officials.

A posse was called in and within a few hours, hundreds of white men began to comb the area for blacks they believed were launching an insurrection. The white mobs burned the homes and businesses of Black people. In response to the mayhem, federal troops targeted African-Americans who were trying to protect their possessions and defend their lives. Hundreds of blacks were arrested, and many were forcibly held in the basements of the city’s public schools.

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The fighting in Elaine went on for two days; it only ended when Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough called in United States soldiers to contain the violence. At the end of the violence, 65 African-Americans were brought to trial. According to the African-American Registry, “Twelve were sentenced to death and the others appealed to higher courts. Scipio Jones, an African-American lawyer from Little Rock, helped to fight for justice for the accused at Elaine. He received assistance from the (then) newly formed National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a result, the rest of the condemned men were set free, and the governor brought African-American and white citizens together for a discussion on problems between the races. No clear-cut answer for the violence was ever found.

According to the book, BLOOD IN THEIR EYES: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919 by Grif Stockley,  it is documented that five whites, including a soldier, died at Elaine, but estimates of deaths range from 20 to 856.   If accurate, these numbers would make it by far the most deadly conflict in the history of the United States.

Source:

BLOOD IN THEIR EYES: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919, Grif Stockley –http://www.amazon.com/BLOOD-IN-THEIR-EYES-Massacres/dp/1557287724

http://aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/race-riot-elaine-arkansas

http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1102

https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=6622

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