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The Elaine Massacre: A Teach-In
Join me on Thursday (9/29) at 7pm CT to learn about the bloodiest race massacre you've never heard of
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The Elaine Massacre is the bloodiest race riot most people have never heard of.
One hundred twenty-three years ago, on September 30, 1919, Black sharecroppers in Phillips County, Arkansas near the town of Elaine, gathered in a clapboard church to strategize about negotiating fair prices for the cotton they picked.
The people assembled were part of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union. Long-exploited for their labor, they were finally organizing to gain the just due for their efforts.
The group of Black farmers knew such meetings would be under scrutiny by the white establishment, so they set armed guards outside to keep watch.
As is often the case in these circumstances, the precise sequence of events that night is lost to history.
What we do know is that a group of white men showed up. A shootout ensued. One of the white men was wounded. Another was killed.
Word of the incident quickly spread throughout the white community. Early the next day, the news hit the wire—”Negro insurrection!”
Over the next two days hundreds of white people, including 500 U.S. troops called in from Camp Pike, converged on Elaine and the county. They hunted down and targeted almost any Black person they could find.
We may never know the total number of poor Black farmers who were killed, but estimates range up to nearly 200.
The following weeks and years consisted of a propaganda campaign and a conspiracy of silence to cover up the atrocity. Yet this atrocity still drew the attention of the likes of the NAACP and Ida B. Wells. The defense of some men falsely accused of crimes and sentenced to death helped lay the groundwork for successful civil rights litigation in the 1950s and 1960s.
Only now, more than a century later, is the Elaine Massacre beginning to garner the attention it deserves.
Join me for a teach-in on the Elaine Massacre on Thursday (9/29) at 7 pm CT.
I’ll talk about what we know about what happened in Elaine, just 25-minute drive from where I live and learn how white supremacy persisted and adapted in the Jim Crow era. We’ll also hear about Black organizing efforts and their work to resist racism and economic exploitation.
We’ll also view the trailer for a documentary I’m working on with Nolan Dean of Cherry Street Productions on the Elaine Massacre and its aftermath called Valley of Dry Bones.
Save the date!
Thursday, September 29
7 pm CT