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Survivors remembered at the 100th anniversary of the Elaine Massacare

The Elaine Massacre Memorial in Helena-West Helena.
Johnathan Reaves
The Elaine Massacre Memorial in Helena-West Helena.

The Elaine Massacre was the deadliest race confrontation in the history of Arkansas, and according the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, it was “possibly the bloodiest racial conflict in the history of the United States”. 

The conflict started on the night of September 30th, 1919 when 100 African Americans were gathered at a church, three miles north of Elaine.  Sharecroppers wanted better payments for their crops from the white plantation owners who dominated the area during the Jim Crow Era. A union met to discuss the situation. 

Armed guards representing the workers union were placed around the church.  A shootout occurred at the church.  The next day, the Phillips County Sheriff went to arrest those who were involved in the shootout. 

What followed was led to up to one thousand whites from surrounding counties coming to Elaine for a fight.  White mobs killed many African Americans in and around Elaine.  While five whites were killed, anywhere between 100 to several hundred African Americans were killed in the massacre. 

A dedication ceremony was held on Sunday at one of the sites of the violence in Helena-West Helena.  

While the memorial dedication ceremony took place in Helena-West Helena, a separate event recognizing the massacre occurred in Elaine at the same time.