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Remembering the Elaine Massacre

black and white image of a crowd on Elaine Arkansas's main street.
Crowd on Elaine's main street. Courtesy of Arkansas State Archives.

Earlier this year, we reflected on the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, offering resources to learn more about its history. A similar massacre also took place in Elaine, Arkansas. 

On the evening of September 30, 1919, a group of Black sharecroppers gathered at a local church to discuss how to get a fair share of the profits for their labor. During the evening, a group of white men fired shots into the church. The shots were reciprocated, and by the end of the night, one white man was killed.

Rumors spread about the sharecroppers and that there would be an uprising. Arkansas Governor Charles Brough ordered soldiers to “round up” the group. The soldiers banded with local vigilantes and, over the next four days, murdered more than 100 African Americans with hundreds more jailed or charged with first-degree murder. The killing was indiscriminate―Black men, women, and children in the area were not spared.

On the 102nd anniversary of the Elaine Massacre, consider taking a few moments in remembrance to learn more.

Read: The Elaine Massacre Memorial website has a comprehensive collection of articles, books, videos, and additional resources to learn more about the event.

Listen: In 2019, WBUR’s Here and Now program covered the centennial of the Elaine Massacre, interviewing Chester Johnson, a white man who co-chairs the Elaine Massacre Memorial Committee and believes his grandfather took part in the massacre, and Kyle Miller, director of the Delta Cultural Center in Helena.

Visit: Consider also visiting the Elaine Massacre Memorial in Helena, Arkansas. According to the memorial’s website, “The Elaine Massacre Memorial hopes to be a place of remembrance and reverence. The exact number and the names of those who died are unknown. The memorial was dedicated on September 29, 2019 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of these tragic days.”


To learn more about Arkansas history and its legacies, visit these organizations: