This Day in History

Sept. 30, 1919: Elaine Massacre

Time Periods: World War I: 1910 - 1919
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Labor

Robert Hill (who survived the massacre) by Jack Delano in 1943, Source: Library of Congress.

On Sept. 30, 1919 Black farmers met in Elaine, Arkansas with Robert L. Hill to establish the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America to fight for better pay and higher cotton prices.

They were shot at by a group of whites, and returned the fire in self-defense. News of the confrontation spread and a massacre ensued, leaving more than 100 (estimates up to 800) Blacks dead and 67 indicted for inciting violence.

Not only were African Americans massacred, they were also blamed for the event and charged with murder.

The Elaine Massacre occurred at the end of Red Summer of 1919 — a series of brutal attacks on African Americans in more than three dozen cities including Chicago, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Knoxville, and more cities.

Elaine Massacre defendants Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, Frank Moore, J. C. Knox, Ed Coleman, and Paul Hall. Scipio A. Jones, the group’s counsel, stands to the left. Source: Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Central Arkansas Library System.

Ida B. Wells produced a booklet called “The Elaine Riot” which can be read online at Archive.org.

Read more about the Elaine Massacre at BlackPast.org and the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. 

Please read and share the article and related classroom lesson by Linda Christensen of Rethinking Schools, “Burning Tulsa: The Legacy of Black Dispossession” so that students learn about the direct connection between racial and economic oppression and the need for reparations today.