This Day in History

Aug. 5, 1896: Polk County Massacre

Time Periods: 1877
Themes: African American, Labor, Racism & Racial Identity

Newspaper account of African Americans killed and wounded during labor strife in Polk County, from the New York Times; August 10, 1896. Source: Guy Lancaster

On Aug. 5, 1896, white workers attacked Black workers in Arkansas who were coming to work on the Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf Railway.

As a result, three African Americans were killed and eight wounded. This was part of a pattern of labor-related, white supremacist terrorism that was sweeping Arkansas at the time.

There were continued attempts by white people to drive African Americans from the Mena (in Polk County) area. Nonetheless, African Americans established a small Black community, named Little Africa, just east of town. This was followed by continued attacks, and a lynching in 1901.

Excerpted from and continue reading at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Learn More

Racial Cleansing in Arkansas, 1883–1924 Politics, Land, Labor, and Criminality by Guy Lancaster

Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen

Burning Tulsa: The Legacy of Black Dispossession: A lesson on teaching about the history and legacy of African Americans being forcibly denied access to their land, employment, housing, and more, see

Massacres in U.S. History

Massacres in US History | Zinn Education Project