This Day in History

Aug. 5, 1896: Polk County Massacre

Time Periods: Industrial Revolution: 1877 - 1899
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. Although reports place some of the events near Horatio, accounts clearly stated that the purpose of the attack was to keep African Americans out of Polk County, and so it was generally referred to as the Polk County Race War.

This was part of a pattern of labor-related racial terrorism that was sweeping Arkansas at the time. Continue reading at the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Learn more in Racial Cleansing in Arkansas, 1883–1924 Politics, Land, Labor, and Criminality by Guy Lancaster and Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen.

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

Read about more Massacres in U.S. History.