Literature & Stories

The Elaine Race ‘Riot’ of 1919

In 1919 West Helena, Arkansas a group of black sharecroppers met to discuss unionising. This provocation ended with a riot – really, a massacre – that led 4 whites and 100 blacks dead. And how did authorities respond? 300 blacks were jailed, 12 of whom were executed in trials lasting one hour or more.

Robert Whitaker’s new book The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation returns to the incident, which occurred more than 50 years after Emancipation. And now, 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement began, Barack Obama is running or President. Times change, history doesn’t…

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Photograph: The 12


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