University of Arkansas at Little Rock students in Professor Barclay Key’s “Age of Reform” course searched through U.S. census records during the fall 2017 semester in an attempt to identify potential victims of the Elaine Massacre and determine how many people were actually killed.
Jessica Chaney of Maumelle
Norah Hamdan of North Little Rock
Sydney Stranger of Sherwood
In 1919, one of the deadliest racial conflicts in the country occurred in Elaine. Historians still do not know how many people died during the Elaine Massacre, a conflict with an estimated death toll ranging from 20 to more than 800.
“Extant sources do not agree on the scope of the massacre, and local officials at the time were indifferent to the black lives lost,” Key said. “Local landowners, whose desire to eliminate union organizing sparked the massacre, immediately needed labor to harvest, so they minimized the violence and purposefully concealed what transpired.”
On Sept. 29, 1919, representatives of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America met with 100 African-American farmers at a church to discuss unionizing. When a group of white men interrupted the meeting, two white men were shot. The sheriff organized a posse. A mob of an estimated 500 to 1,000 white people stormed through Phillips County, killing black men, women, and children on sight. The governor called in 500 federal troops, who arrested nearly 260 black people. The federal troops were also believed to have taken part in the massacre, revealing another reason why the number of people killed in the massacre remains unknown.
“It seems likely that soldiers who were initially summoned to quell potential violence actually participated in the massacre,” Key said. “Their commander would not have wanted to report that his soldiers committed such atrocities.”
Nearly 100 years after the terrifying events of the Elaine Massacre, Key turned to U.S. census records since research into other historical records has been exhausted and still have not solved the mystery of the Elaine Massacre.
“We endeavored to compare and contrast the 1910 and 1920 censuses for one township in Phillips County,” Key said. “We basically wanted to know if the families identified in the 1910 census were still there in 1920. We wanted to make an initial effort to account for people in both censuses, one of the few remaining ways we might develop conclusive evidence regarding the scope of the massacre.”
Although there are numerous reasons why a person might not appear in the 1920 census - misspelled name, marriage, moving to another town, death - many historical records have already been exhausted without providing an answer to the mystery of how many people died as a result of the Elaine Massacre.
“Students discovered that they could not find the vast majority of the people from that one district in that one township,” Key said. “Regardless of the circumstances, the fact that they could account for so few people from the vicinity of Elaine was a haunting discovery.”
Each student researched approximately 100 people from both censuses to attempt to discover the person’s status before and after the Elaine Massacre occurred.
Local students participate in Bilateral Model Arab League
Twenty University of Arkansas at Little Rock students attended the Bilateral Model Arab League conference Feb. 16-18 at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Benjamin Bowers of North Little Rock
Kevin Shatley of Sherwood
Ryan Bourgoin of Sherwood
Solane Nemera of Sherwood
The Model Arab League is a student leadership development program created by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations. It is a simulation of an international organization, the League of Arab States, which represents 22 countries.
The students got a chance to put their diplomatic skills to use as they had a special meeting with Deputy Vice Consul General of Qatar Ahmad Al Jufairi at the Qatar Consulate on Feb. 16.
A team of 20 UA Little Rock students will attend the National Model Arab League Conference April 4-9 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The group will also visit Jordan’s embassy and the White House.