The Elaine Massacre Memorial dedication: reflections
The Elaine Massacre Memorial
On September 30, 1919, black sharecroppers held a Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America meeting at a church. Recently returned from WWI, they were advocating for a fair share of profits from the cotton harvest. A group of white men, including law enforcement, gathered outside. Shots were fired and a white man died. News spread. Over the next few days, mobs of white people – including troops called in by the governor – killed over 200 black people. Helena's armory opened its doors to anyone white who wanted a weapon. Ida B. Wells wrote they were "chasing down and murdering every Negro they could find, driving them from their homes and stalking them in the woods and fields as men hunt wild beasts."
The memorial now stands across from the Helena courthouse where black men were tried for the murders and 12 were sentenced to death. The US Supreme Court overturned that conviction in a ruling that paved the way for people deprived of due process.
Helena and Elaine now pave a way forward for all of us. The memorial's dedication brought together descendants from both sides of the massacre. The Elaine Legacy Center continues bringing us together.
As she blessed the memorial, Rabbi Debra Kassoff told the crowd, "May this memorial remind us, our work here is not finished...This is not the end, but this – this gathering at a sacred time, in a newly created sacred space – this can be a new start, a new beginning.
So now, with God’s help… let’s get to work.”
To visit the Memorial, GPS or Google-Map "Court Square Park, Helena AR."
Read what inspired us to book a trip to be there for the memorial's dedication:
And more background via the Smithsonian: