Elaine Research Project: Background

Elaine : Trying to Recover from the Past

Newspaper Image from time of Elaine Race RiotsThe Elaine Race Riots of 1919 is a stain on the history of Arkansas that resulted in the murder of unknown numbers of African-Americans.  Historians generally agree that all the facts surrounding the racial conflict may never be known for sure including Grif Stockley, author of the book, “Blood in their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919.”

Stockley said in an article he wrote for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, “Race relations in this area of Arkansas are currently quite strained for a number of reasons, including the events of 1919. A conference on the matter in Helena in 2000 resulted in no closure for the people in Phillips County.”

Aiyetoro, Institute associate and assistant professor at UALR School of Social Work, Dr. LaVerne Bell-Tolliver, and Northeastern University School of Law co-op student Colleen Youngdahl went to Elaine and Helena/West Helena in Phillips County, Ark., Sept. 20, 2011, to meet with community leaders and residents.

Community members suggested that the town had not recovered from the effects of its racially charged past. They reason that many residents have chosen to remain silent about issues involving race, either, out of fear or their resolve that “nothing good will come out of it.”

The Elaine Research Project is a collaborative effort between the Institute and Northeastern University’s School of Law Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. The CRRJ is a special program that investigates the role of law enforcement agencies and courts during instances of racial unrest, and Youngdahl was assigned to the Institute to research the history surrounding the events of 1919.

The work on the Elaine Project is ongoing and the Institute welcomed a new co-op student from the CRRJ in September, Jessica Yamane.

The Institute participated in the Healing the Land ceremony in Elaine on Sunday, September 30, 2012, to promote unity in the communities affected by the events of 1919.

For more events that promote racial and ethnic justice, see the Institute’s Community Calendar.