The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity received a $4,000 grant from Second Presbyterian Church of Little Rock’s Social Justice Advocacy Committee toward the purchase of markers for the 2019 Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.
This year’s event will honor the Elaine 12, a group of black sharecroppers who were convicted of murder and sentenced to death by all-white juries in the wave of quick, unjust criminal prosecutions of black people that followed the Elaine Massacre of 1919.
The convictions of six of the Elaine 12 were overturned in the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Moore vs. Dempsey, in 1923. Following their release from prison, most members of the Elaine 12 fled the state and changed their names. Many of them lived the rest of their lives in exile, fearing for their safety, with their family members never knowing what happened to them.
The markers will be unveiled at a ceremony in the fall as part of a conference at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Elaine Massacre.
The Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was created by the Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity in 2011 to acknowledge the sacrifices and achievements made by those who fought for racial and ethnic justice in Arkansas.
The trail begins in front of the Old State House Convention Center on Markham Street and will eventually extend to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park. Each honoree’s name is commemorated with a 12-inch bronze marker on the trail and a biography on the trail’s website.
New markers are added to the trail each year in a public ceremony that also recognizes civil rights activities of the past and those who work for racial equality today. The ceremonies have honored sit-ins and freedom rides, the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, the desegregation of downtown Little Rock, the efforts of professionals in the areas of medicine and healthcare, politics and law, and economic advancement, as well as Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller.