Civil Rights Heritage Trail Induction Ceremony to Honor Elaine 12

The 12 exonerated defendants from the 1919 Elaine Massacre will become a permanent part of the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail on Nov. 5. Markers commemorating each of them will be unveiled at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s annual Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail Induction Ceremony at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 at UA Little Rock Downtown, 333 President Clinton Ave. 

Speakers at the ceremony will include UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale; U.S. Congressman French Hill; Lenora Marshall, a member of the Elaine Quorum Court, Kwami Abdul-Bey, co-convenor of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement; and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott.

Dr. Brian Mitchell, UA Little Rock assistant history professor, and his students will read the names and birth and death places of the Elaine 12 defendants. Dr. Mitchell and his students have done extensive research on the Elaine Massacre.

This year’s event will honor the Elaine 12, a group of black sharecroppers in Phillips County who were wrongfully 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. This is the 100th commemorative year of the Elaine Massacre.

The Elaine 12 include Alfred Banks, Ed Coleman, Joe Fox, Albert Giles, Paul Hall, Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, Joe Knox, John Martin, Frank Moore, Ed Ware, and William Wordlaw. Two of the men are known to be buried in Arkansas. Frank Moore, a World War I veteran, is buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock, while Joe Knox also is buried in Arkansas at the Haven of Rest Cemetery in Little Rock. 

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 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. Last year, the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail was named a part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

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. 

This year’s markers will be installed on the north sidewalk of President Clinton Avenue between Cumberland Street and Rock Street. 

Since the trail’s inception in 2011, East-Harding Construction has partnered with the university to install each year’s markers along the trail.  East-Harding has provided the labor and supplies for the installation, representing a key role in the trail’s development and expansion. 

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.

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