Brian Mitchell, assistant professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock who has conducted extensive research on the Elaine Massacre, has long waited for the day when Frank Moore, a member of the Elaine 12, would be honored with a historic marker at his final resting place.
The Division of Arkansas Heritage and the Elaine 12 Foundation will place Moore’s marker during a ceremony at noon on Friday, March 6, at Little Rock National Cemetery, 2523 Springer Blvd.
During his fall 2018 Intro to Public History Class, Mitchell and his students searched through public records, databases, and cemeteries to locate the missing graves of the Elaine 12. Through their hard work, they located the graves of six members of the Elaine 12. Mitchell created the Elaine 12 Foundation at UA Little Rock in 2018 to raise funds to place markers on the graves of the Elaine 12 and headstone on the graves of those without.
“Frank Moore will be the first of the Elaine 12 to receive a marker,” Mitchell said. “Moore is the namesake of Moore vs. Dempsey, the landmark Supreme Court case that ultimately granted these men clemency.”
Moore, a World War I veteran buried at Little Rock National Cemetery in 1932, moved to Phillips County after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army. He worked on a farm and was a member of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. On Sept. 30, 1919, local police officers interrupted a union meeting, and a shootout occurred, sparking the Elaine Massacre.
Moore and 11 other union members were charged with first-degree murder for their alleged roles in the deaths of white men involved in the killings. The men’s death sentences were eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, and all men were released from prison by 1925.
Moore’s marker will be the 10th marker placed in the Division of Arkansas Heritage’s program to assist communities in the placement of historical markers across the state since it was introduced last year. Markers are sponsored by civic groups and organizations, who split the cost of the markers with the Division of Arkansas Heritage.
“This marker is an important one to the Arkansas Historical Marker Program,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “Last year was the 100th anniversary of the Elaine Race Massacre. We are reminded why we must remember our past and learn from it, even those parts that address the most terrible parts of our history.”
Following Moore’s ceremony, Mitchell hopes to next honor Joseph Knox, a member of the Elaine 12 who is buried at Little Rock’s Haven of Rest Cemetery. Additional members of the Elaine 12 are buried in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio.
Locating the graves of the Elaine 12 has been a difficult task. 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.
Mitchell plans to take up the search again this summer to locate the remaining grave sites. The Elaine 12 Foundation has raised enough money for three markers, but hopes to eventually place markers at all 12 burial sites.
“It is a significant project because up until this point, we have only known their names and haven’t known what happens after their release from jail after they are on death row,” Mitchell said. “Some of the graves we’ve found don’t have a headstone, so to be able to put a headstone as well as a marker would be meaningful.”
Donations to the Elaine 12 Foundation can bemade online by selecting College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences in the drop down box and then typing in “Elaine 12” in the Fund Other box. Checks can be made out to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with “Elaine 12” written in the descriptive information line. Checks can be mailed to University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Office of Alumni and Development, 2801 S. University, Little Rock, AR 72204.