September 19, 2014

Downtown Panel Will Tackle Legacy of One of Nation’s Deadliest Race Riots

LOWER MANHATTAN — Descendants on both sides of one of the country’s deadliest racial conflicts, a massacre that took place nearly a century ago in a little Arkansas town along the Mississippi River, will gather in Lower Manhattan this weekend to discuss the riot and its tangled legacy.

The Elaine Race Massacre, which involved days of murderous riots in September 1919 — and left hundreds of African Americans dead — stirred advocates to fight all the way to the Supreme Court, where they ultimately helped lay the legal groundwork for the civil rights movement.

On Saturday, (September 20th) a descendant of the one of the riot’s victims, as well as relative of the one of the massacre’s perpetrators, will gather for a panel talk at St. Paul’s Chapel on Fulton Street and Broadway to discuss the mob violence and its implications in the continued fight for racial justice.

The free talk, at 2 p.m., will feature historians and authors, including New York City poet J. Chester Johnson, who’s written about grappling with his own grandfather’s involvement in the Arkansas Ku Klux Klan and his likely role in the killing spree that overtook the town for two days.

"Working through what my grandfather had done was particularly grueling," said Johnson, an Arkansas native who began to research the massacre several years ago, unaware of his grandfather's involvement, or the scope of the riots.

"I adored him, and there was no way, ultimately, to reconcile what he had done with the man I knew — they were just two different Lonnies [Johnson's grandfather's name]."

To read more go to DNAinfo New York

DNAinfo New York


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