J. Chester Johnson returned to the site of the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre, one of the deadliest assaults on African-Americans in our country’s history. Mr. Johnson has written articles and other pieces on the event and has presented on the subject in various venues, but this time, he discussed the event and its ramifications in Phillips County, Arkansas, where the Massacre actually occurred. J. Chester Johnson, whose maternal grandfather participated, was joined in the presentation by Sheila Walker, whose family members, including her great-grandmother and great uncles, were among the victims. Since Sheila and Chester had antecedents representing the two sides of the conflagration, they have, over the last several years, committed to a reconciliation of the inter-racial and generational trauma that has been associated with the event. Much in the presentations recited the stories and history in each of their respective families related to the Massacre, but the journey of reconciliation between Sheila and Chester was also given special relevance. A reception was held immediately following the presentation at Beth El Heritage Hall, located at the corner of Perry and Pecan, Helena, Arkansas.
Video Courtesy of Delta Cultural Center.
This Literary Work Written by J. Chester Johnson.
Performance Was Held At Trinity Church (Wall Street and Broadway in downtown Manhattan):
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19TH.
Many consider the Elaine Race Massacre of 1919 to be the single most violent attack against African-Americans in our country’s history – certainly over the period from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century. The massacre occurred on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River Delta over the course of several days in late September-early October, 1919, when more than a hundred and possibly hundreds of African-Americans were killed by white posses and federal troops in response to an attempt by the local black sharecroppers to unionize. Out of the massacre, a legal case arose, Moore v. Dempsey, involving six sharecroppers convicted of murder in unfair and rapid trials immediately following the massacre; in 1923, the U. S. Supreme Court decided on behalf of the sharecroppers to expand, for the first time, the federal government’s role in equal protection under the law for all citizens of the nation, pursuant to the 14th amendment. This Supreme Court precedent proved monumental for the civil rights movement and for future decisions that relied on the doctrine of equal protection under the law.
The persona voices heard at the performance included, among others, victims of the massacre, members of the Supreme Court, and the genuine American hero, Scipio Africanus Jones, the African-American lawyer from Little Rock who represented the sharecroppers.
Prose, poetry, music, dance, and visual arts were part of the performance, including Broadway performers.