Arkansas' Phillips County remembers the racial massacre America forgot


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Arkansas' Phillips County remembers the racial massacre America forgot
By Olivia Paschal October 4, 2019

"If you are from Phillips County, stand up," Rev. Mary Olson said to the gathering of nearly 100 people, young and old, almost all of them black, at a community center in rural Elaine, Arkansas, on Sept. 28. Nearly everyone stood. "The most important thing is the people of this area are here," she continued. "You are the descendants, whether your people were here or not, of the transgenerational trauma that still exists in this area. You are the important people."

The crowd was gathered to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Elaine Massacre, perhaps the single deadliest instance of racist violence against African Americans to ever take place in the United States. The murder of hundreds of black farmers, sharecroppers, and businesspeople — men, women, and children — took place in the cotton fields of Elaine and the surrounding rural towns of Phillips County in the Arkansas Delta in late September and early October of 1919. The recent gathering was part of Elaine's eighth annual Healing of the Land ceremony, organized by the Elaine Legacy Center, of which Olson is the president. The event was held not just to remember the massacre's victims, many of whose descendants and relatives were in the crowd, but to continue the work of healing from the ongoing exploitation, poverty, and trauma that still exist here, the legacies of slavery, sharecropping, and the massacre itself.

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