The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 335
The following text was automatically extracted from the image on this page using optical character recognition software:
the massacre involved black sharecroppers banding together to demand justice
from their landlords. The workers wanted itemized statements regarding ex-
penses and quicker settlements once crops were harvested.
The sharecroppers formed the "Progressive Farmers and Household Union of
America," held protest meetings, and even sought legal assistance. They threat-
ened to withhold their cotton if landlords did not come to terms. Such displays
of self-reliance and defiance alarmed the white community. Soon, rumors
spread about a sharecropper rebellion. At least one white spied on one of the
union's meetings and an exchange of gunfire occurred, though the exact cir-
cumstances of the shooting have never become known. Now, new rumors held
that blacks in Phillips County had banded together for the purpose of killing all
the area's Anglos.
Whites reacted by forming armed groups and attacking the blacks wherever
found. Volunteers poured in from Mississippi and Tennessee to add more fire-
power. Governor Charles Brough entered the fray. He personally led a force of
federal troops from Camp Pike. The soldiers made wholesale arrests of all
African Americans that the troops came across. Next, the judicial system turned
the black victims into criminals. Judges sentenced fifty-four men to prison and
doomed eleven with death sentences. Appeals and litigation dragged into 1924
before higher authorities ordered the release of all the men. In the end, no one
was executed. So, blacks finally received justice-of sorts.
Author Stockley does a good, thorough job of covering the Elaine massacre.
He provides the "nuts and bolts" history. However, there is a problem. The au-
thor does not put the Phillips County troubles into the larger southern and na-
tional context. He does not cover the long-term causes of the violence in
Elaine, merely a chapter in a much larger story. Elaine fits into the pattern of
many other violent encounters across the South during and after World War I.
Wartime experiences both at home and abroad had-in the white view-dis-
turbed traditional race relations not only in the South but in other parts of the
nation as well. And for their part, southern planters, yeoman farmers, busi-
nessmen, bankers, and workers had no intention of allowing the freedom that
the sharecroppers' union demanded. Determined to uphold white supremacy,
racists were afraid that any concession to blacks might lead to yet more de-
mands. So, then, real justice for blacks would not be achieved for several more
Like Arkansas, Texas also witnessed poisoned race relations. Contemporary
with the Elaine massacre, the racial troubles in Houston and in Longview have
been well documented. And such incidents are but the proverbial tip of the ice-
berg. Like Arkansas and the rest of the South, Texas continued to see racial dis-
asters for many more years.
Although it might have been better to set the Elaine massacre in the larger
context, the author still provides a wealth of details on the massacre itself. Blood
zn Their Eyes should be examined by everyone interested in southern history and
Oklahoma State University
James M. Smallwood
Here’s what’s next.
This issue can be searched. Note: Results may vary based on the legibility of text within the document.
Tools / Downloads
Get a copy of this page or view the extracted text.
Citing and Sharing
Basic information for referencing this web page. We also provide extended guidance on usage rights, references, copying or embedding.
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/387/: accessed August 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.