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The Elaine Riot

The Elaine Riot

(p.38) Chapter III The Elaine Riot
Anatomy of Four Race Riots
Lee E. WilliamsLee E. Williams
University Press of Mississippi

World War I brought changes to America that affected sharecroppers in the delta country of Arkansas and strained racial relations between blacks and whites. Whites reacted violently to blacks’ decision to challenge the traditional pattern of economic exploitation by white landlords, culminating in the so-called “Elaine Riot” in early October 1919. The riot occurred in a section of Phillips County known as the “Black Belt” because of its high concentration of blacks, most of whom worked as sharecroppers on the many plantations in the region. The cotton lands around the small town of Elaine were owned by the Gerard B. Lambert Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Robert L. Hill, a black man from Winchester, Arkansas, saw that black tenant farmers needed protection from unscrupulous white landlords and decided to form The Organization of the Progressive Farmers’ and Household Union of America. This chapter examines the Elaine Riot and its causes, as well as the trial of blacks involved in the riot by an all-white jury.

Keywords:   sharecroppers, Arkansas, racial relations, blacks, whites, economic exploitation, landlords, Robert L. Hill, Elaine Riot, trial

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