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Black Farmers in Arkansas Still Look For Justice a Century After the Elaine Carnage

Eugene “Butch” Flenaugh, Jr. returned residence to Phillips Region, Arkansas concerning 5 years ago to take care of the household’s ranch in the Mississippi River Delta bottomland. Today, when he keeps an eye out over the 400-plus acres that his household has, he’s commonly timeless concerning the tales his dad informed him when the whole Delta River flatland was tilled and also possessed by Black farmers and also sharecroppers as for the eye might see. After World war, he claims, several returned from dealing with abroad and also started to buy the flood-prone land along the Mississippi River basin that white farmers assumed was substandard.

The Flenaughs’ residential or commercial property, close-by Holly Grove, and also the previous all-Black communities and also neighborhoods go back greater than 2 centuries. Flenaugh and also every Black farmer, previous sharecropper, and also landowner throughout the Delta murmur concerning the missing out on, shed, or sham residential or commercial property acts at the Phillips Court at the area seat in Helena. According to state authorities, the area is just one of simply 3 in the state that do not have public on-line accessibility to court and also residential or commercial property documents.

All those acts connect to the ghosts of the Elaine Carnage of 1919, which is without a doubt the most dangerous racial fight in Arkansas and also potentially the bloodiest racial dispute in united state background

The occasions in Elaine, nearly 103 years back, came from the state’s inmost origins of white preeminence, strained race relationships, and also expanding problems concerning organized labor. In September 1919, a capturing occurrence that took place at a conference of the Progressive Farmers and also Family Union– a Black-led company that looked for to enhance life for Black farmers and also neighborhoods in the state– intensified right into crowd physical violence by white individuals in Elaine and also the bordering location.

Although the specific number is unidentified, quotes of the variety of African Americans eliminated variety in the hundreds. Just 5 white individuals shed their lives, according to documents from the moment. Nevertheless, 12 Black guys were detained following the white-led carnage and also punished to fatality for murder costs. The Elaine 12, as they happened recognized, entered into a precedent-setting lawful instance with almost as long an influence as the carnage itself.

Flenaugh claims his household’s land returns to his great-grandfather, Cebron Johnson (Hall), that in the 1880s left greater than 30,000 acres in Monroe and also Philips regions to offspring and also their family members simply eastern of the previous all-Black community of Holly Grove. That land, according to Butch’s dad, Eugene, Sr., was possessed by the household before the carnage as Black farmers arised from enslavement in the late 19th century.

” This belongs to that 30,000 [acres],” claims the more youthful Flenaugh, a durable, 50-year-old farmer, as he keeps an eye out over residential or commercial property that is component woodland thicket, component nature maintain, and also component household graveyard.


( Picture credit report: Wesley Brown)

What took place to the Johnson land is a destiny that fell upon many Black ranches throughout the very early 20th century: Land was taken with straight-out burglary, scare tactics, physical violence, and also illegal residential or commercial property documents, with completion outcome of burglarizing generations of Black family members from the acquired wide range that originates from land possession. And also each time when the present management has dedicated to progressing racial equity, and also initiatives to offer financial debt alleviation to Black farmers have actually been put on hold by racist claims, the range of terrible land burglary is emerging in an effective, galvanizing method.

A Century of Land Burglary in Arkansas

Reaching the Flenaughs’ story of land in East Holly Grove perplexes both Alexa and also GPS. Driving 15 miles on winding Arkansas Freeway 146 takes you previous the Huge Slash Searching Club, which citizens call “Jurassic Park” as a result of the environment’s well-kept residential or commercial property, cutting edge safety and security, and also 10-foot barbed cable fencing that shouts “no trespassing.”

According to a current realty listing, the 1,650-acre maintain is up for sale for $11.1 million; that cost consists of varied waterfowl environments such as swamped eco-friendly wood, tupelo and also cypress brakes, marsh slashes, and also greater than 600 acres of farming areas.

At The Same Time, most Black farmers’ experience in the area resembles the Flenaughs’. When he initially reached his household’s location, Flenaugh claims there was no wild animals in the location due to the fact that the rice farmers beside the household’s residential or commercial property had actually exterminated whatever with chemicals. Flenaugh’s land recuperated as soon as he quit the white farmers from splashing the chemicals on his household’s residential or commercial property. Today, it is teeming with life; a wide array of waterfowl make the area component of the “ Duck-Hunting Resources of the Globe

Stuttgart, Arkansas, the rice and duck capital of the world.

( Picture CC-licensed by Jimmy Emerson on Flickr)

” I can currently abandon my stand and also see the very same duck and also waterfowls, huge video game deer, wild pigs, serpents, catfish, and also various other wild animals that can be discovered over there at Big Slash,” claims Flenaugh.

The newbie farmer informed Civil Consumes that the heritage of the Elaine Carnage is still “thick airborne,” due to the fact that everybody understands that hundreds of acres of land that are currently in the hands of company and also white landowners as soon as came from Black farmers.

” It does not make any type of feeling, due to the fact that if you go consider the documents throughout the years, they maintained transforming the [property] publications,” he claims, including that many Black family members were repelled their land or “spread” throughout the Red Summer Season of 1919

” If you consider those documents, those whose [names] were penned out simply vanished; those that had red marks were shed on their land or in their residences. The ones that had blue check marks on them are the ones that they sought, or they simply left and also never ever returned,” he claims.

” The depressing component concerning it is that every last little bit of residential or commercial property around right here is ‘beneficiary residential or commercial property.’ If even more individuals comprehended that, they might return and also obtain [their] land.”

According to a 2019 record by the Equal Justice Effort, the racist strikes in 1919 prevailed and also targeted the 380,000 Black experts that had actually simply returned from the battle. “Army solution stimulated desire for racial equal rights for generations of African Americans,” the record notes. “throughout the lynching age, several Black experts were targeted for persecution, physical violence, and also murder due to the fact that of their race and also standing as experts” and also the regarded risk they presented to Jim Crow and also racial subservience. The record takes place to keep in mind that “racial physical violence … enhanced a tradition of racial inequality that has actually never ever been appropriately resolved and also remains to appear in the oppression and also unfairness of the management of criminal justice in America.”

Flenaugh claims the Elaine Carnage sent out a message of scare tactics that still impacts the area today. And also there are still some White and also black individuals that state the occurrence needs to not be spoken about, also after a neighborhood board committed a memorial to those killed throughout the 100-year ceremony 2 years back.

” The depressing component concerning it is that every last little bit of residential or commercial property around right here is ‘ beneficiary residential or commercial property‘ If even more individuals comprehended that, they might return and also obtain [their] land,” he claims.

Yet Flenaugh’s very own household is still in a battle to maintain all their land. Flenaugh and also his dad, Eugene Flenaugh, Sr., and also 2 siblings, Johnathan and also Eric, had a court day this summer season at the Phillip Region Circuit Court in Helena-West Helena worrying residential or commercial property line conflict with a white farmer looking for to plant rice on their story.

The strained battle has actually brought about fights with the Phillips Region Constable’s Division and also poor blood with the white farmer. In June, the court enabled the white farmer to plant on the questioned land, yet the issue still has actually not been totally cleared up. Larry Hicks, a Little Rock-based NAACP lawyer that has actually taken a passion in the Flenaugh’s instance and also the circumstances of Black farmers in Arkansas, claimed the household lately sent out a letter to the court ending the lawful solutions of their lawyer complying with the court hearing in late June.

For the Flenaughs, the conflict raise memories of Elaine and also the duplicating patterns of taken Black wide range. “We simply desire them to leave us alone,” the older Flenaugh informed Civil Eats.



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