Saturday, September 10, 2011

Elaine, Arkansas 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation

White mob, Elaine Arkansas

Katherine Marino of the San Francisco Gate, reviews, 'On the Laps of Gods,' by Robert Whitaker, on 27 July 2008: In the summer of 1919, a wave of labor strikes, lynchings and anti-communist violence swept the nation's cities, from Omaha and Chicago to Washington, D.C. The nadir of this "red summer" occurred in Phillips County, Ark., in the small town of Elaine on the Mississippi Delta, where more than 100 black sharecroppers were brutally murdered over three days. Award-winning journalist Robert Whitaker unearths this tragedy and its legal aftermath in vivid detail in his compelling new book, "On the Laps of Gods: The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice that Remade a Nation."
African American sharecroppers being escorted by soldiers, Elaine Arkansas

The "Elaine Massacre" erupted when the town's black sharecroppers organized to secure a more equitable price for their cotton. To counteract the unjust debt peonage system that long victimized them, they formed the Progressive Farmers and Household Union and gathered to discuss legal counsel. Hearing that sharecropper union members were meeting for "communist" purposes in a church close to Elaine, the town sheriff and his agents arrived at the site, and opened fire on the men who stood guard. When a white man was shot, Elaine's residents retaliated fiercely, not only with gruesome mob violence, but also with machine-gun-wielding U.S. federal troops instructed to kill any black people who showed signs of resistance. In the end, five white men and almost 200 black men, women and children were dead.
Black Little Rock attorney Scipio Africanus Jones

The town indicted more than 100 black people for the murder of the white men, and the Arkansas state court sentenced 12 sharecroppers to death by electrocution. A five-year legal battle ensued, involving trials, hearings and disclosures of prisoner confessions induced by torture. The action was led by the NAACP, which sent reporter Walter White to investigate, and brilliant black Little Rock attorney Scipio Africanus Jones, who emerges as the real hero of Whitaker's story.
African America, Little Rock attorney Scipio Africanus Jones

Born a slave, Jones had "pulled himself up by his own bootstraps," becoming one of the country's most successful black lawyers. Using his professional clout to champion the equal rights of his race, he was driven by a life philosophy that fused the conflicting ideas of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington. Jones recognized that the Elaine prisoners had not received their constitutionally guaranteed due process and protested the Arkansas state court's violation of the defendants' Fourteenth Amendment rights.


Despite the fact that the generally conservative U.S. Supreme Court had long distanced itself from state proceedings, and never before dismissed a verdict in a state criminal trial for "unfair" proceedings, Jones' last-ditch effort to file a writ of habeas corpus was, astoundingly, successful. Guided by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Moore v. Dempsey established the principle that a mob-dominated trial in a state court was invalid, and the 12 men were ultimately freed.

Elaine, Arkansas 1919

Whitaker reveals the great triumph and significance of this case by richly contextualizing its place in American legal history. He roots the massacre and its national trial into the larger story of the Supreme Court's shaping of national politics. Focusing especially on Reconstruction-era Supreme Court decisions, Whitaker demonstrates how a series of 1870s cases reduced the Fourteenth Amendment to a symbolic but largely meaningless gesture for social and civic equality, and paved the way for the state-sponsored terrorism in Arkansas. He also argues, somewhat simplistically, that the most substantial factors contributing to Reconstruction's demise were these Supreme Court cases, "after [which] the other causes of America's long decline ... lined up like dominoes," obscuring a more complex alchemy of political, economic, social and cultural forces that also importantly contributed to Reconstruction's end.
Elaine, Arkansas 1919

Nevertheless, Whitaker's book is a deeply researched and evocatively written history that deserves to be widely read. He has uncovered a long-overlooked story that challenges triumphalist narratives of U.S. democracy. "On the Laps of Gods" begs reconsideration, as well, of America's 1960s civil rights movement. Its roots, Whitaker suggests, can be found in the political activism of Elaine's organizing sharecroppers and in Jones, a visionary figure who successfully altered the course of American justice. (source: San Francisco Gate, by Katherine Marino)



On the Laps of Gods
The Red Summer of 1919 and the Struggle for Justice
That Remade a Nation

By Robert Whitaker

10 comments:

  1. Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I'm impressed! Very useful information particularly the last part :) I care for such info much. I was seeking this particular information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

    Feel free to surf to my web site; Evgeni Malkin Jersey Authentic Evgeni Malkin Jersey Evgeni Malkin Authentic Jersey Evgeni Malkin Black Jersey Evgeni Malkin Black Jersey

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm not sure where you're getting your info, but good
    topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.

    Thanks for wonderful info I was looking for this information for
    my mission.

    My website; Louis Vuitton Outlet Online

    ReplyDelete
  3. obviously like your web site but you have to check the spelling on
    quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues
    and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality however I will certainly come
    again again.

    Also visit my website :: link

    ReplyDelete
  4. whoah this blog is great i really like studying your posts.
    Stay up the great work! You understand, a lot of individuals
    are hunting round for this info, you could aid them greatly.


    Here is my web site - More hints

    ReplyDelete
  5. I used to be able to find good advice from your articles.


    Feel free to surf to my web page; Read More

    ReplyDelete
  6. I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up? I'm assuming having a blog like yours would cost
    a pretty penny? I'm not very web savvy so I'm not
    100% sure. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    My website: louis vuitton handbags Outlet

    ReplyDelete
  7. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.

    Have a look at my website :: NFL wholesale Jerseys

    ReplyDelete
  8. Greetings, I do think your site may be having internet browser compatibility problems.
    Whenever I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks
    fine but when opening in I.E., it has some overlapping issues.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Aside from that, excellent blog!

    Also visit my page; Michael Kors Outlet

    ReplyDelete
  9. I do not leave a comment, but after reading through a lot of responses on this page
    "Elaine, Arkansas 1919 and the Struggle for Justice That Remade a Nation".
    I actually do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind.

    Could it be simply me or do some of the responses appear as if
    they are written by brain dead folks? :-P And, if you are posting at additional online social sites, I would like to
    keep up with you. Could you list of the complete urls of all your social pages like
    your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter
    feed?

    my web-site ... Air Max 1

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi there would you mind sharing which blog platform you're using? I'm going
    to start my own blog soon but I'm having a hard time selecting between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I'm looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I
    had to ask!

    My website :: Chaussures De Foot Pas Cher

    ReplyDelete

There was an error in this gadget

HOME

HOME
Click here to return to the US Slave Home Page