For Immediate Release
For information contact:
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith
(773) 548-6675; (614)216-8725 (c)
Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference To Focus on Elaine Massacre:
Elaine Truth Telling Commission Hearing, February 8, 2019
The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc, (SDPC), a UN NGO, will continue the work of truth telling with a call to sacred memory during this Quad-Centennial year (marking 400 years since the forced arrival of the first documented enslaved Africans on the eastern shores of the United States), by organizing a Truth Telling Commission Hearing in Elaine Arkansas one hundred years after the 1919 Elaine Massacre. The hearings start February 8, 9:30 am, at the Elaine Legacy Center, 313 College Ave., Elaine AR.
Because the oral histories of families who suffered in 1919 differ significantly from many published accounts, the Commission will hear oral histories, as well as scholarly reports, of the massacre that started when white “alluvial empire builders” confiscated land in the area that was almost all black-owned as a result of the River Recovery Act of 1900 (Grover Cleveland). “We used to own land but ...” is the common theme of family stories. The sending of guns, posses, and troops from Helena intensified on September 30, 1919, as Black Farmers developed a strategy to ship their cotton by rail to Boston to sell at market prices, thereby circumventing the unfair prices set in Helena.
What resulted was a horrific catastrophe, leaving about 240 named and an unknown number of unnamed dead – men, women and children – and countless acres of land stolen from black citizens in the Elaine area. White media blamed the entire event on what they called “a deliberately planned insurrection …against the whites.” Twelve black men were tried before an all-white male jury and were sentenced to death. No white person was charged with any crime. The Elaine men on death row won the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as “Moore vs Dempsey” in 1923, earning for Elaine the title of “Motherland of Civil Rights.”
The upcoming hearing (which will he convened and conducted by the SDPC in partnership with the Elaine Legacy Center and the National Council of Churches) is being held because, says Rev. Dr. Iva Carruthers, General Secretary, “too much has happened to black people in this country that too few people know about. We believe that our stories must be told; there is liberation in truth, no matter how painful it is. We believe our people – and white people – will be strengthened in this current day by knowing what the real relationship between whites and blacks has been historically.”
Commissioners who will be participate in the Elaine hearings include Honorable Judge Wendell Giffen (Pulaski County Circuit), Fania Davis (Social Justice Activist, Civil Rights Trial Attorney), Dr. Kimathi Nelson (Presiding Bishop and Holy Patriarch of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church) and Dr. Paul Ortiz (Professor of History and Director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida).
The first Truth Telling Commission hearing on the Elaine Massacre is open to the public and is scheduled to be livestreamed from SDPC’s facebook page.
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