Elaine Legacy Center
Elaine is the site of the 1919 race riot that began during an African American sharecroppers meeting at Hoop Spur Church to discuss joining the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America. Though accounts of who fired the first shots conflict, a shootout in front of the church on the night of September 30, 1919, between armed black guards around the church and three individuals whose vehicle was parked in front of the church resulted in the death of one white man, and the wounding of Phillips County’s white deputy sheriff.
What ensued has been called one of the earliest events in the American Civil Rights movement. Mob-violence threatened and tensions rose quickly. Although the exact number is unknown, estimates of the number of African Americans killed by whites range into the hundreds. Five white people lost their lives. The first twelve (of an estimated 265 arrested and detained) black men given trials had been convicted of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. The “Elaine Twelve,” as they would become known, contested the convictions with the help of Arkansas’s leading African American attorney, Scipio A. Jones. Six of the twelve were eventually freed by the Arkansas Supreme Court, and the remaining six defendants were granted a new hearing and were eventually relieved of the associated sentences.
The Elaine Legacy Center exists to strengthen the community, end the poverty that has existed for more than 100 years, and commemorate those who lost their lives.