Did You Know? White Farmers Lynched 237 Black People Without a Conviction

Published On February 18, 2015 | By maria | Before Dr. King, The latest posts

Reported by Michal Ortner

Many have never heard of the mass lynching of African-Americans that took place in 20th Century Arkansas. Racial violence to ensure subjugation was not rare during the post-WWI days of Southern America; however, the death toll of 237 is nothing to overlook.

Tensions began rising in 1918 when an African-American sharecropper reported abuse from his landlord, who seized his 90-acre crop of cotton plus his personal possessions. In another instance, a plantation owner refused Black sharecroppers itemized accounts of their crops. Others were forced to sell their crops at an extremely reduced rate as a landlord starved his tenants.

“They ain’t allowing us down there room to move our feet except to go to the field,” said one sharecropper.

“The union wants to know why it is that the laborers cannot control their just earnings which they work for,” Robert Hill, founder of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America, stated.  He strongly urged fellow black sharecroppers to recruit at least 25 to join in the movement and form their own lodges.

By 1919, there were 7 lodges taking form in Phillips County, AR. White planters and landowners could foresee the loss of their profits if they had to deal fairly with Black sharecroppers.

Late in the evening of Sept. 30, 1919, a confrontation took place, leading to one death. This would capitulate one of the most devastating mass lynchings in the 20th Century. White planters took up arms, believing the black lodgers had a murderous agenda.

Following the tragic mass murder of 237 African-Americans, no participants faced charges or trials for what took place. These type of lynchings were almost typical across America and perpetrators were proud of their actions—some even posed for pictures with the deceased.

“The death toll of 237 reported by the Equal Justice Initiative is a new figure, based on extensive research. In 1919, sources as varied as the NAACP and the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI) estimated the number of killed African Americans at 25 to 80. Writer Robert Whitaker, who has identified 22 separate killing sites of African Americans during the massacre, put the death toll at more than 100,” wrote David Krugler, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin.

NAACP official Walter White, who risked his life in October 1919 to investigate the killings, stated that the “number of Negroes killed during the riot is unknown and probably never will be known.”

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