Seeds of Destruction–Riots and Unrest, 1919-1928

Seeds of Destruction–Riots and Unrest, 1919-1928


For this first paper assignment, we will use a variety of materials. One source in particular was created by me and my students many moons ago, but it has stood the test of time. It is based on the reporting of journalists who responded to unrest in Phillips County, Arkansas. This particular episode is symbolic of the postwar tensions you have been studying AND the efforts of some to address the failures of the justice system.

In the fall of 1919, an event occurred in Phillips County, Arkansas that has come to be known as the “Elaine Race Riot.” As students of history, it is your job to have open and critical minds, to analyze evidence and formulate intelligent interpretations of historical events while at the same time recognizing that these interpretations must be open to revisions as new evidence comes to light. Expect sources to be contradictory, incomplete, and slanted–it is up to you to use your critical thinking skills.

Examine the evidence presented here. You must use the press materials located at the “Elaine Riot” web site AND the pamphlet, “The Arkansas Race Riot” by Ida B. Wells (located at the sites/.pdf files listed below). Also, at the Ellis Library newspaper archives databases, locate a variety of newspaper accounts of other race-related riots and lynchings. Use these materials and MacLean’s Behind the Mask of Chivalry to write a comparison paper about at least four episodes of violence–this means Elaine plus a minimum of three additional episodes.

You cannot complete the assignment unless you use all of these sources, and I will not accept incomplete assignments.

Be sure to indicate exactly which news articles you found on your own. Do not include citations in your word count.

Answer the following:

1.) What ignited these events?

2.) Who was involved and why?

3.) What was the role of law enforcement and public officials? The military?

4.) What problems and failures in society and the legal justice systems did these events illuminate?

The minimum length of the papers is 900 words minimum, not counting end notes.

Our Elaine web site is located at:–paste this directly into your browser.

Ida B. Wells’ “Arkansas Race Riot” is located at:



Solution Preview

The Elaine Race riots
The Elaine Race Riots began on the evening of September 30th to October 1st in 1919 in Philips county; Arkansas. The riots started when the white people tried to disband the organized sharecropper efforts of the black African American people to express the concerns regarding local coal planters and laborers. Merchants and planters of coal were mostly whites and they had a routine of buying cotton of black farmers from prices which were below the market prices.

(1,233 words)

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