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Arkansas History

Scipio Africanus Jones (1863 – 1943 )

Scipio Africanus Jones
(1863 – 1943 )

Accomplishments

  • Successfully defended “Elaine 12” and won the landmark supreme court victory of Moore v. Dempsey
  • Republican Presidential Delegate
  • Held sit-in at Arkansas Republican convention
  • Married once in 1890 and widowed married again around 1915
  • Fought against the repeal of black voting rights in Arkansas

Short Biography

Scipio Africanus Jones was born in Dallas County Arkansas to a white father and black mother in 1863. He was educated at Smith College and Shorter College in Little Rock Arkansas. He became a lawyer in 1889.

Jones as a member of several organizations. He joined the Wonder State Bar Association where he was able to network with prominent white lawyers. Jones also joined Booker T. Washington’s National Negro Business League and founded the Black Lawyers Auxiliary. In 1926, the Black Lawyers Auxiliary separated and became the National Negro Bar Association. Jones served as the first treasurer.

Jones was an active politically all his life. In 1902, Jones formed an independent party and ran candidates for county offices. He was elected to the Little Rock School board in 1903. Arkansas attempted to prevent blacks from voting by enacting educational requirements for voting. In response, Jones formed the Negro State Suffrage League in 1911 and stopped the laws from passing.

Arkansas has Black Republican Conventions in 1914 and 1916 which were organized by Jones. He held a sit-in for the 1920 State GOP Convention because it was in a segregated hotel. Even with all of Jones’s activism, the GOP respected him greatly. He served as the GOP delegate in 1912, 1928, and 1940.

One of the early victories in school integration came from Jones. In 1941, black law student petitioned the University of Arkansas for tuition assistance. He won the case because there were no black law schools in Arkansas at the time. Unfortunately, the money to fund the law education was pulled from money allocated to the one black technical college in Arkansas.

Moore v. Dempsey

The information for this section is a summary of “Evanescence The Elaine Massacre by J. Chester Johnson.”

Throughout Jones’s law career he fought for the expansion and solidifying of the fourteenth amendment. The first case in which he used the Fourteenth Amendment as a defense was in 1901. The case in 1901 was to repeal a criminal conviction. Jones lost the case, but never lost faith in the power of the amendment.

For those that don’t know the Fourteenth Amendment Section 1 says the following.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The phrase that Jones continually quoted was “without due process of law.” In the South, during reconstruction and Jim Crow, many blacks were denied access to a fair trial. Often juries had no black members on the jury when race was an issue in the trial. Also, blacks were tortured into a confession or testifying against other black people.

Moore v. Dempsey case was the result of criminal cases that came from the Elaine Massacre. The Elaine Massacre caused the death between 250 to 850 black people. The Massacre was conducted to stop the formation of The Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America, an all-black union. There were 250 black men arrested.

The Governor of Arkansas, Charles Brough, wanted a speedy end to the trial. The first reason was not to impede the upcoming cotton harvest. He needed everyone to feel racial tensions had been eased so blacks would come in to pick the cotton. He also did not want attention from the Federal Government and national press. When the men were arrested on October 2, 1919, whites formed a mob to have another mass lynching in front of the courthouse. Various county officials told the mob to disperse and that the courts will serve justice to the men.

The men were jailed for conspiracy to commit murder. The wealthy men of the town did not want blacks to form a union to get fair pay. The plutocrats then created a rumor that the union was a front for a black insurrection. A “hit list” was supposedly found written by a union member. The full story of the Elaine Massacre can be viewed in this blog under Robert Hill’s leader analysis.

The Governor appointed Committee of Seven composed of County Judges, Mayor of neighboring Helena, and various wealthy cotton farm owners to conduct an investigation. The committee determined the original police patrol was unarmed and in the area to investigate bootlegging. The police patrol was ambushed and unaware of the union meeting. When the second patrol went into Elaine to arrest the men that ambushed the first patrol the second patrol was ambushed. Further police investigation uncovered the “hit list” of planters and only fourteen black people were killed during the arrest of the 285 men.

Another governor-appointed committee that included influential blacks and whites verified the Committee of Seven’s report. Many of Arkansas black elite were willing to comply with the obviously flawed report. Some analysts say the black elite involved in this committee only wanted to further their political influence by cozying up to the governor. Other analysts say they feared retaliation from a governor who recently ordered federal troops to attack civilians. The motivation of the black elite involve in the oversight committee will never be known.[2]

During the investigation, many witnesses against the defense were prisoners captured during the Massacre. These men were tortured until they complied with the story of the Committee of Seven. The Committee of Seven chose the prosecutors, and the judge chose the defense lawyers. Twelve men were picked for the first round of trials. The jury consisted of no blacks and white men that took part in the massacre. The trial resulted in jury deliberations of less than two minutes. All twelve were sentenced to death.

There was a slight problem with the trial. Six of the men were indicted with the phrase. “We, the Jury, find the defendants guilty as charged in the indictment.” the phrase should have been, “We, the Jury, find the defendants guilty of murder in the first degree, as charged in the indictment.”[3] The other six had the correct phrase used. The six sentenced with the incorrect phrase will be known as Ware 6 had their case reversed and had to go back to Philips Co for a retrial. The other six, referred to as the Moore 6, had their case appealed to the State Supreme Court and lost. The Moore 6 had their execution date postponed until the Ware 6 got a retrial. The Moore Six were Frank Moore, Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, J. C. Knox, Ed Coleman, Paul Hall. The Ware Six were Ed Ware, Alf Banks, J. Martin, Joe Fox, Will Wordlaw, Albert Giles.

Jones knew to free the men he needed to work with many white people to get these convictions overturned. He teamed up with an ex-Confederate soldier Colonel George Murphy to aid in the defense of the Elaine 12. The retrial of the Ware 6 by the county resulted in many black witnesses recanting their story and admitting to being tortured. Unfortunately, the trail led to the reconviction of the Ware 6. Jones, however, set a trap for the county court that allowed for appeal to that Arkansas Supreme Court (ARSC). The ARSC invalidated the second conviction of the Ware 6.

In the case of invalidating the second conviction, the ARSC stated it is not unconstitutional to have an all white jury. However, it is unconstitutional to actively discriminate against black people that could serve on a jury.[3]

In 1921, a new Governor, Thomas McRae, takes charge and wants to decouple the execution of the Ware 6 and the Moore 6. The Moore 6 were now scheduled to be executed June 10, 1921, and the County judge decided not to rule on the Ware 6 until the Moore 6 were executed.

The imminent execution of the Moore 6 forces Jones to race against the clock. He finds an Arkansas judge to stay the execution of the Moore 6. The AR Attorney General appealed the decision to the ARSC. The ARSC held a hearing later that week that resulted in the Governor being allowed to set a new execution date. The prohibition was overturned because it came from and Chancery Court in Pulaski County and the judge did not have jurisdiction in Phillips County. [3]The Governor decided to move the execution date to September 23, 1921.

The addition of three more months allowed Jones to appeal to the Federal District Court. The death of Colonel Murphy, Jones’s partner, earlier in the year caused Jones to partner with another white attorney Edgar McHaney. Working with this white attorney two of the white police officers in the first trial recanted their stories. The state of Arkansas demurred on the grounds the Federal judge did not have jurisdiction over the case.[3] The case was then sent to the United States Supreme Court in the next thirty days.

Jones was able to get the case in front of the USSC. At this point, the State of Arkansas had demurred the facts of the case in the lower court. Demurring the facts means Arkansas could not defend their investigation. The USSC ruled 6 – 2 in favor of Moore. The State of Arkansas had not given Moore a fair trial.

As stated earlier the other 273 arrested in the Elaine massacre plead to second-degree murder. They all were on work detail at Cummins State Farm. By October 1922 all but 15 released from prison.

At this point, the defendants were not free; the USSC ruled they had an unfair trial. Jones petitioned the ARSC for a change of venue to Lee County and won. [3] In Arkansas if a case is not tried with it two terms of the circuit court, the trial is dismissed. The case of the Ware six had been postponed for two terms. Therefore Ware 6 were freed in 1923. [3]

A third county trial will either result in the County attempting to take on the Supreme Court or the County Court freeing the Moore 6. Jones gathered enough signatures to petition the Governor to grant a pardon to the twenty-one remaining prisoners. At the same time, Jones petitioned Phillips County officials, including the Committee of Seven, to commute the sentence of the remaining prisoners to time served. Jones finally creates the last compromise for the Moore 6. The defendants did not have to plead guilty, but their sentences were commuted to time served. The Governor promised to release them within twelve months.

Governor McRae released the last seven of the second-degree murder prisoners in 1924. The Moore 6 were still in jail after the original agreement between Jones had been etched. The Governor finally released the prisoners on his last day in office in 1924 after the date of the original agreement on indefinite furloughs.

The Moore v Dempsey case was important because it made the Federal Government the final determinant of the fairness of a local trial. The expanded authority of Federal Courts was pivotal in the Civil Rights movement. Now when Civil Rights protesters and leaders were tried, they could appeal to Federal Courts that were not beholden to local prejudice. Moore v Dempsey was arguably the most important court victory of the century.

Analysis

No record of Jones’s feelings on race could be found. All the information on Jones’s was particular to a case. Until more information can be found, Jones will be considered Blue Meme. He is strongly committed to the Constitution. The Constitution is a founding document he had no personal input in creating; he is exhibiting Blue Meme values in using it.

Sources

  1. Johnson, J (02-27-2013) Evanescence The Elaine Massacre from http://greenmountainsreview.com/
  2. Widell, Robert (08-2002) Blood In Their Eyes Review from http://www.h-net.org
  3. Dunaway, L.S. (1925) What a Preacher Saw Through a Keyhole in Arkansas

Robert Lee Hill (1892 – 1963)

(1892 – 1963)

Accomplishments

  • Founded the Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America
  • Worked for Santa Fe Railway for forty years
  • Member of Topeka Kansas NAACP

The Elaine Massacre

Robert Lee Hill founded the Progressive Farmers and Household Workers Union of America in Arkansas in 1919. The founding of the union led to the Elaine Massacre that left somewhere between 250 to 850 black people dead and four or five white men dead. The Elaine Massacre is part of the Red Summer of 1919. The Red Summer consisted of numerous race riots in various cities and towns in America. The Elaine Massacre also led to the landmark Moore vs. Dempsey trial that will solidify the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

Robert L. Hill was born in 1892 or 1898 [9] to working class parents. He married in 1916 [9] before going off to war. Hill was a World War I veteran [4]. His time served in the military, more than likely, led to his militancy. 370,000 blacks that fought in World War I [1], when they returned home, they were not afraid to stand up for their rights. Black WWI vets let many armed resistance movements in 1919 in major cities. When Hill returned home, he worked for Valley Planting Company.[9]

Even though Hill was not a sharecropper himself, he felt called to do something to help the sharecropper’s plight. A sharecropper, also known as a tenant farmer, is a person that rents a farm from a land owner. The sharecropper then lives on credit from the landlord until the harvest arrives. The landowner and tenant then agree to share the crop. The tenant gets a percentage of the crop, and so does the landowner. The farmer can then pay off the debt to the landowner and have enough profit to last the winter after the sale of the crop.

Unfortunately, in the southern cotton industry, this ideal scenario never plays out. Often sharecroppers were illiterate and uneducated so they could not evaluate the books to ensure they got their share of the crop. The landlord would not let the sharecropper see the books even if the sharecropper had an education. Because blacks had no legal recourse, landlords would confiscate the entire crop. Ultimately, the sharecropper stayed in perpetual debt.

Not only did debt keep black people in the cotton industry, so did the law. The black codes made it illegal for a black man to be without a job for an extended period. Most companies outside the cotton industry did not hire black people. The person would be forced into a work camp if convicted of vagrancy, not having a job. The work camp would force inmates to pick cotton.

The need for a union was evident. 1919 was one of the worst times for the Labor Movement. The Russian Revolution happened in 1917 and by 1918 Russia was a communist country. The revolution began as a prolonged labor strike that turned into a riot. When the Russian army was called in to stop the riot, the army joined the rebels. The Tsar had to abdicate and the world’s first communist republic was born. Many American capitalists were afraid the same thing could happen in America.

The labor movement was also not welcoming to black people. The American Federation of Labor’s (AFL) 1919 convention declared the job of the AFL was to protect the jobs of “native-born white men” and upheld the restrictions on blacks joining unions. [2] This declaration ultimately hurt the labor movement. Blacks in the North broke strike lines to work at factories. Blacks were used to dilute the power of the Union. The racial strife in the North can be traced back to fear of blacks crossing picket lines.

The cotton industry expected a downturn in 1919[4][1]. World War I ended in 1918 and the southern cotton industry had been supplying cotton for the allied troops. The demand for cotton from Europe was expected to decrease severely. The planters were especially wary of giving sharecroppers a fair shake in 1919.

Despite all the adversity, Hill was able to create nine lodges of his union across Arkansas.[3] It was at a meeting of the lodge at Hoop Sur that the trouble began. On September 30, 1919, the Union had a meeting with one hundred people on how to organize for collective bargaining. In attendance at the meeting were men, women, and children.

Hill expected to be harassed by the local plutocrats. He had six patrolmen stationed outside the Hoop Sur church.[1]The Missouri Pacific (MoPac) Railway had a private police force that worked in conjunction with the sheriff’s office.[4] An informant tipped a group of patrolmen that a union meeting was happening in Hoop Sur. An altercation ensued, and the parties exchanged gunfire. [1][4][6]The church was burned later that night to destroy evidence of return fire.[4] One MoPac agent died, and a sheriff’s deputy was wounded.

The blacks of Hoop Sur decided to prepare for retaliation. Many men took up arms to defend the residential area known as Helena. The sheriff organized a posse of five hundred to one thousand men [3] outside the courthouse. The attack from whites happened at mid-morning October 1st. The black resistance was able to hold off the onslaught, and only 15 to 20 blacks died on that morning.[4] The resistance accomplished an incredible task that day and will go down in history for their bravery.

The Governor decided to call in reinforcements. The Federal Government was afraid of a socialist uprising. The government allowed the Governor to bypass calling in the National Guard and gave him authority over 500 trained federal troops from Camp Pike. The intervention of federal troops caused the carnage.

The federal troops were responsible for most of the killing [4]. The soldiers carried machine guns, and white mobs from all over the South supplemented the force. Many unarmed blacks hid in the woods and were hunted down like dogs. Here are some of the quotes from whites that witnessed the massacre.

“[The white mobs and troops] shot and killed men, women, and children without regard to whether they were guilty or innocent of a connection with killing anybody or whether members of a union or not.”[1]

“Vigilantes killed a black woman pulled her dress over her head, and left her body on a road, another brutal lesson of what happened when [blacks] lost their place”[1]

“Several hundred (whites) … began to hunt negroes and shooting them as they came to them.”[3]

“Committed one murder after another with all the calm deliberation in the world, either too heartless to realize the enormity of their crimes, or too drunk on moonshine to give a continental darn.” [3][6]

“When finally the soldiers’ ammunition was exhausted, and their liquor ran low, they withdrew from the scenes of their sins against humanity, the remaining negroes gathered up their scattered dead and with slow, awkward step marched to their little churchyards and there said their simple rites over the bullet-riddled bodies of loved ones.”[6]

In the face of federal troops blacks still resisted. An eyewitness account from L.S. Dunaway reports a black dentist was arrested for his connection to the union. He and his three brothers were put in the back of two police cars. When the cars were transporting the men to jail, the envoy was ambushed. One of the police officers was shot with a shotgun. The other officers immediately killed the four suspects. [9]

The black resistance was not well documented. Much of the reason for such little information is the black men that were captured then freed were on extended furlough. They did not get a pardon. Furlough meant the governor could send them back to prison at any time. Also, after they saw the carnage inflicted on their families after their capture, they wanted to make sure the people that survived would not be attacked. No one wanted to be seen as bragging about shooting whites.

The fact that over 250 men were captured alive proves that the resistance was formidable. If the troops could simply annihilate the resistance, they would. There were too many instances of black towns being burned to the ground such as Rosewood, FL, and Tulsa, OK. The five hundred federal troops must have evaluated particular encampments and decided that forcing the rebels to surrender would reduce the loss of life. One corporal is reported to have died in the skirmishing. There is one quote by L.S. Dunaway that attest to the bravery of these men.

“There were those among [Blacks] that openly defied officers, citizens and soldiers alike, until death cut short their futile stand against the whites. ”

Unfortunately, after most of the resistance was captured or killed, blacks were killed indiscriminately in Elaine, AR. There are reports of black men being shot while running away from white mobs. Many eyewitness accounts report the killing of women and children. The troops often opened fire on unarmed civilians with machine guns. The exact number of blacks killed will never be known. Most of the bodies were burned in large pits to allow for quick disposal. [6] Many blacks fled Arkansas and created new lives in the North and West.

There is no record of Robert Hill participating in the fighting. However, there was a special search made for him.[6] He was able to escape to Boley, OK an all-black town in Oklahoma then moved to South Dakota to evade capture. [9]. He finally settled near Topeka, KS.

Topeka police captured Hill in 1920.[9] He had written a friend in Arkansas to let people know he was safe. The friend asked to meet him in Kansas City, MO. Hill agreed, and the friend tipped off the authorities.

The NAACP took the defense of Hill. After a prolonged legal battle, the NAACP prevented Hills extradition to Arkansas. Hill took an assumed name and worked for the Santa Fe Railway for forty years.[9] In gratitude to the NAACP, he served in the Topeka NAACP for many years.[9] He died in 1963.

Most of the black resistance was captured by October 3.[1] A few hundred people were put into makeshift jails to await trial. [3] The result of the original trial cause 12 men to be sentenced to death, 273 to pleas for second-degree murder, and a few had the case dismissed. Details on the trail and the landmark Moore vs. Dempsey case will be in next week’s Leader analysis.

Analysis:

No transcripts or recordings could be found of his speeches. However, L.S. Dunaway said, “Hill’s influence over the less intelligent Darkey was something marvelous.” According to Dunaway Hill said this:

“He had them believing that by standing together the negroes could make the white people divide with them in the matter of land ownership, and that if a peaceable division could not be obtained, then the negroes, outnumbering the whites about ten to one in that section, would “rise up and march on the whites with high-powered rifles and shotguns, thus showing the strength of the colored race.” p 107 [6]

For the sake of analysis, the statement’s truth will be assumed. The statement expresses an Orange level understanding of the situation of black people. Hill understands the underlying problem is economic, and once others realize that the real issue is money, poor whites and blacks are natural allies. The statement shows that Hill ultimately saw the struggle beyond racial lines.

Hill obviously was not against using physical force to protect members of his movement. He also made it clear to his followers that they had numbers in the town of Elaine and that they should not be intimidated by white people. The use of physical force is a precarious subject in black empowerment. The Elaine Massacre goes to illustrate this point. It is hard to speculate on what would happen if the black people of Hoop Sur did not have guards for the September 30 the meeting. Maybe the whites would have simply broken up the meeting, which there is little historical precedence. More than likely they would have hung Hill. It is also most probable they would have burned Helena to the ground if there had been no resistance on October 1st. The white mob of 500 to 1,000 people did not come to take six suspects peaceably. However, the result was the killing of 250 to 850 blacks in southeast Arkansas. Ultimately, white people have the firepower and numbers nationally. A large scale attack or defense will produce an outcome similar to the Elaine Massacre.

Sources

  1. Krugler, David (2-26-2015) America’s Forgotten Mass Lynching. from http://www.thedailybeast.com
  2. (5-25-2012) Causes of the 1919 Race Riots from https://socialistworker.org/
  3. Stockley, Grif (08-01-2016) Elaine Massacre from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net
  4. Johnson, J (02-27-2013) Evanescence The Elaine Massacre from http://greenmountainsreview.com/
  5. Widell, Robert (08-2002) Blood In Their Eyes Review from http://www.h-net.org
  6. Dunaway, L.S. (1925) What a Preacher Saw Through a Keyhole in Arkansas
  7. (May 2016) Never Forget America’s Mass Lynching from https://blackmainstreet.net/
  8. (05-07-2011) Race Riots of 1919 from http://www.globalsecurity.org/
  9. Gruber, John (02-26-2015) Robert Lee Hill from http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net

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