National Geographic : 2012 Nov
• plant, and it ran 24 hours a day," one old man told me. "Now everyone that works has to go somewhere else." massacre, an event that began in a hamlet called Hoop Spur, three miles from the town of Elaine. In late September 1919 black sharecroppers held a meeting at a church in Hoop Spur to discuss how to get better prices for their cotton. e emancipation of slaves had destroyed the planta- tions' source of free labor and replaced it with the sharecropper system. A er the Civil War newly freed slaves thought they could work as tenant farmers here and escape the repression of Dixie. at worked for a while. ere was gun re at the sharecropper meeting, and when it ended, a deputy sheri was wounded and a railroad security o cer was dead. For days a erward mobs of whites roamed with guns and hunted blacks in the thickets. U.S. Army troops were called in and may also have done some kill- ing. Whites called it a black insurrection; blacks called it a massacre by whites. No one agrees on the tallies. Perhaps ve whites were killed. Esti- mates run from 20 into the hundreds of black men, women, and children dead. e bottom line: is is one of the largest race killings of blacks in U.S. history, but most people today have never heard of it. I stand in a eld where Hoop Spur used to be. ere are only plowed ground and rows of plants. Nothing in the fringe of trees tells tales of those days. Maybe that is best. ings move on. Or maybe the past can be forgotten but not erased. Arkansas side of the Mississippi River lagged behind the felling of ancient hardwoods on the Charles Bowden recorded oral histories in the Mississippi Delta in 1968, just miles from where Eugene Richards worked in Arkansas. The Elaine massacre is one of the largest race killings of blacks in U.S. history, but few have heard of it. The past can be forgotten but not erased. 1970: A young marine home on leave stood at attention in front of a sharecropper shack where a eld worker lived with his blind wife and two blind sons.