ELAINE, Ark. — Community leaders are calling for an investigation after a willow tree planted in honor of victims of the 1919 Elaine Massacre was found chopped down.
“Someone took an ax to it and left it laying on the ground,” said Wendell Griffen, an Arkansas Circuit Court judge and civil rights advocate.
In 1919, nearly 240 African Americans were killed by a white mob. Most of the dead were sharecroppers trying to organize a union.
“What I’ve been hearing is, this is called an act of vandalism. Let’s call it what it is — a hate crime,” Griffin said. “Hacking down a tree is a hateful act. Hacking down a tree in memory of black people who have been massacred is a racially hateful act. This a racial hate rime. Call it the truth.”
With the 100-year anniversary of the massacre approaching, there are also concerns about a memorial to the Elaine Massacre under construction in Helena-West Helena.
The problem, Griffin says, is that the memorial is not being built in Elaine.
“It’s not a memorial. It’s a monstrosity,” Griffin said, calling the planned memorial a “white-manufactured mess.”
“Folks ought to respect what happened 100 years ago in Elaine. That’s not happening because the people in Elaine are black,” he said.
William Quiney at the Elaine Legacy Center, said he doesn’t care what’s built, said or done, because it won’t resurrect those who dies in Elaine.
“The idea they lost their lives fighting for what they know to be the truth. And then years later someone comes along and says, ‘I’m gonna memorialize you by putting up something, some place else,'” he said. “That’s a slap in our face.”