edited by Michael Pierce and Calvin White, Jr.
University of Arkansas Press, 2022
Paper: 978-1-68226-206-1 | Cloth: 978-1-68226-205-4 | eISBN: 978-1-61075-775-1
Library of Congress Classification E185.93.A8
Dewey Decimal Classification 976.700496073

Race, Labor, and Violence in the Delta examines the history of labor relations and racial conflict in the Mississippi Valley from the Civil War into the late twentieth century. This essay collection grew out of a conference marking the hundredth anniversary of one of the nation’s deadliest labor conflicts—the 1919 Elaine Massacre, during which white mobs ruthlessly slaughtered over two hundred African Americans across Phillips County, Arkansas, in response to a meeting of unionized Black sharecroppers. The essays here demonstrate that the brutality that unfolded in Phillips County was characteristic of the culture of race- and labor-based violence that prevailed in the century after the Civil War. They detail how Delta landowners began seeking cheap labor as soon as the slave system ended—securing a workforce by inflicting racial terror, eroding the Reconstruction Amendments in the courts, and obstructing federal financial-relief efforts. The result was a system of peonage that continued to exploit Blacks and poor whites for their labor, sometimes fatally. In response, laborers devised their own methods for sustaining themselves and their communities: forming unions, calling strikes, relocating, and occasionally operating outside the law. By shedding light on the broader context of the Elaine Massacre, Race, Labor, and Violence in the Delta reveals that the fight against white supremacy in the Delta was necessarily a fight for better working conditions, fair labor practices, and economic justice.

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