Was 2017 the craziest year ever? Consider 1919, not a good year for Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 29, 2017

Was 2017 the craziest year ever? Consider 1919, not a good year for Arkansas

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 7:33 AM


Politico went to 12 historians to talk about antecedents for 2017, made wacky by the Trump presidency. Was it the craziest year ever? There were others of note.

For instance, Adriane Lentz-Smith, a Duke history professor, wrote about racial upheaval in 1919 and an absent president (the rise of white supremacists and a golfing president provide some modern parallels in 2017). The Arkansas element is emphasized:

Nineteen-nineteen should have been a good year. The armistice ending World War I promised a return to calm, a restoration of civil liberties, and an ebb to the nativist hysteria that had made targets of German Americans. But the war’s end brought violence, not peace, to the American home front. Riots roiled across the nation, in towns from Charleston to Washington, D.C., to Chicago. Not contemporary riots but Old-World-style pogroms in which white mobs targeted black bodies, businesses and homes as a reminder that the “War for Democracy” abroad would not bring democracy back home. Although poet and former diplomat James Weldon Johnson labeled it the “Red Summer,” the firestorm lasted the entire year, with large-scale riots in 10 cities, smaller conflicts in scores more, and nearly 100 lynchings of African Americans (at least 13 of whom were veterans of the war). In September in Elaine, Arkansas, the revanchism of the Red Summer met the anti-radicalism of the Red Scare as white landowners led a mob of nearly 1,000 men in a massacre of black sharecroppers who had met to form a union.

It is always well to remember Elaine and I thank Dr. Sybil Hampton, former head of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, for reminding me of the documentary on the massacre underwritten by the Foundation several years ago, still available on YouTube.

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