Red Summer Comes to New Orleans

100 Years ago today, November 18, 1919, an African American named Ed Ware was sentenced for the death of the first degree murder of W.A Adkins. His flight from the Elaine Massacre ended when he was arrested a week earlier in New Orleans.

African Americans indicted for participating in Eliane, Arkansas Riot

In Summer of 1919, an African American Teenager drowned in Lake Michigan and died after not following unofficial segregation beach laws. The teenager went to the beach and passed the line of segregation entering the “white” side. A few white men threw rocks at the boy and drowned him. Eyewitnesses saw the white men who caused the boys death but police did not do anything. This caused riots between white and black gangs and eventually many, most being black folks, died, were injured, or lost their homes. 

This started the “Red Summer” of 1919, which was the time period tensions were growing because many African Americans were migrating from the south to the north. In 1918, WWI ended and the white veterans got sent home to changed lands. African Americans, who were also in the war fighting for freedom and defending America, were not granted basic rights when they returned which caused them to be angry and resentful.

During the “Red Summer” Race Riots broke out in Washington DC, Knoxville Tennessee, Longview Texas, Phillips county Arkansas, and especially in Chicago. About 60000 African Americans migrated to Chicago, the competition for jobs, food, and housing was increasing. With the competition and fear of losing homes or jobs, racism became very harsh on the streets and many riots occurred, not just in Chicago but all over the country.

One of the last major riots was the “Elaine Arkansas’ Racial Massacre”. On September 30, 1919, around 100 African Americans, mostly sharecroppers on white owned plantations, go together at a church in Hoop Spur, a small community in Phillips County, Arkansas. They got together in hopes to organize a way to obtain better payments for their cotton crops.

Inflammatory headline in The Gazette (Arkansas), October 3, 1919

 With the whites fear of  attempts at communism, the African Americans posted guards around the church to prevent disruption. During this meeting, three white men walked to the front of the church, one of them saying “Going coon hunting, boys?” After those words left the white man’s mouth, gunshots were fired and in the process, W.A Adkins, a security officer for Missouri Railroad was killed. Ed Ware, an African American man who moved with his wife Lula to Phillips county Arkansas to crop cotton, was there the night of Hoops Spurs.

Ware was secretary of progressive Farmers and Household Union of America, an African American group that discussed ways to improve their lot as sharecroppers. After the conflict, Ware and his friend Will McFarland trudged forty miles to lee county Arkansas, then took a train to Memphis, Tennessee, making their way to New Orleans, Louisiana. Charles Harper was Ware’s alias, and he used this name to find work as a wagon driver. McFarland his friend, found employment as an “exhorter” on the streets of New Orleans. They hid for ten days before being arrested on November 9, 1919, by local authorities and were then sent back to Arkansas.

Ed Ware was among the twelve black sharecroppers who would be charged with murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair in the aftermath of the violence. Ware being a leader testified against the court with 5 others of the 12 facing death penalty. They were later freed from jail and their death penalties were reversed in 1923. Ware retired to Louis, Missouri with his wife, later dying February 3, 1929.

References: “ELAINE, ARKANSAS RIOT (1919)” by Weston W. Cooper “Elaine massacre” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, last updated 11/05/19 Elaine Massacre of 1919 by Grif Stockley, last updated 11/09/19

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