African-American sharecroppers of the region had begun to organize in order to work together to obtain better prices for their crops. This combined two things that triggered the white southerners: African-American rights, and Unions (perceived as un-American bolshevism). On the night of September 30, 1919 a union meeting at a church developed into a shootout between the union organizers and two white officials sent to spy on them. This shootout sparked one of the deadliest racial confrontations in U.S. history.
Accounts differ as to who started shooting first, but two white men were wounded (one mortally). The next day, between 500 and 1,000 armed white people gathered in Elaine to put down what they called an "insurrection." On Oct 2, U.S. Army troops arrived. White men and soldiers wandered the area killing black men, women, and children. Five white people were killed, and between 100 and 240 (some accounts say as many as 800) black people were killed. Contemporary sources reported that some African-Americans were tortured as well.
No white people were charged with a crime. 122 black men were, and all were tried by all-white juries, some sentenced to death. Fortunately, the NAACP led the legal defense and appeals of those convicted, and all were later released.
Let us "Never Forget" the racial inequalities, legal injustices, lack of mercy and understanding, and blatant racism that led to the deaths of many innocent people over three days in Arkansas.