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Lyon commemorates centennial of Elaine Massacre

Lyon College will commemorate the centennial of the Elaine Massacre with two events this fall.

Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch will present “‘What are you going to do with us women?’: Gender, violence, and the 1919 Elaine Massacre” on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 4 p.m. in the basement of Whiteside Hall. Branch, the James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Professor of History at Arkansas State University, has written widely on the subject.

“People have often discussed the 1919 Elaine Massacre as a tragedy that only involved black and white men,” said Jones-Branch, “but black women were present as well and it’s important to explore and highlight how the intersectionality of race and gender informed their experiences.”

Lyon will host a performance of Black ‘n da Blues on Monday, Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. in the Maxfield Room in Edwards Commons. The performance is an oral history of the Elaine Massacre. The roster of entertainers includes contemporary blues singer and high-stepper James “Gone for Good” Morgan, Marcus “Mookie” Cartwright, and gospel singer Vera White from Elaine. It was written by Carlos Sirah and is hosted by Angela Davis-Johnson.

“Black ‘n da Blues: Stories and Songs from the Arkansas Delta 1919-2019” is the first of five artistic residencies produced by the Remember2019 collective to make space for the congregation of Black communities and cultural workers in the Arkansas Delta.

Mauricio Salgado, who coordinates the tour, said it is an invitation to gather and reflect on the mass lynching of 1919, the lasting effects of racial terror, and the current and future health of these communities.

“Black n’ da Blues is a little bit of story, a little bit of history, and a little bit of song,” he said. “We want to sit with the history of 1919… what the Black people during that time referred to as ‘the Trouble,’ what later gets referred to as ‘the Arkansas Race Riot,’ and what later gets referred to as ‘the Elaine Massacre.’ ”

The first section of the evening invites the audience to reflect on origin stories and songs. The second section weaves in the story of the Trouble from the perspective of the Black communities impacted by it. The third section charges the audience to imagine a strategy for the future and ends in a series of prophetic stories and songs.

“This is a story that was taken for granted, ignored, and erased over the majority of the past 100 years,” said Salgado. “It is a story from the perspective of the Black folk who experienced and testified to it.”