Tree Memorializing Arkansas Massacre Of Black Sharecroppers Chopped Down

August 26, 2019 1:55 p.m.

A tree marking the centennial of the 1919 killings of hundreds of black people in the small town of Elaine, Arkansas was found chopped down last week, with its memorial tag stolen.

The tree, planted in April, memorialized the hundreds of black men, women and children killed by white Arkansans in 1919 during the so-called “Red Summer” of numerous violent attacks on African Americans.

The violence in Elaine began after sharecroppers met to organize and push for fairer treatment and were subsequently attacked.

The Elaine Legacy Center said on Facebook that the tree was found chopped down on Wednesday morning, its memorial tag stolen.

The Living Memorial, memorializing all those who lost their lives in the Elaine Massacre vandalized“The Living…

Posted by Elaine Legacy Center on Thursday, August 22, 2019

“It could not have been easy to get the tag off its branch,” the center’s president Mary Olson wrote. “Was it vandalism? Was it a threat? Was it a hate crime. It is now blocked off with crime tape until the state investigators come.”

Elaine Police Chief Alvin Scaife told USA Today that the tree “appeared to be cut down” and that state authorities were handling the case.

Meg Matthews, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, confirmed to TPM over the phone that the incident was being investigated.

“Our chief ranger has conducted an investigation,” she said. “It’s being treated as vandalism and theft of property. There are no suspects.”

“We are not investigating a hate crime,” she added. “From what we can see it is vandalism.”

“Hacking down a tree is not graffiti. Graffiti is vandalism, ok?” judge and pastor Wendell Griffen objected to local station WMC last week. “Hacking down a tree is a hateful act.”

The TPM Journalism Fund: A New Way To Support TPM
We're launching the TPM Journalism Fund as an additional way for readers and members to support TPM. Every dollar contributed goes toward:
  • -Hiring More Journalists
  • -Providing free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • -Supporting independent, non-corporate journalism
Are you experiencing financial hardship?
Apply for a free community-supported membership
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: