Deangelo Manuel, a Full Sail University alum and screenwriter of Elaine 1919 America Holocaust, uses the film to recount one of the worst, yet lesser known, mass murders committed in America in Elaine, Arkansas in October 1919. In light of recent police killings of Blacks, Black parents have been forced to talk to their children about the violent history of racism in America and the murders committed in Arkansas are definitely relevant.
Manuel grew up in Helena, Arkansas, just a short distance from Elaine, where the murders took place. Black farmers wanting equal pay for their crops assembled a meeting in a church, a right that should be afforded every American, and this angers whites in the town. This leads to the bloody day in October 1919, when Black men, women, and children were hunted like prey by white men and slaughtered, raped, and terrorized. The death toll was never recorded and witness accounts vary from 200 to over 1000 Blacks murdered. Over 300 hundred others were jailed and either sent to prison or forced into plantation slavery. Twelve men were sentenced to death by electric chair and the outcome of this Supreme Court case (Moore Vs Dempsey) set a law in practice that actually would save Dr. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders of his time from the same sentence.
Manuel recounts his own experiences with racism. His family owned a lucrative bail bonds company, which was unheard of for a Black family. Angered by his success, the police label Manuel’s father a drug dealer which gives them free range to harass and humiliate him at will. Manuel recalls being 7 years old and watching the police force his father to lay on asphalt on the ground in 100 degree weather and hearing the police shouting, “If you move, I will kill you”.
Manuel’s father always made sure he was aware of the racism that surrounded them. A young Manuel visited the site of Emmett Till’s murder and the “whites only” hospital where Bessie Smith was allowed to die after being refused medical treatment. These experiences, in addition to countless examples of prejudice against his family throughout his young life, led Manuel to film. His films tell not only a true historical story, but a biographical one as well. He hopes that, especially in these current times, his films get the attention they deserve. Many have heard, through history books and movies, the bigoted and violent treatment of African Americans in Mississippi, but Arkansas’ history definitely rivals this. The story of John Carter of Little Rock, Arkansas is very similar to that of Emmett Till but very few know his name. His bodywas lynched, shot, burned and hung then dragged through the streets of Little Rock until he was decapitated and his detached arm was used by local law enforcement to direct traffic. Stories like these line the pages of Manuel’s scripts. He knows these untold stories are important to not only Blacks but to all races so we can all come together and say, “NEVER AGAIN!”
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