A panel of speakers gathered Friday in the small Delta town of Elaine for remembrance of the September 1919 Elaine massacre in which racial tension and concerns over labor organizing led to the mass killing of hundreds of black people, one of the worst episodes of its kind in U.S. history.

WREG in Memphis covered the event.

It all started when black sharecroppers sought to unionize.

“Black farmers here figured out they could get equal prices by shipping their cotton to Boston, thereby circumventing the Helena companies that were paying unfair prices,” said Rev. Mary Olson of the Elaine Legacy Center.

While meeting on the night of Sept. 30, 1919, a large group of armed whites gathered to put down a rumored black insurrection.

It turned into a bloodbath.

“People just trying to do what they needed to do to be prosperous and have their families and live their lives,” said state Sen. Joyce Elliott. “And with this abrupt interruption in their efforts to try and live like anybody else, we had this horrific massacre.”

Descendants spoke about events Friday and participants heard from those who believe reparations should be made to families for farmland they say was stolen. The coverage said:

But there’s concern, as the centennial of the massacre approaches, that race relations in America are far from what they should be.

Yes.

WREG has extensive video coverage at the link above.