Guy Lancaster, the editor of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas and the author of several books on racism, received a letter of praise from 2nd District Congressman French Hill in July for Lancaster’s winning the John William Graves Book Award from the Arkansas Historical Association. In a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter, Hill wrote, “I look forward to reading the revised ‘Blood in Their Eyes’ ” and called it “terrific scholarship.”
“Blood in their Eyes: The Elaine Race Massacres of 1919” is Grif Stockley’s 2004 book thoroughly documenting for the first time the slaying of hundreds of African-American men and women farmers by white landowners and soldiers sent to quell what the whites considered an “insurrection.” Dr. Brian Mitchell, a history professor at UA Little Rock, and Lancaster, who also holds a Ph.D., added new scholarship to the book this year.
Some people would be happy to get a note commending them for their contributions to Arkansas state history, but the praise came from a politician who has marched in shameful lockstep with President Donald “Nazis are very fine people” Trump.
“Blood in Their Eyes” recounted how federal troops sent by Gov. Charles H. Brough to “restore law and order” participated in the slaughter, by some accounts. Black men were kidnapped and tortured them to persuade them to falsely accuse those arrested during the melee. Lancaster’s question to Hill:
“So why, exactly, did you write me a letter praising me for bringing this kind of history to light? The policies enacted in 1919 are policies that you support right now. You and the president whom you serve have been working overtime to discredit any protests, peaceful or otherwise, by those who have long been subject to police brutality. You and the president whom you serve have long supported the sort of economic policies (such as tax cuts) that leave a handful wealthy and the workers in the fields starving and in rags. You and the president whom you serve have invited armed racist militants to act as “poll observers” to intimidate American citizens into not voting.” …
Moreover, just last week, your president announced, at what he called the “very first White House Conference on American History,” the establishment, by executive order, of the “1776 Commission,” which he pitched as an attempt to rescue history from modern professors, saying, “Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world.” Among the examples of “toxic propaganda” Donald Trump excoriated were the field of critical race theory and the 1619 Project of the New York Times.
Lancaster ends his open letter with “I look forward to hearing from you.” Hill has never returned a phone call from the Times. Now that he knows where Lancaster stands, I would wager he’ll get the cold shoulder, too.