The Elaine community, friends, and colleagues came to the Elaine Legacy Center Saturday to thank Grif Stockley for what was called “uncovering the coverup” of the Elaine Massacre of 1919. But the message they took home from Stockley and a host of speakers and prayers was a sense of the urgency to continue the research of uncovering names of those killed, mass graves, and land ownership details.

The Elaine community, friends, and colleagues came to the Elaine Legacy Center Saturday to thank Grif Stockley for what was called “uncovering the coverup” of the Elaine Massacre of 1919. But the message they took home from Stockley and a host of speakers and prayers was a sense of the urgency to continue the research of uncovering names of those killed, mass graves, and land ownership details.

“Much has been done. But there is so much more to do,” The Honorable Wendell Griffen, judge of U.S. Division Five of the Sixth District and pastor of New Millennium Church, emphasized.

Dr. Steven Murray, retired president of Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas, summed up the mandate, “I hope we approach the work yet to be done with a sense of urgency. We are in danger of losing the history to time. Within another generation, those who remember the events, or at the very least grew up hearing about the events, will be gone.”

Murray added, “I also believe that we should approach the work with a sense of urgency for another reason. If one thinks about race relations between the publication of Stockley’s work in 2001 and today, it is difficult to see a great deal of progress. When I read or hear the news, it is difficult for me to convince myself that things, especially in the area of race relations, are getting better.”

Judge Brian Miller started his thanks to Stockley with the soul-searching question, “What do you do when people tell you that your family stories are not true? Your family loses four great uncles and people say it never happened. What do you do? He went on to thank Stockley for “the seed” for recovering the truth.

Quorum Court member Lenore Marshall gave special thanks from the people of Elaine with an original poem. She also presented Stockley with an original piece of art commissioned for him by The Elaine Legacy Center. The artist is Angela Davis Johnson whose grandparents raised their children down a dirt road near Lambrook. “The art is truly a work of the heart,” she said. Johnson is known to many Elainians as she grew up in Phillips County and visited her grandmother often.

Following the formal presentation of thanks, conversations focused on oral histories of the area. Charles Brown brought a large map of south Phillips County around which sharing of information among residents of the area and academics was filled with new stories and locations of the events and mass graves of almost 100 years ago.

Before and after the program, people viewed displays in The Legacy Center. Of special interest was the display of the President Barack Obama family that carried a caption, “This would not have happened had it not been for the Elaine 12.” Also drawing interest was the autobiography of Gerald Lambert, Senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln’s grandfather, in which he himself states that the riot began on his land.

Stockley is author of Blood in Their Eyes, the Elaine Race Massacre of1919 and Race Matters, Black/White Relations in Arkansas from Slavery to the Present. He grew up in Marianna.