Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and a Story of Reconciliation

Pegasus. Jun. 2020. 400p. ISBN 9781643134666. $27.95. HIST
This work by poet, essayist, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department Johnson is a treatise on the lingering effects of the violent history against African Americans in the United States. Johnson looks back at the “damaged heritage” of his family line. The author knew that his grandfather Lonnie participated in the infamous Elaine Race Massacre of 1919 as a member of the Klu Klux Klan. It is speculated that well over 100 African American sharecroppers and their family members were murdered in Elaine, a rural town in Phillips County, AR. The author examines the causes and aftermath of the massacre and the prevalence of white supremacist ideology. Through the course of his research, Johnson meets Sheila L. Walker, a descendant of one of the victims who had been documenting her own family’s connection to the events. The two work together to uncover the true story of what happened in Elaine and form a friendship based on combating racism in the 21st century through recognition, acceptance, and reconciliation. The work would have been enhanced by a stronger focus on the personal stories of the victims and their families.
VERDICT An important history, though the book is often redundant in its exploration of the author’s heritage.

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