Scipio Africanus Jones
Attorney & Judge, Civil Rights
Activist & Businessman
Named after a Roman general, Scipio
Africanus Jones was born into slavery, probably late 1863. His master Dr.
Sanford Reamey of Tulip in Dallas County (about fifty miles south of
Little Rock) was a prominent white man and also the father of the child slave.
Dr. Reamey, however, seemed to have played an important role in Scipio's
development and education. Scipio
Africanus Jones after a distinguished legal career as
lawyer and judge died in 1943..
child, Jones attended black schools near Tulip. He moved to Little Rock in the
early 1880s to continue his education. After graduating from the
"preparatory course" at Philander Smith College, Jones received a
bachelor's degree from North Little Rock's Shorter College in 1887. He then
taught school while reading law in the office of three white attorneys. When he
passed the Arkansas bar examination in 1889, Jones became one of Little Rock's
first "home grown" black lawyers.
Just after the Civil War, most black
lawyers in Arkansas came from somewhere else--trained in prestigious schools
such as the Boston College School of Law or the University of Chicago. Others
took correspondence courses or like Scipio Africanus Jones apprenticed to
For the most part, black attorneys were
relegated to non-trial work. They prepared contracts, arranged adoptions and
wills, filed lawsuits between black clients and did other office work.
In a kind of intraracial racism blacks with money hired white lawyers.
And black lawyers had usually only white clients when they were appointed by the
court to represent the indigent.
Scipio Jones received his training
through a firm of white lawyers--his white father had a lot to do with
Twenty-seven black lawyers were admitted to the state bar between 1891 and
1923, a period defined by increasingly difficult race relations and
Africanus Jones became a prominent
black Republican and held many party leadership positions. Too young to reap the benefits of Reconstruction, he did not
receive the federal appointments that had been available to an earlier
generation of black Republican loyalists.
Much of Jones's period of
involvement in the Republican party was spent battling the "lily
white" faction that steadily gained power during the early 20th century.
Including his involvement in
Republican politics, Jones was locally prominent also for his work as attorney for the Mosaic
However, Judge Jones, appointed to the
bench in 1915, was primarily noted for his defense of twelve black men who in
1919 were convicted of murder after race related violence in Philips
County, Arkansas. He successfully appealed on behalf of these twelve black men who had been
convicted of murder following the Elaine Race Riot. This case brought Jones national
Black tenant farmers were
holding a union meeting in a church in Elaine, Arkansas, when shots were fired
just before dawn on October 1. After two days of violence, federal troops were
sent in from Little Rock to quell the riots. Five white men were killed and
estimates of the dead among blacks range from 20 to more than 800.
Although no whites were arrested, 143
blacks were taken into custody and 12 were convicted of first-degree
murder in twenty minutes.
Jones worked with a firm of white
lawyers to free the twelve men. The defense took place over a period of six
years, with one case going as far as the Supreme Court of the United States.
Jones, however, did not go to the nation's highest court.
Though he did not put forth most of the
argument, he did much of the research. In many Arkansas counties, as an
understood rule, a black lawyer could only appear before the bench when
accompanied by a white attorney.
Jones was not hired until late November, after all twelve had been convicted.
He was retained by black Little Rock citizens to work with a white attorney
George W. Murphy, employed by the NAACP, and later as co counsel with Edgar L.
McHaney, another white attorney.
Although he was prohibited from arguing the case, it was through Jones'
efforts, that Moore v. Dempsey, for the
first time, permitted collateral attack, through habeus corpus, on a
state appellate court decision. All twelve defendants were finally freed five
years after their conviction, through a maze of motions, appeals, retrials, and
executive clemency that only a skilled lawyer could manage.
The episode began on Sept. 30, 1919, when white lawmen
broke up a meeting of black sharecroppers who had
convened in a church in Phillips County, near Elaine, to
discuss forming an agricultural union. One lawman was
killed and another wounded, provoking a mob of white
vigilantes to roam the county for several days. When order finally was restored,
five white people had been killed,
and, officially, twenty-five African Americans -- but most likely substantially more --
were murdered randomly. Despite the many black deaths, no whites were charged after the riot.
However, within a month, an all-white jury convicted twelve black men of murder and
sentenced them to death. The NAACP soon
hired a white Little Rock attorney, George W. Murphy, to
appeal the convictions.
Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough, right, accompanied federal
troops to Elaine in 1919
Murphy, in turn, asked Scipio Jones to assist him. When
Murphy died unexpectedly less than a year later, Jones took the lead in the
appeal, and charges against six of the men were dismissed in 1923.
subsequently made an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court for the remaining six
defendants, whose cases were returned to federal district court for trial. These
six men were sentenced to 12 years in prison, but in 1925 the governor pardoned
them, bringing to a close the most important legal battle in Scipio Jones's long
career as a lawyer.
During the time he worked on the appeal, Jones lived in a modest Colonial
Revival cottage that still stands at 1911 Pulaski St. This was his third home in
the Dunbar neighborhood, following residences at 1808 and 1822 Ringo, where he
had lived with his first wife, Carrie, and their daughter, Hazel.
remarried after Carrie's death, he and his second wife, Lillie, lived on Pulaski
for about ten years before building a more substantial and stylish house at 1872
Cross in 1928. The house on Cross, a richly-detailed Craftsman-style residence,
was Jones's home until his death in 1943. The Scipio A. Jones House on Cross Street is one of the eight
historically-black properties in the neighborhood surrounding Dunbar Junior High
being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
There are two versions of the
"Elaine race riot of 1919" that left as many as 200 blacks dead: the white version
and the black version. Out of
fear of revenge and retaliation, the stark differences rarely have been
aired in public in this Mississippi Delta community.
In Elaine, on September 30, 1919,
when a white sheriff's deputy was killed and white mobs from
Arkansas and Mississippi took revenge on blacks. No one in
Elaine at this point is leading an effort for reparations.
According to the white version, a black man, Robert L. Hill, organized
a union among black sharecroppers, incited them, planned an insurrection in
which the blacks would kill the whites and take their land. Unprovoked, a white deputy was shot by blacks meeting at a church
near Elaine, and chaos ensued.
More than 500 federal troops were sent
into Philips County, accompanied by the
governor, to restore order. When it was over, five whites and an undetermined
number of blacks were dead and hundreds of blacks were arrested.
The black version
portrays the whites as the aggressors: The blacks tried to get their fair share of the money from cotton sales by
forming a sharecroppers union to assure an accurate account of how much they were owed by
Even the number of dead
remains up for debate: anywhere from 20 to 200 blacks
died in the clash. Though no one knows for sure who
fired the first shot, there is much evidence that whites
attacked and killed blacks indiscriminately.
than the term "riot," the words
"massacre" and "lynchings" are most
appropriate to describe what happened in Philips County. Four blacks were killed in the custody of
white law officers. Historical research supports racial abuse,
though the U.S. Supreme Court secured the freedom of the twelve
blacks condemned to be electrocuted
Robert Miller, who last year became the first black mayor of
Helena, grew up hearing the stories because he is related to one of the four
black men who were killed in custody.
"My father talked to me all of my growing up life,"
said the 68-year-old Miller, who also has a medical practice in town. "He
made it plain -- this is one of the things you don't talk about."
Because of the riots, his grandmother sent his father to
Boston to attend school, he said.
Right now, race relations in the county are particularly
strained. The West Helena mayor's office and City Council are divided along
racial lines, and so is the county Quorum Court.
Last week, an Oklahoma state commission recommended
reparations for black survivors of a 1921 rampage by white mobs in Tulsa.
Historians say as many as 300 blacks were killed.
In 1994, Florida approved $2 million in compensation for nine
survivors and dozens of descendants of a 1923 attack on blacks in Rosewood, Fla.
* * *
in Their Eyes
Blood in Their Eyes is required reading for every
Arkansas lawyer, because this time Grif Stockley reviews the work of a
real Gideon Page, a black lawyer named Scipio Jones who read law to
become licensed and became one of Arkansas' outstanding lawyers. Jones
is credited with one of the most important cases in American history, Moore
v. Dempsey 261 U.S. 86(1923), and standing alone many times, saved
the lives of 12 innocent, albeit convicted, black sharecroppers from
The Elaine race riot, as history until now
has called it, is an awful blemish on Arkansas history. It is such a
blemish that most historians have treated it lightly or shied away from
it. But Grif Stockley, an outstanding Arkansas lawyer in his own right,
is not known for shying away from much of anything, and he tackles the
issue head on in his first writing on Arkansas history. In typical
lawyer fashion Stockley analyzes the facts and writes his brief in
Blood in Their Eyes.
* * *
Otis G. Clark survivor of 1921 Tulsa
race riot dies at 109—Matt Schudel—26
May 2012—For years, few people dared to
speak about what happened on the night
of May 31, 1921, during
one of the most deadly and devastating
race riots in the nation’s history.
Otis G. Clark, who was 18 at the time,
had grown up in Greenwood, a thriving
African American section of Tulsa.
During a night that history almost
forgot, Mr. Clark dodged bullets, raced
through alleys to escape armed mobs and
saw his family’s home burned to the
ground. He fled Tulsa on a freight train
headed north. He would eventually move
to Los Angeles, where he was the butler
in the home of movie star Joan Crawford.
He later turned to preaching and was
known as the “world’s oldest
evangelist.” But for nine decades, he
remained a living witness to a night of
horror, when Greenwood died. Mr. Clark
died May 21 in Seattle at age 109,
family members told the Tulsa World
newspaper. The cause of death was not
disclosed. . . . A state commission
a report on the riot in 2001.
Granville Clark was born Feb. 13, 1903, in Meridian,
Okla., four years before Oklahoma became a state.
His father worked for the railroad. In a 2009
interview for a
Tulsa oral history project, Mr. Clark said one
of his jobs as a boy was selling vegetables and
groceries to a house occupied by what he called
Otis G. Clark was born on February 13, 1903, in
Oklahoma. At the time, Oklahoma was still Indian
Territory and it did not become a state until 1907.
At the age of 18, Otis was caught in the "1921
Tulsa Race Riot" in the Greenwood District of Tulsa,
Oklahoma. Greenwood, at the time, was a mecca for
African-Americans who, due to the oil boom, owned
their own successful businesses. Otis fled Tulsa,
riding the rails to California, seeking his
* * *
* * *
Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding
of the Republic
By Joseph J. Ellis
brilliant examination of the period
between the War of Independence and the
Louisiana Purchase puts Pulitzer-winner
Brothers) among the finest of
America's narrative historians. Six
stories, each centering on a significant
creative achievement or failure, combine
to portray often flawed men and their
efforts to lay the republic's
foundation. Set against the
extraordinary establishment of the most
liberal nation-state in the history of
Western Civilization... in the most
extensive and richly endowed plot of
ground on the planet are the terrible
costs of victory, including the
perpetuation of slavery and the cruel
oppression of Native Americans. Ellis
blames the founders' failures on their
decision to opt for an evolutionary
revolution, not a risky severance with
tradition (as would happen, murderously,
in France, which necessitated
compromises, like retaining slavery).
Despite the injustices and brutalities that
resulted, Ellis argues, this deferral strategy was a
profound insight rooted in a realistic appraisal of
how enduring social change best happens. Ellis's
lucid, illuminating and ironic prose will make this
a holiday season hit.—
Publishers Weekly /
American Creation (Joseph Ellis
* * *
The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and
the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921
By Tim Madigan
Journalist Madigan (See
No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed
in David Koresh's Holy War)
here tackles one of America's worst race
riots, chronicling the shocking events
of May 31 and June 1, 1921 when a white
mob numbering in the thousands
obliterated the African American
community of Greenwood, OK, near Tulsa.
Race riots and tensions were very common
after World War I, but what makes the
Greenwood incident unique was the
unheard-of organization of the mob and
the completeness of the destruction (35
city blocks systematically burned and
destroyed along with hundreds of
casualties). Though it is arguably
America's worst race riot, surprisingly
little has been written about it in the
mainstream press. For this work, Madigan
relied on taped interviews of survivors
and witnesses, newspaper accounts,
scholarly papers and theses, and
interviews with the descendants of
survivors. What results is a highly
readable account of the circumstances
and history surrounding the event and
its aftermath. Truly an eye-opening
book, this is essential reading for
anyone struggling to understand race
relations in America. Highly recommended
for public and academic libraries.—Library
* * * * *
King of the Mountain
The Nature of Political Leadership
By Arnold M. Ludwig
“People may choose to ignore their animal heritage by interpreting their behavior as divinely inspired, socially purposeful, or even self-serving, all of which they attribute to being human, but they masticate, fornicate, and procreate, much as chimps and apes do, so they should have little cause to get upset if they learn that they act like other primates when they politically agitate, debate, abdicate, placate, and administrate, too."—from the book King of the Mountain presents the startling findings of Arnold M. Ludwig's eighteen-year investigation into why people want to rule. The answer may seem obvious—power, privilege, and perks—but any adequate answer also needs to explain why so many rulers cling to power even when they are miserable, trust nobody, feel besieged, and face almost certain death. Ludwig's results suggest that leaders of nations tend to act remarkably like monkeys and apes in the way they come to power, govern, and rule. Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the twentieth century—over 1,900 people in all, Ludwig establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and the odds of their being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death.
Then, concentrating on a smaller sub-set of 377 rulers
for whom more extensive personal information was available, he
compares six different kinds of leaders, examining their
characteristics, their childhoods, and their mental stability or
instability to identify the main predictors of later political
success. Ludwig's penetrating observations, though presented in
a lighthearted and entertaining way, offer important insight
into why humans have engaged in war throughout recorded history
as well as suggesting how they might live together in peace.
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
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Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
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update 27 May 2012