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The El Dorado Race Riot that began on February 26, 1910, was reportedly sparked by a gun battle between an unidentified African-American man and three white men—Deputy Sheriff H. E. Reynolds, Oscar P. Reynolds, and Roscoe Montgomery—outside of an El Dorado (Union County) barbershop owned by black businessman Oscar “China Parker” Warren. Newspaper accounts vary widely as to the cause of the altercation, though most reports agree that there was some type of verbal interaction between the unidentified black man and the group of white men, in which the former reportedly spoke to the white men in a “very insolent manner.” The Texarkana Courier reported that “one of the white men brushed against the black man, who said in response, ‘Don’t step on me, white man,’” and started to pull out his gun.
The Forrest City (St. Francis County) newspaper Forrest City Forrester gave a different account in which a black man named Chaney fired on the three white men from the window of a black-owned restaurant. In this accounting, Oscar Reynolds was reported to have had an earlier altercation with a black man, but everything had apparently been smoothed out. The three men were later surprised by Chaney, who began firing upon them without provocation as they walked down the sidewalk. Roscoe Montgomery was fatally wounded by gunfire in the exchange, while Sheriff Reynolds sustained a gunshot wound to his foot, and Oscar Reynolds was apparently unhurt. Chaney and additional unknown assailants appear to have fled unscathed from the barbershop after the altercation. However, newspaper reports suggest that considerable blood was found at the scene, and Sheriff Reynolds was reported to have shot two black men.
Shortly after the shooting, an armed mob formed and began shooting at and vandalizing the storefronts of the primarily black business district. Newspaper accounts differ as to what happened next. The Forrester reported that, after extensive searching by an armed posse, the man known as Chaney was eventually found, shot, and then arrested. The Forrester also reported that there was no evidence of any violence done by whites. The Sentinel Record, a Hot Springs (Garland County) newspaper, reported a contradictory story in which the “white mob was startled when blacks in the homes and businesses began firing back at the mob.” This action seemed to anger the mob, which went on to destroy more black-owned homes and property.
The local company of the National Guard was called out to restore order. A large percentage of the black population of El Dorado left the area at least temporarily, with many evacuating to the neighboring community of Camden (Ouachita County). Newspaper accounts are silent as to the amount of property damage sustained that night. Additionally, it is unknown whether any other blacks were harmed or killed by the mob that evening.
For additional information:“El Dorado Has a Lively Race Riot.” Mena Evening Star, February 28, 1910.
“Rage Riots at Eldorado.” Sentinel Record, February 27, 1910.
“Riot at Eldorado.” Forrest City Forrester, March 4, 1910.
“Three White Men Shot by Negroes.” Arkansas Gazette, February 27, 1910.
“White Men Shot at Eldorado in Duel between the Races.” Texarkana Courier, February 27, 1910.
Emily KearnsLittle Rock, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/4/2012
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