The Elaine Massacre of 1919 was perhaps the largest single race or labor massacre in America, and yet it has largely remained untold in history—until now. WE HAVE JUST BEGUN, a new documentary directed/produced by Michael Warren Wilson and distributed by SPACEMOB, unearths a buried story with strong contemporary resonances.
Co-written and narrated by current San Francisco Poet Laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin, and featuring Michelle Duster, the great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells, reading from Ms. Wells’s “The Arkansas Riot,” WE HAVE JUST BEGUN, immerses the viewer in a community wrestling with its own legacy. Wilson weaves together a lyrical composition of Delta voices, revealing a portrait of a rural struggle toward emancipation, despite brutal attempts to suppress it.
Deep in the Arkansas Delta lies the legacy of perhaps the worst racial or labor massacre in American history—buried for 100 years.
In 1919, dozens of race and labor riots erupted throughout every major city in the US—but in Elaine, a rural war on Black workers eclipsed them all. “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN” was the secret passcode spoken by members of the union of Black farmers and domestic workers organizing throughout the Arkansas Delta. The film is a seven-year collaborative investigation into the Elaine Massacre and its repercussions in Phillips County. By combining recordings of eyewitnesses, revelations of descendants, and interviews with scholars, activists, and current Elaine residents, the film brings long-suppressed facts and details to light, while considering both the burdens and opportunities of history.
“We Have Just Begun sheds light on the tragedies of the Elaine Massacre and Land Theft in a spellbinding and transformational way. It should be required viewing.” — Marsalis Weatherspoon President, NAACP Hot Springs, AR #6013
The official story goes that a meeting of Black sharecroppers planning an uprising resulted in shots being exchanged and the death of one white police officer. White people then rose up in anger, the U.S. military was ordered to restore order, and at least 200 Black people died as a result. And yet, for 100 years, this story—never convincing on its face—has been considered historical ‘truth.’
“We Have Just Begun is the first document to tell the truth of what happened in 1919 instead of the story the white cotton empire builders who started the genocide want the world to believe,” stated Lenora Marshall, Vice president of Elaine Legacy Center.
“Untold stories of Black oppression are important to bring to light, and SPACEMOB is so moved to be involved in supporting the mission to truth-tell this story. Filmmaker Michael Wilson shares a fair and honest version of the story that states the truth of things as they were, revealing brutal details. He has received a lot of criticism and threats for dredging up the past, but he has boldly shared missing facts to a story that history requires to be documented with justified accuracy. Our hope is that the film gives attention to the Elaine Museum and that those touched by the film donate to support the town of Elaine,” stated Eric Keith, Executive Producer and Chief Creative Officer for SPACEMOB.
The film has already received awards and selections:
WINNER – Best Historical Film and Best Social Justice Film, New York International Film Awards- NYIFA
WINNER – Best Feature Film, Toronto Documentary Feature & Short Film Festival
FINALIST – Best Documentary Feature, Oniros Film Awards- New York
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Best Picture and Best Documentary Feature, International Film Category, International Black & Diversity Film Festival- IBDFF
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Feature Documentary Film, Greenwood Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION – Documentary – Feature, National Black Film Festival
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