The Ballad of Clayton, Jackson and McGhie

Local musician Bill Nash produced this music video in May, recalling the June 15, 1920 lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie.

From Nash’s YouTube video description:

In the summer of the year 2000, shortly after I moved to Northern Minnesota, I attended a vigil on June 20 to commemorate the lynching of three African-American men in Duluth 80 years earlier. I had begun, through a combination of seminars and reading, to discover more about racism. And from an article published in the Ripsaw by Heidi Bakk Hansen, I learned of both the lynching and the vigil. After the vigil, a small group of people decided to form a grass-roots committee to try and get official recognition of this event, which had been largely “swept under the rug” and ignored or denied for 80 years. My wife Nancy and I were among that group. We worked on various strategies to bring this to light. During that year, I wrote this song.

As with pretty much all of my songs, it mostly emerged fully formed; I made few changes to it after the initial composition. Nancy and I performed it once, at a church service dedicated to remembering the victims of the crime. It has pretty much not been revisited until I recently attained both the necessary equipment and knowledge to make an accurate recording, and to form the photographs into a video to add a visual element.

The Ballad of Clayton, Jackson and McGhie

Three young men, hanging from a light pole, on a summer night;
Three black men, hanging from a light pole, in a sea of white.
Three young men, hanging from a light pole, so far from home;
Three black men, hanging from a light pole, so all alone,
They were so all alone, so all alone.
Thee young men, never done a thing, just, wrong time, wrong place;
Three black men, never hurt a soul, just, wrong skin, wrong race.
Mob rule is a race to the bottom, like a runaway train,
You know that someone had to pay for, the fear and the pain,
The fear and the pain, fear and the pain.

(Chorus) They never did nothin’ to that girl,
They couldn’t believe it when the crowd swept them away;
But times were tough, and somebody had to take the blame,
Hasn’t it always been that way?

Young Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie were taken away that night,
And we can never bring them back, or make it right;
But it’s time to tear down the curtain, of denial and shame,
The very least that we can do is, remember their names,
Remember their names, remember their names,
Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie, remember their names.

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