The 1920 Duluth lynchings is the subject of a series of three short videos released by PBS-TV’s Independent Lens. The videos share the title A Lynching in the Family. Part one, above, is subtitled “Accuser, Instigator, Victim.”
The Minnesota Historical Society is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1920 Duluth lynchings with a week of remembrance and conversations about its legacy. A collection of resources is available at mnhs.org/duluthlynchings. Below are short video commentaries offering modern perspectives on the past and thoughts about the present and future.
The Minnesota Board of Pardons has approved the posthumous pardon of Max Mason, a circus worker convicted of raping Irene Tusken in 1920. The incident in Duluth is better known for the fates of three others accused: Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, all three victims of a lynch mob.
Former Duluthian Michael Fedo was interviewed about the anniversary of the lynchings in Duluth for an article in Smithsonian, the journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Over the years, the horror of June 15, 1920, when three black men were lynched by a white mob in Duluth, faded away behind a “collective amnesia,” says author Michael Fedo. Faded away, at least, in the memories of Duluth’s white community.
In the 1970s, when Fedo began researching what would become The Lynchings in Duluth, the first detailed accounting of the night’s events, he met resistance from witnesses who were still alive. “All of them said, gee, why are you dredging this up again? All of them except the African American community in Duluth. It was part of their oral history, and all of those families knew of this event,” Fedo recalls.
More can be found at smithsonianmag.com.
Visual artist Moira Villiard organized a mural project at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial as part of a day of creative expression on Monday, June 8. People were invited to add to the images she created of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and a raised fist. The activities also included interviews of black, indigenous and people of color on the topic of police brutality. The interviews will be used in a documentary produced by DanSan Creatives. June 15 marks 100 years since the lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Issac McGhie in downtown Duluth for a crime they didn’t commit.
It’s been nearly 100 years since Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were falsely accused, taken by force from the old Duluth jail, and lynched by an estimated 10,000 community members at the intersection where the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial now stands.
On June 15, 2020, the community will commemorate those three men and continue to work toward a mission of fostering peace, racial equity and growth. Organizers are asking for more than 10,000 community members and visitors to attend an event at the intersection of the memorial and in the surrounding streets to listen to keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Ala.
From MPR News: Two guys named Carl walked onto a bus last month in Duluth, one black, one white. One of them was Carl Crawford, the other was Carl Huber. Together, they traveled to Alabama to visit the new memorial to the victims of lynching, and they became friends on the journey. After they returned, they talked together about what the trip meant to them.
Video and photos by Evan Frost.
I’m cleaning out my hard drive in preparation for a sabbatical. So here are some videos of Carla Stetson, then a Duluth artist, talking to my writing class. She’s addressing the process of designing and constructing the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
I found the CD that Mike Simonson gave me and uploaded it to SoundCloud. It’s a half-hour segment titled “Teaching History, Literacy and Tolerance: The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in Our Schools.” Panelists are Henry Banks, Catherine Nachbar, David Beard, Gail Schoenfelder and Perry Kennedy. Moderators are Jennifer and Mike Simonson.
Below is the complete text of a story from the June 7, 2000 issue of Duluth’s Ripsaw newspaper.
Duluth’s Lingering Shame
Eighty years ago Duluthians carried out one of the most horrific acts this region has ever seen. How did it happen? Have we changed?
By Heidi Bakk-Hansen
They’re selling postcards of the hanging
They’re painting the passports brown
The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other is in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless
They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
— From Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”
On June 15, 1920, a mob of 10,000 lynched Isaac McGhie, Elias Clayton and Elmer Jackson at the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East in Duluth.