Skip to main content

A piece of Duluth will form part of national lynchings memorial

Soil was collected at a ceremony on Sunday.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A somber occasion in Duluth saw members of the city's black community remove soil that will form part of a national memorial to victims of lynchings.

Members of the Duluth NAACP branch were joined by more than 100 people at a ceremony at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on Sunday, collecting Minnesota's contribution to the first-ever national lynchings memorial planned for Montgomery, Alabama.

They took soil from the memorial commemorating Minnesota's only recorded lynchings, which happened in 1920 and saw circus workers Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie dragged from jail, beaten and hanged on a light post.

In attendance at the Sunday ceremony was the Equal Justice Initiative of Montgomery, which is traveling the country to collect soil samples from lynching sites across the country that will be displayed in a museum in Alabama, according to a press release from Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc.

A jar of soil was taken for each of the three victims, with the Duluth News Tribune reporting an Anishinaabe honor song was sung as the ceremony was carried out.

Soil from around 400 lynching sites are expected to be featured in the new, 11,000-square foot facility in Alabama, with Duluth NAACP president Stephan Witherspoon telling the newspaper it's right to honor those who "died for no reason."

What happened in Duluth?

The lynchings in 1920 Duluth followed an accusation of rape by 19-year-old circus-goer Irene Tusken, who according to the Minnesota Historical Society said she had been held up at gunpoint and sexually assaulted while with her male friend, James Sullivan.

Tusken's father called police the next day, saying six black circus workers were behind it, despite little evidence being found by the family doctor that she had been raped.

Six black people were immediately arrested by Duluth police and held in the city jail, while a white mob of between 1,000 and 10,000 people formed outside on Superior Street.

With police instructed not to use their guns, the mob wielding bricks, rails and bats forced their way into the jail, pulling all six men from the jail.

A "hasty mock trial" was convened and found Clayton, Jackson and McGhie guilty. They were taken to a light pole on the corner of 1st Strett and 2nd Avenue East, where they were beaten and lynched.

Officials later conceded there was no evidence the assault they were blamed for actually happened. A memorial to the trio was built in Duluth in 2003.

Next Up

covid

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, June 27

BA.5 is expected to become the dominant subvariant in Minnesota.

police lights squad car

60-year-old woman arrested after firing shots inside Spicer home

SWAT evacuated nearby residents during the incident.

Florida Georgia Line

Florida Georgia Line booked to play at the Minnesota State Fair

The band is the second country music act to be booked this year.

monkeypox

First case of monkeypox confirmed in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health says the risk to the public is "considered low" at this time.

lightning, storm

Isolated severe weather in Minnesota on Tuesday and Wednesday

Definitely not a slam dunk either day, but the chance is there.

ambulance

Driver ejected in fatal crash on Shepard Road in St. Paul

The driver of a Dodge Ram was ejected and died at the scene.

Screen Shot 2022-06-26 at 10.02.59 AM

North Dakota's only abortion clinic relocating to Minnesota

A GoFundMe set up to help the clinic make the move to Minnesota has surpassed its $500,000 goal.

Screen Shot 2022-06-26 at 12.37.03 PM

Deadly vehicle fire on Interstate 94 west of Fargo

The victim's age and name have not been released.

flickr - gov tim walz - mn senate dfl

Overturning Roe v. Wade won't do a 'damn thing' to prevent abortions, Walz says

Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Saturday meant to protect abortion access in the state and people who come from out of state seeking one.

ambulance

Man crossing Highway 13 in Burnsville fatally struck by driver

The victim is a 31-year-old man from Prior Lake.

Related

Remembering the 3 black men lynched in Duluth 97 years ago

Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were dragged from jail and hanged from a light post.

Remembering the 3 black men lynched in Duluth 97 years ago

Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were dragged from jail and hanged from a light post.

Screen Shot 2019-07-12 at 10.40.14 AM

A new mystery at Glensheen, as diving bell is recovered beneath boathouse

It's the first time it's been fully viewable by the public.

Yours for $1.15M: A 5-bedroom home on Nicollet Island

House hunters can buy a slice of history on Minneapolis' own slice of land.

Yours for $1.15M: A 5-bedroom home on Nicollet Island

House hunters can buy a slice of history on Minneapolis' own slice of land.

A Minneapolis middle school could be renamed after Prince

The campaign to find a new name has been whittled down to five finalists.

A Minneapolis middle school could be renamed after Prince

The campaign to find a new name has been whittled down to five finalists.