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On this date in 1920, three Black men were hanged in Duluth, Minnesota. One of the worst racial incidents of the last century went unresolved because lynching was not abolished until 1924.
It occurred when a mob of about 10,000 whites angered by rumors that a white woman had been raped and nearly killed by several Blacks, hanged three Black carnival workers from a lamppost in the northern Minnesota town. Isaac McGhie, 20, Elmer Jackson, 19, and Elias Clayton, 19, were among other Black workers pulled from the carnival train by police as it was leaving Duluth. A white 19-year-old identified them not by their faces but by their size and shape.
After the men were arrested, a swarm of Duluth whites overpowered police, held an impromptu trial in their cells, and dragged them to their executions. The woman had told police that she had been raped (though a doctor later said he found no indications of an attack).
Months later, another carnival worker was convicted of the crime, but he was released five years into a 30-year sentence. This was through the efforts of Black attorney Charles Scrutchin.
In 2003, a memorial to the episode was erected and dedicated in Duluth.
The Duluth News Tribune
Minnesota Historical Society
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55102-1906