Remembering the Past While Looking to the Future

Posted at: 06/15/2013 5:35 PM | Updated at: 06/15/2013 8:39 PM
By: Travis Dill

The group that shed light on the Clayton Jackson McGhie lynchings looked forward as they commemorated the tragedy's 93 anniversary.

Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1920, and a mob lynched the three black men in downtown Duluth.

The nearly forgotten event was given a memorial in Duluth 10 years ago, and Catherine Ostos said helping create that monument was life-changing.

“The monument, if I died tomorrow I felt like I've accomplished something in this world. It was the most incredible experience. One of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Ostos said.

She is the former co-chair of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Ostos attended a vigil on Saturday that marked the 93rd anniversary of the lynchings. She said while the memorial has made progress addressing racism, the issue still persists in the community.

“It's not going to change in my lifetime. I hate to be pessimistic, but when I look at our community, what's happened, sort of the ups and downs, it seems like we make some progress then we take a step forward and we take ten steps back,” Ostos said.

But she is hopeful for a younger generation to continue the memorial's work. Current Co-Chair Blair Moses is leading that charge.

“I, myself, am still very young. I'm 22 so I try to bring some youthful energy and some younger perspectives to the work we do here,” Moses said.

He said passing the history on to youth is the best way to prevent another tragedy.

“So connecting with the school district, with teachers, with kids with youth programming and just giving tours and teaching them about the history. Bringing this history to them in their way rather than saying, 'Oh here's a history book; read it,'” Moses said.

He said talking about the lynchings can be emotional and even painful for the community, but he will not let it be forgotten.

“Explore the history of Duluth, and talk about how this is related to the history of Duluth. This is part of what makes Duluth, Duluth, good and bad,” Moses said.

He said there is a large number of the memorial's board members are under the age of 29. He said that brings a lot of energy to the work the will continue for decades to come.

The vigil concluded a week of remembrance activities hosted by the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.

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