Community Reflects on 1920 Duluth Lynchings on Day of Remembrance

Taylor Holt
Updated: June 14, 2019 08:32 PM

A dark day in Duluth's history was remembered Friday - nearly a Century later. 

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The 1920 Duluth Lynchings are still a very difficult memory for many community members, but one they say we continue to grow from. A Day of Remembrance was held in the morning - starting with song. 

It was followed by a moment of silence for the three lives wrongly taken. 

"We hold this to honor Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie. Another reason why we gather is to remember the history, the reality, that members of our community gathered together to lynch three young black men," said Stephan Witherspoon, Co-Chair of the Memorial. 

The men were falsely accused and taken from the Duluth Jail by a mob, then lynched. The Duluth community gathered back at the place where it all happened Friday - sharing messages of hope and calls to action. 

"Solidarity is really important," said Diona Johnson.

Johnson says it's important to keep what this memorial signifies alive.

"The Clayton Jackson (McGhie) memorial is just a really important monument in Duluth and is a symbol for all of the work that has been done and is yet to be done," Johnson added. 

Events like this one do that, but it's also on us - that was another message shared. This year's scholarship recipient says she hopes to keep spreading awareness.

"The history of this (memorial) is not taught in Duluth Public Schools and I really wish it was," said Kyra Word, a recent Denfeld graduate. "A lot of people don't know much about the Clayton Jackson McGhie (memorial) so when I won the scholarship, people where like 'oh, what's that', and I really had to explain to them this is the history of Duluth."

Organization officials say the community has come a long way, but the fight isn't over.

"We have seen constitutional amendments, a movement for civil rights, and we have even seen some hearts and minds changed, however we still struggle with the legacy of colonization and white supremacy," said Jordan Moses, one of the speakers on the CJM Committee. 

Starting in January 2020, the organization says they'll begin new efforts to engage the community through a series of events culminating on June 15th, and with a promise. 

"Next year, we will come out in a way that we haven't before. 10,000 people showed up to lynch these men, watch these men be murdered or failed to protect these men. Next year, we will, not intend, we will get 10,000 people into this intersection and surrounding streets and with those people we will honor these men and remember that history," Moses said. 

They also announced their Keynote speaker, Brian Stevenson. 

A graveside service was also held at Park Hill Cemetery. 


Taylor Holt

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