Duluth Lynchings

Background and historical documents relating to the tragic events of June 15, 1920

Duluth Lynchings Online Resource. Background and historical documents relating to the tragic 
events of June 15, 1920

Afterwards

Many blacks leave Duluth. Minnesota’s black community establishes the Duluth Branch of the NAACP and campaigns for anti-lynching legislation. Years later, the three victims are finally properly laid to rest.

Blacks Leave

Enraged and horrified by the lynchings, many blacks left Duluth. From 1920 to 1930, as Duluth grew overall by 2,000 persons, the city’s black population dropped 16 percent.1 Some moved to the Twin Cities, or places more distant, such as California.

NAACP Branch Formed

Collections photo of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois

Blacks who stayed in Duluth began a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Established in September of 1920, the Duluth Branch began with a membership of sixty-nine people.2 Their first speaker was Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois – famous author, scholar, and spokesman for civil rights. Dr. Du Bois addressed a large Duluth audience on March 21, 1921.3

Campaign for Anti-Lynching Legislation

The shock of the lynchings spurred Minnesota’s black community to press for a state anti-lynching bill. Nellie Francis, a prominent black activist from St. Paul, led the campaign.

Signed into law on April 21, 1921, the bill provided for the removal of police officers negligent in protecting persons in their custody from lynch mobs. The bill also stipulated that damages be paid to the dependents of the person lynched.

Anti-lynching bills existed in several other states. Despite many efforts, a national anti-lynching bill was never passed.

Honoring the Victims

For years the burial locations of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie were unknown. In 1991, it was learned their bodies lay in unmarked graves at Duluth’s Park Hill Cemetery. In a ceremony on October 26 of that year, the graves were marked with granite headstones bearing their names and the inscription “Deterred but not defeated.”

In recent years there have been efforts to remember the tragic events of June 15, 1920 and to honor its victims. For more information about these ongoing activities contact the Clayton, Jackson, McGhie Memorial Committee.

Citations

  1. US Bureau of the Census, Fourteenth Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1920: Composition and Characteristics of the Population by States. Volume III. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1922), 508; US Bureau of the Census, Fifteenth Census of the United Sates: 1930: Reports by States showing the Composition and Characteristics of the Population for Counties, Cities, Townships, or Other Minor Civil Divisions. Volume III, Part 1. (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1932), 1203.
  2. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Eleventh Annual Report of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, For the Year 1920(New York: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, January 1921), cover and 21, 32-33.
  3. Ethel Ray Nance, Oral history interviews of the Minnesota Black History Project, 1970-1975. Minnesota Historical Society; “Races Dependent Upon Each Other, Says Dr. Du Bois,“ Duluth Herald, 22 March 1921, p. 11.