Remembering the Duluth Lynching

On June 15, 1920 a white mob killed three young Black men accused of the alleged rape of a white woman. At a Minnesota Humanities Center event on Monday, speakers reflected on the legacy of lynching and racial violence in Minnesota.

Feven Gerezgiher reports: 

 

June 15 marks the anniversary of the 1920 Duluth lynching, when a white mob killed three young Black men accused of the alleged rape of a white woman.

 

At a Minnesota Humanities Center event on Monday, law professor John Bessler said racially motivated killings are not uncommon in Minnesota history.

 

In the 19th century, both state sanctioned executions and lynchings occurred in Minnesota with executions fueled by this desire for vengeance or revenge and lynchings fueled by societal outrage at those responsible or thought to be responsible for heinous crimes.

 

Bessler referred to examples like the 1862 mass hanging outside Mankato of 38 Dakota men charged with war crimes, the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

 

In addition to the public lynching of three men, a fourth – Max Mason – was convicted of the rape, despite there being no supporting evidence. 

 

He served five years in prison after which he was released on the condition that he leave the state. He died in Memphis in 1942. Last June, 100 years later, lawyers Jerry Blackwell and Corey Gordon won Mason a posthumous pardon. The pardon came just weeks after the murder of George Floyd. Blackwell said the pardon is only a small steppingstone on the path to racial justice.

 

The fact that the majority of posthumous pardons have gone to African-Americans underscores the importance of the posthumous pardon as a vehicle for shining light on the racial injustices of the past and also helping the nation itself as a whole with curing some of the problems we have with social and moral amnesia. //  And we can’t address or fix that which we don’t acknowledge even exists.

 

The pardon was the first of its kind in Minnesota. 

 

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