Like many cities outside of the Deep South, Duluth, Minnesota was a haven for Blacks looking for better opportunities. However, three Black men who were making their way in Duluth were lynched in 1920 after they were falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman and robbing her boyfriend.
Issac McGhie, Elmer Jackson, and Elias Clayton were employed at the John Robinson Circus in town. White teens James Sullivan and Irene Tuskgen claimed they were robbed and assaulted by six Black workers after attending the circus on June 14, 1920. Word got around that Ms. Tuskgen died of her injuries, another misleading claim that angered thousands of whites.
After Duluth’s police chief rounded up around 150 Black workers, six were named as the accused and sent to jail. Between 5,000 to 10,000 whites stormed a jail and beat McGhie, Jackson and Clayton to death.
Tuskgen’s own father was disturbed by the white mobs and their violent actions, reportedly considering going to the town of Superior, Minnesota to try to stop what was happening. A doctor’s examination proved that Ms. Tuskgen showed no signs of physical abuse, yet she maintained the story to police officers and the press.
The lynching was one of 219 that occurred outside of the Deep South and led to a small exodus of Black low-level workers traveling about the country to avoid similar instances of racism and violence.
In October 10, 2003, a memorial was dedicated to the three slain Black workers in the city of Duluth.
PHOTO: Public Domain