Ceremony brings together two with family ties to Duluth's 1920 lynchings
DULUTH - It was a moment of symbolism that probably passed unnoticed by many of the people attending Monday's Day of Remembrance for three black men lynched by a Duluth mob 88 years ago.
Warren Read, a descendent of a lynch mob organizer, and Virginia Huston, a cousin of one of the murdered men, held hands during part of the event at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
"It will live on and on," Huston said of the lynching. But "we can let go and let God" and work to live together.
Monday evening, the two were to attend the planting of a black oak tree near the graves of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, black circus workers who had been wrongly accused of raping a white woman. Read grew the tree from acorns Huston sent him from a tree growing in the churchyard of Jackson's hometown of Pennytown, Mo.
Huston, of Marshall, Mo., learned of her cousin's fate from Read, of Kingston, Wash., who called her while writing the "The Lyncher In Me," a book about his discovery that one of his great-grandfathers, Louis Dondino, helped organize the lynch mob. The crowd dragged Clayton,
Jackson and McGhie from the city jail and hung them from a lamp pole at the intersection of First Street and Second Avenue East, the intersection where the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was dedi-cated five years ago.
The memorial was built to humanize the three murdered men and to start the process of recon-ciliation, said Xavier Bell of Community Action Duluth, who addressed the crowd Monday about "The Message the Memorial Has for Us Today."
The horror surrounding the 1920 lynching was not that a handful of whites broke into the jail and dragged the three men to their deaths, Bell said, but "that thousands stood by ... and chose to do nothing."
"If we don't take heed of the lessons of the past, we are more likely to repeat the same mistakes," he said.
Bell urged the members of the crowd not to watch wrongs go unrighted.
"Turn to the person on your right and say: 'Don't stand there -- do something,' " he said.
Addressing Monday's crowd, Mayor Don Ness called the lynching "one of the darkest days" in Duluth's history.
"We have a long way to go; we can't sweep it under the rug," he said.
Ness referred to Saturday's homicide, which police say was the result of a drug deal that went bad. That shooting, he said, highlights the need for Duluth to continue working toward becoming a "peaceful community."