June 15, 1920: Duluthians lynch three innocent men

On this day in Duluth in 1920, Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and  Isaac McGhie—African-Americans who worked for the John Robinson Show Circus—were lynched by a mob of Duluthians. The three had been arrested along with several other circus workers after they were falsely accused of raping a girl from West Duluth. By 8:40 p.m. a riotous group of several thousand people stormed the downtown jail on Superior Street at Second Avenue East. The mob took Jackson, Clayton, and McGhie to the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East, where they hung the three men from a light pole. The killers then posed for photographs next to their victims. Later, the photos were sold as postcards. While some members of the lynch mob were convicted of rioting, no murder charges were ever filed. A much more complete history of the lynchings by Duluth writer Heidi Bakk-Hansen can be found here, and you can learn more about the victims by reading another story by Bakk-Hansen here.

The final resting place of Elmer Jackson, Elias Clayton, and Isaac McGhie in Duluth’s Park Hill Cemetery. (Image: Heidi Bakk-Hansen)

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