September 10, 1920: Louis Dondino convicted for inciting a riot following lynchings

On this day in Duluth in 1920, 38-year-old West Duluth truck driver Louis Dondino was sentenced to prison for his role in the lynchings of three black circus workers. On June, 1920, word was spreading that a group of black circus workers had raped a local girl from West Duluth. Dondino, who operated a transfer business at 301 Central Avenue, thought the accused should be lynched, so he began driving from West Duluth to downtown, picking up supporters along the way. Once in the truck they called to others on the street to “join the necktie party.” Their plan was to take the accused from the police and hand out judgement and sentence themselves. After helping deliver many in the mob to the Duluth Police Headquarters and Jail, he joined them in a riot. They stormed the police station, overpowering officers and extracting three of the accused, which they took to a light post a block away and lynched them. Dondino testified that while he had given some of the mob a ride, he had attended a show at the Orpheum with a lady friend, not rioted with the police. Several police officers testified that he had indeed been in the mob and had been quite vocal during the assault. One officer identified Dondino as “the instigator of the riot.” It took jurors just 55 minutes to convict Dondino, and the judge gave him the maximum five years. He was sent to the Stillwater State Prison where he was paroled in 1922 after serving about a year in prison. Learn more about the lynchings here and here.

The indictment of Louis Dondino. Click to enlarge it and read the charges. (Image: Minnesota Historical Society)