On June 14, 1920, two Duluth teens claimed that they were held at gunpoint and assaulted by black workers from the John Robinson Circus. Word and aggression spread — helped along by a headline in the Duluth Herald — culminating in the lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie in front of an estimated 10,000 people the following evening. Later it would be revealed that there was no evidence to indicate Irene Tusken had been raped. 

Journalist Jim Heffernan offers his mother and father’s family lore about that day; Writer and activist Heidi Bakk-Hansen considers the historical context of the headline and Duluth’s human rights officer Carl Crawford puts listeners at the scene in a recreation of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tour he gives a few times a year.

The Duluth Lynchings is edited by Samantha Erkkila and is a product of the Duluth News Tribune. This episode includes reporting by Samantha Erkkila, Adelie Bergstrom, Brady Slater, Kelly Bushe and Christa Lawler. Barrett Chase provides the newspaper accounts and excerpts from Michael Fedo’s book. 

Music for the podcast is “We Three Kings,” composed by “Rudy” Perrault and performed by the Gichigami Piano Trio with Josh Aerie on cello, Sam Black on piano and Laurie Bastian on Violin. 

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