I was not alive in 1920. This is the first time I felt the bracing winds that glide over Lake Superior before unleashing their fury upon the land.
Duluth, Minnesota, always was within my orbit, but I had never trodded upon its tree-lined pathways. Needless to say, I was not physically present in 1920 when a mob was imbued with a malevolent compulsion to maim, disfigure, and ultimately hang black bodies from a lamppost descended upon a Duluth, Minnesota jail. Lamps and torches illuminated a night sky as dark as the lynch mob’s hearts. The mob’s chants had breached the calm of the North Shore. Threats of violence were broadcast to any white man who dared to interfere with their corrupted notice of justice. The thunder of these warnings reverberated in the mob's steps toward the shabby Duluth jail.
The promise of violence was inevitable to the black men trapped in their holding cells. As the mob advanced, the loss of life transformed from theoretical to applicable. It was certain that some black men would die a gruesome death. As the jail was flooded with miscreants who demanded black flesh, I do not wish to be plagued with the deafening sound the doors made when this horde of rabid animals breached them. The roar of rushing water that burst through a damn is the closest facsimile my mind can produce to that sound. A sound so loud that sound ceases to exist, and all you can perceive is the rush of white men charging toward you. Their mouths moving, perhaps even curses or slurs can be read on their lips, but not only are you rendered deaf, but mute. They cannot hear or understand your pleas as they snatch you from your cell. This is what Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie experienced or what I imagine they experienced as I bear witness to their horror.
These white men had perverted the term justice. They were unable to discern justice from vigilantism. They dragged these six black souls to the center of the town square, where they tried these young black men in a sham trial.
The facade of the trial and the subsequent pronouncement of guilty over these three black men only attempted to assuage white consciences — not perform justice. No defense was accorded to these black men. They were not permitted to speak on their behalf. False confessions…