The city that built a memorial to reconcile its role in the country's northernmost lynching is trying to get to the city which will memorialize all lynchings.
But to get Duluthians on a bus to Montgomery, Ala., it's going to take funding - and quickly.
The board of Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc. is attempting to rally to send 40 people on a whirlwind five-day trip to see the unveiling of the Memorial for Peace and Justice in late April. The local organization sent out fundraising letters this week in hope of raising enough money to cover those who want to go - and some who ought to go - but cannot fully afford it.
"It's important for us to have a presence there at the unveiling," said Duluth Human Rights Officer Carl Crawford, who met with Clayton Jackson McGhie officials this week. "This kind of thing only happens once."
Ideally, the organization would take a full coach bus with room for 40 people. For a participant to pay their own freight costs $600 - including transportation, two hotel nights, food and tickets to all attractions.
"For a lot of people that's out of reach," said Clayton Jackson McGhie board secretary Heidi Bakk-Hansen. "We're working on getting donations. This is our hard task for the next couple weeks. It's getting to be crunch time."
If it goes off, the excursion will run April 24-28, with the unveiling ceremony on April 26. In between, the trip would include a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and stops at important civil rights sites in Birmingham, Ala.
With fewer than 10 sign-ups so far, Bakk-Hansen said she fears people have been reluctant to commit due to personal finances.
"There are people who want to go but don't want to say they need money," she said, before entering recruitment mode. "We need to know about you."
The fundraising letter disseminated throughout the community said the goal is to raise the full $23,000 it would cost for 40 attendees. But Bakk-Hansen said the key will be get to at least the $12,000 it costs to rent the bus and two drivers.
Last fall, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, located on the 100 block of East First Street, was the site of a ceremony which saw elders from Duluth's black community shovel soil from the memorial into three jars and present the jars to members of the Montgomery-based nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative. The new national memorial will feature a series of jars filled with soil taken from lynching sites from around the country.
Because Duluth was among the first places in the United States to build a lynching memorial, sources said it's important for the city and its African-American community to be represented.
Larger places with larger black communities struggle to build memorials, Bakk-Hansen said, "because it's negative history."
"This national memorial is helping all those communities which could not build a memorial to their lynchings," she said. "This is an important thing for us to be a part of, to show solidarity with other communities that have this history."
The Duluth memorial, built in 2003, commemorates the June 15, 1920, lynchings of circus workers Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie. The three black men became suspects in an alleged assault against a white girl. The men were taken from the jail, beaten and hanged on a light post by a mob of thousands of whites in downtown Duluth. Officials later said there was no evidence the assault the men were blamed for actually took place.
Crawford said it was unlikely the cash-strapped city could even partially fund the trip, but that he was able to lend his time and support by reaching out to the greater community. It's exciting, he said, to see the Clayton Jackson McGhie legacy continue. He called the prospective trip "a journey of peace and healing."
"We're looking for sponsors; we're looking for folks willing to help make this happen," he added. "I think it's the right thing to do."
For anyone interested in contributing to the cause, contact Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc. at (218) 336-2990