In the decades following the lynching deaths of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, no one really talked about it. Then Michael Fedo, a Duluth native, started writing a novel set in northern Minnesota in the years following World War I. He recalled that his mother had once mentioned the lynchings, but the details and context of the conversation were gone. Fedo began digging and found not just silence, but in some cases a concerted effort to suppress details about the events of June 15, 1920. Fedo's book started a sort of information relay that led to developing proper grave markers and ultimately creating a memorial near the spot where the men were murdered.
"I think really it was mostly the shame that a law was broken and you and I were part of that mob, we did this, we were not proud of it," said Fedo. "They didn’t want to talk about it at all. So it wasn’t. It was just gone."
The Duluth Lynchings is edited by Samantha Erkkila and is a product of the Duluth News Tribune. This episode includes reporting by Samantha Erkkila, Jimmy Lovrien, Brady Slater, Melinda Lavine and Christa Lawler. Excerpts of books and newspapers are read aloud by Barrett Chase.
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.