In the morning, before a couple hundred people showed up downtown for a barbecue near the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and his family quietly took a tour of the site.
Carl Crawford, Duluth's human rights officer who guides the walk from the former police station to the site of the 1920 lynchings a few times a year, asked the governor to find a quote on the memorial wall that resonates with him and to spend time looking into the eyes of the bronze sculptures representing the three circus workers.
"Very powerful," Walz said to a member of his team afterward, then later tweeted: "We can never forget this shameful, tragic event in Minnesota’s history."
Monday marked the 100th anniversary of the public deaths of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie — three African American men accused of raping a white West Duluth woman, although a family doctor indicated that it did not happen. An estimated 10,000 people were in the mob that dragged the men from the jail, up the avenue and hanged them from a light post.
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Committee intended to draw another 10,000 people — and Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative — to the site for the 100th anniversary, but the plans were pushed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was still plenty of activity on First Street between First and Second avenues east: the early visit by Walz and his crew, a news conference with Attorney General Keith Ellison and other players involved with last week's pardon of Max Mason, and lunch from Duluth Grill — chicken, pork, grits, coleslaw and pork rinds, enough to feed 700 people.
All with a soundtrack of feel-good reggae music playing from speakers.
"We've had this day on our calendar for a long time," said Otis Zanders, president and CEO of Ujamaa Place, a Twin Cities nonprofit that works with young adult African American men. "Ujamaa" means "extended family" in Swahili.
Zanders was part of a van-load of men who had originally planned to be a part of the anniversary events. Instead, in light of the postponement, they canceled their hotel reservations and instead made it a day trip. Zanders said he wanted to bring the journey and energy back to his organization.
"It's very spiritual for us, we feel connected with what has happened 100 years ago," Zanders said. "We realize that this particular event that took place in that time period brings us current, with what is happening today."
There were free masks available and bottled water. At one point, the line for the Duluth Grill buffet extended beyond The Encounter, the skate park on the next block. Meanwhile, flowers were placed at the statues and photographs were taken in front of it.
Ellison's visit to the memorial, too, was a bit of a surprise.
"Here we all stand in this sacred ground where 100 years ago, 10,003 people gathered," he said, adding it wasn't in peace or in love. "They gathered to murder three people."
Ellison called racism a "social disease buried deep in our society." Much of what he said centered on Mason, who served time in prison for the falsified rape. This past Friday, Mason received the state's first posthumous pardon from the Minnesota Board of Pardons.
It was a ruling that was still on the mind of Kim Green, co-chair of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
Green said she is seeing a lot of solidarity — and a movement that is boosted by young people.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," she said. "I feel hopeful. I think people got their heads on straighter."
Abdul Hussein helped to serve food. He's among a group of people that gathers as the site of the memorial on weeknights, which includes talking, marching and honoring George Floyd with nine minutes of silence.
"I don't want to come, but I have to come because I am a black man," he said.
He's created a brand called Foreign and on Monday he wore a shirt with the word across his chest. He feels connected to the definition: strange, unfamiliar. That's how he sees himself and that's how he tells his story, Hussein said.
"In a town where I don't see another me," he said.