« Back to
A circus came to town, and in those days
when a circus came to town it was sort of a holiday to go
out and watch the — what do you call them — the
roustabouts put up the big tent [Note: The circus was closing
down, not setting up]. It was quite a knack. . . It was quite
a thrill, and concessionaires would be open, and these fellows
that they called roustabouts generally were blacks from the
deep South. And what happened was that that night a woman
claimed that she was raped. Now the interesting part about
that was she never reported the rape until the following afternoon.
And her boyfriend reported it. And they were having lynchings
around the country. If you read the papers of that day, you’ll
find that every week there was a lynching someplace in the
country. So it got fanned up here in Duluth and they estimated
as many as 9,000 people actually witnessed these lynchings.
We’re speaking about a city that at that time probably
was about 85,000, 80,000.
. . . They took them out of the [inaudible].
The circus moved to Virginia. And they went up there and arrested
a number of them and brought them back to Duluth. And when
the lynching fever came along the people did ask the police
at that time, were they going to move them to Carlton County
so there wouldn’t be a lynching? And they apparently
were ignored by the police department. And then when the drive
came on the police department, they just took the men out.
They held some kind of kangaroo court. They didn’t take
them all out; they only took three for some reason. Something
took place inside the jail. And they hung them right in front
of the Shrine Auditorium.
. . . Well the editorials in both the News
Tribune and the Herald, which were different
papers in those days, were very much appalled by the lynching
and so were many of the better class people were really shook
up that this took place here because it’s not the best
thing to take place in your city of this size. Most lynchings
that were happening were not happening in cities as large
as Duluth. I mean police departments are usually adequate
to take care of it, except possibly in the Deep South.