Black Circus Workers Lynched After Being Falsely Accused of Raping White Woman (1920)

1 Posted by - June 18, 2022 - BLACK MEN, Injustices, LATEST POSTS

During the early 1920s, the population of Duluth, Minnesota was around 495 out of 98,000 residents. Black people who were living in Minnesota moved there mostly because they had been recruited from the South to work at the United States Steel’s local plant. Many black people arrived to work as servers, porters, assemblers and janitors. Despite the type of work, it was something that they felt they could make a living.

On June 14, 1920, two white teenagers, James Sullivan and Irene Tuskan, attended the John Robinson Circus in Duluth. The next day, the teenagers claimed James Sullivan had been held at gunpoint while six black circus workers raped Irene Tuskan. A doctor examined Tuskan and found no evidence that an assault ever occurred. Six young black men were arrested and jailed.

Newspapers quickly reported that Tuskan had died from her injuries. That evening 5,000 to 10,000 white people gathered at the jail. They seized, beat, and lynched Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson, and .  In Superior, Wisconsin, the acting chief of police declared, “We are going to run all idle negroes out of Superior and they’re going to stay out.” How many were forced out is not certain, but all of the blacks employed by a carnival in Superior were fired and told to leave the city.The Minnesota National Guard was called in to secure the area the next morning and safe guard the surviving prisoners.

One black man, Max Mason, received a long prison sentence for the supposed rape. But, he was paroled after five years on the condition that he left Minnesota for good. No one was ever convicted for the lynchings of the three black men.  The incident was one of 219 lynchings in the Northern states that occurred during that time. After more than eighty years, on October 10, 2003, a memorial to the three men killed was dedicated near the site of their deaths.




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