Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial commemorates the 1920 Duluth lynchings

Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial

Photo Credit: Samantha Lefebvre

"An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to ignore." These words, originally spoken by Edmund Burke in 1729, now adorn a tall concrete L-shaped monument in downtown Duluth. Anthony Peyton Porter chose this quote to commemorate the unjust deaths of three African-Americans in 1920.

Porter, a writer now living in California, along the sculptor, Carla Stetson, created the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, which stands across the street from the lamppost where the three men were hung years ago. The CJM Memorial was officially unveiled on Oct.10, 2003.

Porter sifted through quote books, searched the Internet and asked others what they felt was important to include on the monument. Eventually, fourteen quotes were chosen, including passages from Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein, Siddhartha Gautama, Martin Luther King Jr., and Porter's favorite, Jalaluddin Rumi.

"I tried to get a wide variety of people, with different backgrounds and cultures," Porter said.

Porter added some historical text next to the bronze castings of the three men. Not a single one of the quotes on the memorial has anything to do with race.

"Although it was superficially a racial incident I thought that was really just a detail. It was just another example of the things that people do to each other," Porter said.

According to an article in the Mississippi Quarterly, of the 10,000 people in the lynch mob, only three were arrested for their actions. None of them were charged with murder. The article said that the men served less than 15 months in jail for rioting. One of the three men arrested was a man named Louis Dondino. When Dondino's great-grandson, Warren Read, heard about the CJM Committee and the memorial they were planning, Read wanted to help. He was invited to speak at the memorial's unveiling. Read explained that the memorial brought great comfort to him and his family.

"It's an aggressive, prominent memorial. It's not abashed about what it's trying to say," Read said.

Read said the memorial is powerful and brave, and has helped put his mind at ease. He also talked about how the memorial conveys a message about taking responsibility instead of placing blame.

"It's a step in an ongoing journey. The memorial is a model about the things you can do to start a conversation and to encourage atonement," Read said.

According to Porter, the memorial isn't meant to be a commentary on race, it's a statement about our overall oneness. The memorial captures just a single moment in an ongoing attempt to eliminate hate and encourage unity.

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