MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — This coming Monday will mark 100 years since the Duluth lynchings, a dark stain on Minnesota’s past. And on Friday morning, the Minnesota Board of Pardons made history: It granted the state’s first posthumous pardon to Max Mason.
Mason was one of several black men accused of raping a white woman in Duluth in the 1920s. Three other men — Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie — were lynched as a result. It was estimated that 10,000 people, which is about 20% of Duluth’s 1920 population, attended the gruesome event.
The doctor who examined the accuser never found any evidence of rape, and it was learned Irene Tusken lied because she and her boyfriend had stayed out too late.
Mason was the only one convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released from prison five years later on the condition that he never return to Minnesota.
“Max Mason’s story is a part of the Duluth tragedy story. and it is a history until it is set right. Mr Mason was a victim of that very atmosphere of racial terrorism and a criminal justice process that was biased against him and that failed him,” attorney Jerry Blackwell said.
Mason was granted a posthumous pardon extraordinary because his criminal justice process from the first encounter with police all the way through to his parole was tainted and fairly characterized as racially biased.
The board voted 3-0 to pardon Max Mason, one of several traveling circus workers accused in the case. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, a member of the board, called it “100 years overdue” and said Minnesota for too long believed that lynchings “happened (only) in the Southern states.”
“There is a direct line between what happened with Max Mason … to what happened to George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis,” Walz said, referring to the May 25 death of Floyd that has become a flashpoint in a national movement against police brutality and racism.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is on the Board of Pardons, also reacted to the pardon Friday.
“Justice delayed is justice denied. One hundred years late, justice has been done,” Ellison said. “The Duluth lynchings are a dark stain on our history. A century later, the last few weeks have shown us that in Minnesota, we still have a need for a better quality of justice. This pardon for Max Mason is another long-delayed step toward it.”
The pardon application, written by attorney Jerry Blackwell, was approved in December to be reheard by the pardon board during its spring meeting. The board members quickly established their legal authority to grant the pardon before taking the vote.
In 2003, the City of Duluth apologized for the lynching and dedicated a memorial in the men’s honor on the site of the lynching.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Source: CBS Minnesota