On June 15, 1920, three African-Americans were lynched in Duluth, Minnesota, charged without evidence of rape of a white woman.
A hundred years later, the northern US state pardoned another black man convicted of the crime on Friday, whom he repeatedly denied committing.
Max Mason, who died in 1942, became the first person to receive a posthumous pardon in Minnesota, a powerful symbolic action at a time when Americans are confronted with the roots of a racism that still taints a large part of society.
The request for pardon was made long before the May 25 death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died when a white Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
The murder, filmed on video, sparked protests from coast to coast, which made Mason’s grace timely.
“100 years behind schedule, overdue justice has been served,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said on Twitter.
“The past few weeks in Minnesota have shown us that we need a better quality of justice. A pardon for Max Mason is another delayed step in that direction.”
On June 14, 1920, the young white woman Irene Tusken and a male friend attended the Duluth Circus. The next day, the man told his father that they had been assaulted by members of the black circus troupe and that Tusken had been raped.
Police arrested and interrogated several black men, including Mason, but the couple could not identify anyone as one of the attackers.
According to court documents, a doctor examined the woman but found no evidence of the assault.
Mason was released and joined the traveling circus from Duluth. However, the police arrested him again with several other men.
Later that night, an angry crowd broke into the police station and grabbed three men, dragging them through the streets before hanging them in front of thousands of people.
Duluth is the hometown of famous folk singer Bob Dylan, whose 1965 song “Desolation Row” was written in part about the crime.
The city apologized for the lynching and in 2003 erected a memorial to the three victims.
Mason escaped the fate of these three men. But he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, partly because it was learned that he and Tusken were both infected with gonorrhea, a common venereal disease.
“If he had been a white man, I rather doubt he would have been convicted,” said Mason Forbes county attorney in 1923.
(With the exception of the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)