Thursday, January 23, 2014

Think About It Thursday, Installment One

Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, Downtown Duluth
artstuffmatters / / CC BY-NC-ND
"Think About It Thursday" doesn't seem to be as pervasive a meme as "Throwback Thursday," but it's out there, and here's my version.  

David G said the other day that he likes all the links in my posts. I hope you always check out every one of my links, but today's links are much, much more serious and important than any previous ones. I would say that they are related to the Mission of Marshall School, which, as you know, is "to educate students to become global citizens who demonstrate strong academic habits, respect, compassion, integrity, self-discipline, and intellectual curiosity."  

During our MLK assembly on Tuesday, I wondered how teachers could help Marshall students connect with the importance of Martin Luther King Jr's work and legacy, and my thoughts kept returning to a horrible and disturbing event in Duluth's history, the lynching of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie in 1920. No matter how hard it might be to confront it, this is information that every Duluthian needs to know. It's also information that needs to be treated with respect and responded to with compassion. (Warning:  one of the links in this post, the one below about the poem "Strange Fruit," has a photo of a lynching on its front page--none of the other links has such a photo up-front.)

It's easy to think of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr as something that happened far away and long ago, as something that isn't relevant here and now, but Duluth has its own history of, and current struggles with, racism. And I'm certain we don't deal with it enough in school.    

Here's an audio history of the Duluth lynching. There's also a fascinating collection of oral histories about it here. Minnesota Public Radio offers a really thorough eight-part series of stories about those events and about the creation of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial downtown (pictured above). You should read ALL of that series (they call it a six-part series, but there are two additional connected stories linked on that page).  

And then, there's this long but incredibly powerful article about lynching and MLK's legacy that you really, really need to read (I found out about it because one of my former students posted a link to it on Facebook). Along with that, I want to mention a poem about lynching, "Strange Fruit" by Abel Meeropol (also known as Lewis Allan), which became famous when Billie Holliday sang it. You can read one version of the poem here.  

Also, check out these articles from the Duluth News Tribune about an incident that occurred here in town on MLK Day this year.  

While The Race Card Project doesn't connect to the Duluth lynchings, you might have heard about it on National Public Radio, where it's become a regular feature:  check it out--it's really amazing. (You could even compose and submit your own Race Card.)

Please let me know what you think of, or what you learned from, these links in the comments (but remember:  respond with respect & compassion). We can also discuss these links in class, if you like.

Lorraine Motel, National Civil Rights
Museum, Memphis, TN

Finally, my "Throwback Thursday" image is to the right:  you can re-read about my visit to Memphis here and here. (By the way, Madame Greenan and I have submitted our proposal to present at the Lausanne Learning Conference next summer, and we should hear sometime next month about whether it gets accepted.) 

Confession:  Clearly, I'm using these memes (partly) as excuses for not posting anything about Martin Luther King, Jr on MLK Day, when I was very busy with end-of-the-semester grading!  


  1. I thought it was awful that the black men were accused of rape just because they were black. It was enlightening to read that they were finally properly put to rest. It's just hard to imagine that it took so long for society to understand we are all equal.

  2. I hope you and Mrs. Greenan will be able to present your projects. How long does this presentation have to be and what will it entail?