Why Were These Circus Workers Lynched?

Barnum and Bailey circus poster
Via Picryl
Leslie Taylor-Grover
January 28, 2021

The men stood in line all day, hoping to be considered for jobs with the traveling circus

Down South in the early 1900s, white men usually got these high-quality jobs, so it was a blessing when Black men were hired. Up North was different, though! At least, that’s what they thought at first.

As the circus attracted more and more people from everywhere – even folks outside of Duluth, MN – crime began to increase. Of course, racism had to show up, too.

When a white woman falsely claimed she was raped by six Black circus workers, they were thrown into jail. White terrorists, hungry for the opportunity to shed blood, stormed the jailhouse. With the help of racist cops, the mob captured the men. What happened next was unsurprising, but infuriating.

Three men were lynched on the spot. After outrage from the local Black community, local authorities investigated – the victims! Seven Black workers were jailed for the nonexistent rape. 

A few racists were arrested – for “rioting.” The three murders were never even mentioned!

The injustice has gone unpunished as of today, but the Black community remembers. As these lynchings prove, we must remember that no place is above racism and white terrorism, and arrests are not justice. We must continue our fight to be treated as human beings, especially when crimes are committed against us.

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