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"Trial by Mob" radio drama

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The 1920 lynching of three young black men in Duluth is retold in a KVSC 88.1 FM radio docudrama airing noon March 1.

"Trial by Mob: The Duluth Lynchings" is a first-time production of a Michael Fedo script, based on Fedo's 2000 Minnesota Historical Society Press book "The Lynchings in Duluth."

Fedo, producer Jo McMullen-Boyer '91, director Carol Cooley and others previewed the hour-long drama at a Feb. 25 discussion and program launch in Atwood Memorial Center. A recording of the discussion airs 1 p.m. March 1.

On the evening of June 15, 1920, a crowd of thousands attacked the police station in Duluth, pulling Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie from their jail cells. The three young black men were beaten and hanged by their necks from a lamp post at Second Avenue East and First Street.

The men, who were working for a traveling circus, were accused of raping 19-year-old Irene Tusken on the evening of June 14. Little evidence would be found to corroborate these claims. A June 15 examination of Tusken by David Graham, a family physician, showed no physical signs of rape or assault. 

No one was convicted for murdering Clayton, Jackson and McGhie. Visit the Minnesota Historical Society's Duluth Lynchings Online Resource site for more information. 

The lynchings happened during a period of racial hysteria in America. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People documented at least 3,224 Americans lynched between 1889 and 1918. Of those, 79 percent were black. Visit the Without Sanctuary website, which displays 81 annotated photos of lynching victims.

"Trial by Mob: The Duluth Lynchings" was recorded, mixed and mastered by Nick Hendrickson '12, a satellite truck engineer for Arctek HD. Among the cast of 14 actors and more than 10 vocal extras were students, former students and alumni, including senior J.T. Scott, Minneapolis; sophomore Korina Borash, Esko; John O'Toole Peterson '14, St. Cloud; and Andy Valenty, St. Cloud.

A Duluth native, Fedo is a retired journalist and former college professor. McMullen Boyer is the KVSC station manager. Cooley is costume shop manager for the SCSU Department of Theatre and Film Studies. Among others in the Feb. 25 discussion were Debra Leigh, lead organizer for SCSU's Community Anti-Racism Education Initiative, and Barry Schreiber, SCSU criminal justice studies professor.

The production was made possible, in part, by a grant from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. It is KVSC's second major contribution to local history in recent years. In 2009, the station produced a series of podcasts by a Holocaust survivior, the late Henry Oertelt.

Licensed to St. Cloud State since 1967, KVSC 88.1 FM is an independent community radio station that broadcasts non-stop to a potential Central Minnesota audience of two million people. 

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