Bryan Stevenson is hopeful for a more just society

Sculptures of three people in relief.
Located on the corner of East First Street and North Second Avenue East in Duluth, the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is quiet on June 9, 2020. The 100th anniversary of the lynchings of Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie is on June 15. Original plans called for about 10,000 people gathering in the streets surrounding the memorial for the anniversary, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed those plans into 2021.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News file

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of the darkest days in Minnesota history. An angry mob lynched three black men in Duluth. A huge crowd of white people turned out to watch, and even sent postcards of the lynching.

A somber centennial commemorative event was planned long ago, and was expected to draw thousands to Duluth on Monday, to hear an address by Bryan Stevenson, the author of "Just Mercy" and the founder of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, in Montgomery, Alabama. It's sometimes called "The Lynching Memorial."

The Bryan Stevenson address isn't happening in Duluth because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he was in Minnesota in November 2014 to speak at the Westminster Town Hall Forum.

He said “we’ve created a society that has been corrupted by the politics of fear and anger.”

Stevenson called for truth and reconciliation. “We’ve never confronted the history of racism in this country … and we need to acknowledge our mistakes.”

We need to think differently about race, poverty and justice, Stevenson said.

But he added, “I’m persuaded that hopelessness is the enemy of justice … we have to be individually and collectively hopeful. ... It’s never too late to be fair, to be just.”

He urged people in the audience to work to create a more just society…. to stand up and to speak up, when they see injustice… and choose to do “necessary, but uncomfortable, things.”

The Westminster Town Hall Forum on November 25, 2014 was moderated by pastor Timothy Hart-Andersen.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.