Q: Are there visiting hours or costs to view the Memorial?
A: The Memorial is free and open to the public 24 hrs a day and 7 days a week, all year round.--it's public art, on public property in downtown Duluth.
Q: Who designed the memorial?
A: The memorial was designed by Carla Stetson, an artist who lives in Duluth, MN. She worked with an editor named Anthony Peyton Porter who chose the quotes and words etched upon it. Her design was chosen by the community after viewing several designs that were solicited by the Duluth Public Arts Commission. Carla's other work can be viewed at www.carlastetson.com.
Q: How do you know these men were truly innocent of raping Irene Tusken?
A: Anyone who reads the full transcript of Max Mason’s trial will find that her story is at best, improbable. Even contemporary analysis found holes in her story that were convenient and incredible. (Her own personal physician didn’t believe she was raped, but his testimony was kept out of Max Mason’s trial.) However, if we set aside the reality that mob violence was WRONG and UNLAWFUL regardless of whether or not a crime was committed against her, and the fact that all Americans have the right to confront their accuser in a court of law—if we set all that aside, we can still look at the facts of the case:
- All of the men who were arrested for the rape of Irene Tusken were chosen by her only reluctantly, and only based on their “general size and shape.” She admits this several times in her testimony, even uttering the “all of them look alike to me” defense for her inability to identify anyone, which was accepted by the court. Jimmie Sullivan couldn’t identify anyone, despite the fact that he was, according to his testimony, awake during the supposed rape. There were two times when the accusers attempted to pick out the accused, one was in the wee hours of the morning after the rape. The other was a month later, when only those accused (in other words, there were no men in the “lineup” that weren’t accused of raping Irene) were paraded before the accusers.
- The identification process was so thoroughly corrupted that there was no possible way that the accused were anything other than random choices from a group of 100-150 black men who worked for the John Robinson Circus.
- Continuing research has found, also, that the time frames under which circus workers operated (which were highly choreographed and supervised) made the possibility of the sort of “free time” required to have committed this crime—especially at the specific time the accusers pointed to--highly unlikely. Add in the fact that black men employed by the circus at this time were very unlikely to own guns (too expensive, too difficult to hide in the tight quarters of the circus life), and you have a story that doesn’t hold up.
Q: What really happened? Didn’t something happen to Tusken to make her make this accusation?
A: No one knows truly what happened except the accusers, and they never admitted lying, that we know of, while they were alive. (Firstly, remember that Sullivan was the one who did the initial accusing.) There are other some vague clues:
- There is a rumor that Irene said to someone close to her that she and Jimmie had “had a fight” that night.
- It is said that Jimmie’s brother didn’t speak to him for years after the lynching.
- Jimmie was known to be a gambler, a showoff, and to have a good job (especially for someone of his age, 17). Circuses were known as places where one could gamble, and the sideshow in particular was a place where grift and con games were common. It is also known that black circus workers were fond of dice games. In Jimmie’s testimony, he claims to have had no money on him when the accused attempted to rob him. One theory is that he either lost in a dice game to some of the men, tried to gamble with them on an empty pocket, or that he got cheated somehow by some of the workers (grift still being relatively common at that time in the circus world). There has even been the theory that Jimmie gambled with Irene’s “favors” somehow, and that she was a willing or semi-willing participant in some sort of sexual exchange.
Add in the contemporary racist dynamic of “black men are animals who crave the flesh of white women” and you’ve got a recipe for unquestioning, vengeful masses eager for blood.
Q: What does building a monument do? What’s the point in addressing a crime that happened over 80 years ago?
A: The committee subscribes to the idea that no matter how long past a crime was committed, the community as a whole has a responsibility for atonement. Those who committed the lynching are all dead, but we are their descendants, in actuality or simply by being members of a community that turned out in racist force against innocents. It is only a symbol. We cannot bring them back, and both perpetrators and accused cannot be addressed. But that symbol is a way of saying “never again.” In a way, the memorial itself was a project of community healing. People of all races came together to say, “I’m sorry this happened. I will do what I can to make sure it cannot happen again.” People worked together to address their collective past.
Statement by Warren Read
Q: Why is the memorial located where it is?
A: Because it happened just across the intersection.
Q: Is the memorial paid for?
A: Yes. In fact, the Memorial Committee repaid the loan early, due to the generosity of the people of Duluth.
Q: How much did it cost?
A: About $250,000.
Q: Who owns it?
A: The Duluth Public Arts Commission.
Q: What is the committee up to now that the memorial is built?
A: Educating the public on discrimination issues, building coalitions between like-minded community groups, planning community forums, and working in general to educate the community and area youth on racism.