The Lyncher In Me
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In June 1920, in Duluth, Minnesota, a mob of over 10,000 convened upon the police station, inflamed by the rumor that black circus workers had raped a white teenage girl--charges that would later be proven false. Three men were dragged from their cells and lynched in front of the cheering crowd. More than eighty years later, Warren Read--a fourth-grade teacher, devoted partner, and father to three boys--plugged his mother's maiden name into a computer search engine, then clicked on a link to a newspaper article that would forever alter his understanding of himself. Louis Dondino, his beloved great-grandfather, had incited the deadly riot on that dark summer night decades before. In his poignant memoir, Read explores the perspectives of both the victims and the perpetrators of this heinous crime. He investigates the impact--the denial and anger--that the long-held secrets had on his family. Through this examination of the generations affected by one horrific night, he discovers we must each take responsibility for "our deep-seated fears that lead us to emotional, social, or physical violence."
violent that she’d been barely able to walk the few blocks to the streetcar. Murphy called the dispatcher at the police station. “Get hold of Fiskett, Schulte, Lading, and Olson,” he demanded. “Find ten or twelve others and have them meet me at the Duluth, Winnipeg, and Paciﬁc lines in West Duluth right away.” Daylight had yet to break as the officers ran clumsily down the tracks to the waiting train. The men breathlessly questioned the urgency of this raid, taking pains to keep their footing as
unremarkable in his obvious conclusions that no apparent signs of trauma existed. Dr. David Graham made this very clear when contacted by one skeptical detective. “I don’t think she was raped,” Graham told him. When interviewed for the evening edition of the Duluth Herald that night, he was quoted as saying, “I believe she is suffering more from nervous exhaustion than anything else.” These details neither reached nor mattered to the growing mob waiting outside the station doors. Their
him. Reaching into his pocket, he drew out a pair of dice, letting them sail deﬁantly to the ground. “I won’t need these anymore in this world,” he said ﬁrmly. A young man in the crowd retrieved them and offered them back to Elmer. “Well, you might want to roll them in the next,” he sneered. It’s hard to imagine what must have gone through Elmer’s mind in the ﬁnal moments of life, what thoughts brought him to his stoic acceptance of his fate. Witnesses reported an eerie sense of calm in his
lumbering at her feet. She wanted so badly to pounce, to tear him to pieces, but logic and parental responsibilities kept her at bay. Visits with my father were an exercise in me chatting nonchalantly about my own life while he spun tales that showed him as the Steve McQueen of the medium security set. He’d point to various men in the room to create an exciting scene in prison life that involved them. He liked to try to paint himself as a respected man among the harder set, never mind what I
neighbors and their classmates. They’d hear talk about Arabs and Muslims and we wanted them to understand that these were not bad words but good words that might be used in a bad way. We increased supervision that week, not due to any fear of our Iraqi community but to protect against any hysterical reactions by others. And in spite of the incredible horrors that continued to unfold that day and in the coming days, I can say without hesitation that things ran unbelievably smoothly within the