On June 15 , 1920 , three African -Americans were lynched in Duluth , Minnesota, accused without proof of raping a white woman .
One hundred years later, the northern US state on Friday pardoned another black man convicted of the crime , which he repeatedly denied committing .
Max Mason , who died in 1942, has become the first person to benefit from a posthumous pardon in Minnesota, a potent symbolic action at a time when Americans are confronting the roots of racism that still taints substantial portions of society.
The pardon request was filed well before the May 25 death of George Floyd , a handcuffed black man who died when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd ’ s neck for nearly nine minutes .
The killing , caught on video , triggered coast- to-coast protests , making the Mason pardon timely .
“100 years late, overdue justice has been done ,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said on Twitter .
“The last weeks in MN have shown us we have a need for a better quality of justice . A pardon for Max Mason is another long- delayed step toward it.”
On June 14 of 1920, young white woman Irene Tusken and a male friend attended the circus in Duluth . The next day , the man told his father they had been attacked by black circus troupe members and that Tusken was raped .
Police rounded up and interrogated several black men including Mason , but the couple was unable to identify anyone as one of the attackers .
According to court documents , a doctor examined the woman but could find no evidence of the assault.
Mason was released , and he rejoined the traveling circus as it departed Duluth . But police re -arrested him along with several other men .
Later that night, an angry mob broke into the police station and grabbed three men , dragging them through the streets before hanging them in front of thousands of people .
Duluth is the home town of famed folk singer Bob Dylan , whose 1965 song “Desolation Row ” was written in part about the crime .
The city has apologized for the lynching and in 2003 erected a memorial to the three victims .
Mason escaped the fate of those three men . But he was sentenced to 30 years in prison , in part because it was learned that he and Tusken were both infected with gonorrhea , a common venereal disease .
“If he had been a white man , I am rather doubtful if he would have been convicted ,” county attorney Mason Forbes said in 1923 pardon request .