1920 Duluth Lynchings - Background

Background

In September 1918, a Finnish immigrant named Olli Kinkkonen was lynched in Duluth, allegedly for dodging military service during World War I. Kinkkonen was found dead, tarred and feathered, and hanging from a tree in Lester Park. Authorities did not pursue murder charges because they claimed that he had committed suicide after the shame of having been tarred and feathered.

During and immediately following World War I, a large population of African Americans emigrated from the South to the North and Midwest in search of job opportunities. The predominantly white Midwest perceived the black migrant laborers as a threat to their employment, as well as to their ability to negotiate pay rates. US Steel, for instance, the most important regional employer, addressed labor concerns by leveraging African-American laborers, migrants from the South.

This racial antagonism erupted into race riots across the North and Midwest in 1919; this period of widespread flourishes of violence became known as the Red Summer of 1919. Even after the riots subsided, racial relations between blacks and whites remained strained and volatile.

Read more about this topic:  1920 Duluth Lynchings

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