The Time Has Come (Ballad of the 1920 Duluth Lynching)

Larry Long in concert.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the June 15, 1920, mob lynching circus workers Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie, troubadour Larry Long shared with us the previously unpublished song.

 To travel north imagine that

To never have to tip your hat

To some white man who just might pass  

Cookhouse by day, big top by night

Keep your nose clean just do what’s right

Keep those white girls out of sight  

Haul them tents and strike them down

Long after the circus crowd 

Has gone back home to their northern Duluth town  

Twelve A.M. the train hits the track

At six A.M. forced from the rack

With a night stick stuck in your back  

Up she drives to the line

She’s not sure yet she still identifies

Each not by looks but each by size  

Clayton, Jackson, Williams, Greene

Thomas and young Isaac McGhee

Who joined the circus late that spring  

Even though after exam

There was no pain by speculum or hand

There was no rape deduced Dr. Graham  

Yet rumors spread she was hospitalized

Which soon became that poor girl died

For what truth is found in a lie  

With battling rams, axes, songs

Now's the time to right this wrong

To storm that jailhouse 10,000 strong  

For not a drop of white man’s blood

Shall be spilled orders did come

No deputy may use a gun or club  

Against the mob who soon prevailed

Like a flood gate sprung straight from hell

The mob rushed into those dark damp cells  

Behind the bed sat young McGhee

Rocking back and forth on his knees,

“Help me Jesus won’t you please help me.”  

“The less you kick the less it hurts.”

That Duluth lynch mob cursed

From a lamp post strung above the earth  

Left to rot in unmarked graves

These free men descendants of slaves

Each of whom we know by name  

For what good if not for love

For the accused wrongfully judged

To end all hatred the time has come


Words & Music by Larry Long Copyright Larry Long 2020/BMI  

Larry Long: Vocal; Guitar Peter Schimke: Keyboards; Percussion

Larry Long in 1980.