MSBA response to the posthumous pardon of Max Mason

June 12, 2020
Contact: Cheryl Dalby, CEO

100 years later, justice at last for Max Mason

The Minnesota State Bar Association applauds the action of the Minnesota Board of Pardons earlier today in granting the first posthumous pardon in the state’s history to Max Mason, a 21-year-old black man who was falsely accused and later convicted of rape in the aftermath of the lynching of three of his fellow African American circus workers in Duluth on June 15, 1920.

The MSBA, along with many others in the Minnesota legal community, supported the application for this unprecedented pardon—prepared and argued before the Board by Minneapolis attorney Jerry Blackwell—by providing a letter on Mason’s case and a column on the Duluth lynchings, both written by MSBA President Tom Nelson, as materials backing the application.

“Our State's treatment of Mr. Mason, and the tragic and terroristic events of Duluth in the 1920s, have long been a stain on our State and society—rooted in a racism that continues to haunt and harm our lives, and enacted under a purported and twisted version of the rule of law,” Nelson wrote on behalf of the bar. “[I]t is always the right time to right a wrong—and Mr. Mason's arrest, conviction, imprisonment and banishment is a wrong that has long called for righting.”