The Lyncher In Me
A Search for Redemption in the Face of History
Author Warren Read
Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 15, 2008)
The powerful true story of one man’s shocking family discovery, an exhaustive search for meaning, and a poignant and remarkable path to understanding, balance, and healing.
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.”
Warren Read is a writer who teaches elementary school on Bainbridge Island and lives with his partner and their three boys in Kingston, Washington. In 2003 Duluth unveiled what remains the most significant memorial to lynching victims in the United States. Read was the final speaker of the day. Serving as a representative of his family’s violent legacy, he willingly shouldered responsibility for his ancestor’s actions. The Lyncher in Me is his first book.
Reviews and news
“In The Lyncher in Me, Warren Read traces two unlikely stories—the 1920 Duluth lynchings of three black men and the startling discovery that he is a descendant of one of the organizers of that lynch mob—in a riveting memoir that carries us beyond the Duluth tragedy to the triumph of a life passionately and artfully lived.”
Michael Fedo, author of The Lynchings in Duluth
“Warren Read dares to confront the truths about our families that shape who we are, for good and ill. He then does the bravest thing of all: he shows compassion for these people and for himself.”
Kathleen Alcalá, author of The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing
“Warren Read skillfully weaves autobiography, history, and reflection to pull the reader into both his family’s story and America’s ongoing struggles with our history of lynching.”
James H. Madison, author of A Lynching in the Heartland: Race and Memory in America
“More than just a story about our nation’s all-too-recent history of racial violence, The Lyncher in Me unravels a family’s darkest secrets in an account that will linger with readers long after the last page. Surprising, timely, no holes barred.”
Ken Olsen, coauthor with Vernon J. Baker of Lasting Valor
This website facilitates access to a variety of primary source materials relating to the 1920 lynching. Search historical documents from the Minnesota Historical Society's collections, including newspaper clippings, investigative reports, trial transcripts, prison records, and photographs. Read background text, listen to oral histories, view a multimedia timeline, and use the other features designed to complement the primary source materials.
- This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
- 208 pages
- 10 b&w photos
- 5.5 x 8.5 inches
- ISBN: 9780873516075