This past June, 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California. Though the LAPD ruled Fuller’s death as a suicide due to there not being any signs of struggle and Fuller having a history of mental illness, Black communities across the nation have been skeptical of the investigation. Why would a Black man hang himself in an open space, a tragedy that would make anyone with an understanding of racial terrorism in this country conjure images of lynching?
But what distinguishes this story in our present day context is not only its timing, during some of the greatest protests against police brutality the world has ever seen, but also its location. This hanging did not happen in the deep south or the rural midwest but in Los Angeles County.
Antelope Valley, where Palmdale is located, was recently described by one longtime resident as “The Confederacy of Southern California.” One might be fooled into believing California’s year-round sun, palm trees, and pristine beaches provide a buffer against racism in other places. It doesn’t.
I discovered this while doing field research for my forthcoming book, Wandering In Strange Lands. I am a descendant of some of the millions of Black Americans who fled the South during the early to mid-twentieth century because of rampant, racialized violence. In my research, I sought to unpack how much we’ve lost in our displacement over the decades.
‘I Wasn’t Taught Certain Things About My Ancestors’
ZORA’s own Morgan Jerkins in conversation with novelist Kaitlyn Greenidge
I had just finished a weeklong stint of research in Oklahoma, where I seldom stayed out past sunset. Black and Indigenous locals had overwhelmed me with stories about sundown towns, places where disappearances and lynchings were not uncommon endings for BIPOC after dark. I assumed that in California, I’d get a bit of…