They Killed This Family For Crossing "The Race Line"

house on fire
Briona Lamback
December 13, 2021

On December 16, 1945, in Fontana, California, a family slept. Helen Short had put her children to sleep just a few hours before their home erupted into flames. But not by accident.

See, in 1940s Fontana, there was a saying: “Base Line is the race line.” It was a reference to Fontana’s residential racial lines that kept Black families in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Helen’s husband, O’Day Short, challenged that by building their family home on the other side of town.

But he was warned: his new home was “out of bounds” and vigilantes would attack his family if they stayed.

Short reported the violent threats to the FBI and local sheriff, who did nothing. Days later, a massive explosion killed his wife and two children! O’Day died shortly after hearing the news. 

But the story wasn’t over: Black Fontanians wouldn’t let this crime get swept under the rug!

Despite the NAACP hiring an arson investigator and evidence of harassment against the Short family, local officials determined the explosion was an accident and closed the case. No one was ever charged.

Anti-Black vigilantes feel so empowered in their white “supremacy,” that they believe they’re not only above the law, but that they ARE the law. Meanwhile, we’re left with the sour knowledge that the system can never give us true justice for senseless murders like the Short’s.

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