Also known as the Hang Tree Series, this was part of Ken Gonzales-Day's eight year project to search for, and photograph, possible, probably, and verifiable lynching sites in California. Perhaps most significantly, his project included the discovery and documentation of over 350 cases of lynching in the state of California between 1850 and 1935. Contrary to the popular image of 'cowboy justice' and Wild West vigilantism as being an exclusively white-on-white crime, Gonzales-Day was able to document, that in California, the majority (nearly two thirds) of cases of vigilantism involved the lynching of African Americans, Native Americans, Chinese, and Latinos of Mexican and Latin American descent, but Gonzales-Day documented more than the sites themselves. He was able to prove that Mexicans and Mexican Americans were the victims of racial violence, a fact which may help to shed some light on the contemporary debates around citizenship, immigration, and the migration of persons between Mexico and the United States.
The photographs are silent reminders that lynchings and other acts of racial violence were not simply part of some distant past but continue to influence California born Latinos, their families and loved ones, today as one hundred and sixty years ago.
© 2010 SuperMassiveBlackHole and its contributors
Gonzales-Day, Ken. "Searching for California's Hang Trees." SuperMassiveBlackWhole, Issue 6. 2010. http://www.supermassiveblackholemag.com/