Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

March 14, 1940

On March 14, 1940, the Los Angeles Sentinel reported on a kidnapping and murder case that remains unsolved. Nine-year-old Dorothy Lee Gordon was abducted at 17th and Hooper (southeast of downtown) while walking from her home (1428 E. 22 St.) to an Easter pageant rehearsal at Cornerstone Baptist Church. Her friend told police that Dorothy had been lured into a gray sedan by a “bareheaded white man.” Sentinel publisher Leon Washington encouraged “social and civil organizations” to “establish a reward for information leading to the return of the child and arrest of her abductor...All organizations including churches, lodges, clubs and individuals interested in the safety of our womanhood should rally their financial support” (click to view PDF).

Dorothy Lee Gordon’s body was found in a field in Del Rey on April 19, 1940. The following week the Sentinel published a front-page editorial warning citizens to be vigilant. “No child is safe as long as the slayer of Dorothy Gordon is alive,” the newspaper advised. “There is every reason to believe that a degenerate of the kind who killed the little child will return to this community sooner or later to pick up some other innocent and unsuspecting victim. Every parent should warn his child to have nothing at all to do with any stranger and should also tell the children to report any case of molestation to adults immediately. In addition local residents should keep a sharp lookout for any strangers who are seen near schools or playgrounds and who are loitering there...Those who aid in this quest for Dorothy Gordon’s killer are not only helping punish a guilty man; they are protecting their own innocent loved ones” (click to view PDF).

The case made a lasting impression on Sentinel columnist Stanley G. Robinson. Robinson was born in Los Angeles and was fourteen-years-old when Dorothy Lee Gordon was abducted and murdered. In several articles spanning four decades, Robinson described the tragic case as a touchstone memory for black Angelenos of his generation:

June 7, 1951
April 11, 1957
December 12, 1957
April 9, 1959
April 28, 1966
February 11, 1971
October 10, 1985

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