Before Sun Village
Although Sun Village was the first established Black community in the Antelope Valley, it wasn’t the first time Black families lived in the region. Newspaper and community records suggest that Charles Graves and his family were among the first Black families to settle in the valley in the late 1880s. Graves had been born into slavery in Kentucky in 1856. After his father was killed during the Civil War, Graves decided to move west. He traveled mostly by rail until stopping in the Antelope Valley. Graves settled down in one of the northern cities of the valley, Rosamond, in 1882, a few decades after Peter Burnett’s legislative and gubernatorial campaigns to ban Black residency in the state and a few decades before Colonel Allen Allensworth established the eponymous all-Black colony 120 miles to the north. At first, times were tough due to the major drought that struck the state in the 1870s. But Graves stuck it out, building a cattle ranch, becoming the city’s postmaster, and striking gold in two of the region’s many small mines. His success allowed him to build Rosamond’s first school, which he did with his wife Cordia Anita Roberts in 1908 – not twenty years after the landmark Wysinger v. Crookshank ruling that barred California cities from explicitly segregating public schools. Graves died in Lancaster thirty years later, but sites across Rosamond – including a public school in the same location as his first one-room attempt – still bear his name.
Chicago lawyer named Melvin Ray Grubbs (pictured in the header) arrived in the Antelope Valley in the late 1930s. In the valley, he hoped to help build a Black community, seeing a new development as preferable to hoping for integration in the valley. Bishop Henry Hearns recounted Grubbs’ approach to community building as a pragmatic one, “He had very choice words, ‘Ain’t no use trying to get so and so up off your back, because they don’t want you. So why don’t we build our own community right here?’”
Grubbs started the Sun Village Incorporated Land Corporation in 1939, buying 1,000 acres of land 5 miles east of Palmdale, which he intended to sell as parcels. Through his company, Sun Village Land Corporation, lots were made available for purchase by Black families.
Until Grubbs’ intervention, Black families largely had to commute up to the valley to work in its industries, and then return at night to Los Angeles, a brutal drive today but even worse on poor roads with little lighting. Now, with the chance to buy and build housing, those families arrived in droves.
Sun Village was advertised in local papers, like the South Antelope Valley Press above, but also in Los Angeles’ Black press, like the LA Sentinel. Though it was deep in the desert, and lacked municipal infrastructure, Sun Village had one key advantage that made it attractive – unlike in much of Los Angeles, Black families faced no restrictive covenants or other barriers to purchasing land and building a home.
February 13, 1947, marked the first mention of Sun Village in the Antelope Valley's main newspaper, the South Antelope Valley Press. The article reads: "Promoters of Sun Village, Inc. a colored sub-division located nine-miles east of Palmdale near 90th St. and Avenue Q-8, have sold over 1,000 acre lots to date, according to reliable information given to the Press. According to reports three sections of land have been purchased by the promoters, and over half of it has been sold to prospective colored and white home owners. An office, which also serves as a residence for the agent in charge, has been erected on the site, as well as four deep wells which will furnish water for the sub-division. Promoters claim a $3,500 building restriction on all lots."
In the 1950s, the Antelope Valley's main newspaper, the South Antelope Valley Press, began to carry a regular column from Sun Village, as it did for each community in the valley (ie: News from Quartz Hill). Over the next decade, "News from Sun Village" was written by Maurice McGowan, Daisy Gibson, and Saleta Gibson. Like other neighborhoods' dispatches, the columns were short, and often covered everyday goings-on, but they gave a sense of the heartbeat of Sun Village and its development over time.
By February 1962, if not earlier, the News from Sun Village column began reporting the annual Negro History Day (soon to be week) organized by Sun Village's community leaders. Saleta Gibson's article about it above
Input your search keywords and press Enter.