Published: Aug. 15, 2021
By: Rachel Mipro, LSU Manship School News Service
First in a four-part series.
During the 1950s in northeast Louisiana, future Klansman Robert Fuller was a familiar face to law enforcement.
He lived on the outskirts of Monroe. Local police considered Fuller a thug, and the FBI opened a file on him because of his involvement in prostitution. Fuller then started a sanitation business that employed his sons and several young Black employees. Their job was to empty human waste from septic tanks.
In July 1960, five of the Black employees showed up at his home, their normal gathering spot, one Wednesday morning. Minutes later, three were dead, a fourth mortally wounded. A fifth, also wounded, would survive.
Fuller would later claim he shot all five in self-defense. He said he grabbed a double-barreled shotgun from his truck — reloading three times — to fend off men swarming him with knives.
The horrific event was reported in newspapers, but two versions of the events would emerge.
One was Fuller’s self-defense claim — that he was simply saving his family from his attackers.
The other, in the Black press, was a story of mistreatment, of tensions over employees forced to beg for paltry wages and of racial animosity against Black employees. Black newspapers reported that Fuller owed the men money. By these accounts, there was no way Black men would attack a white man in an all-white neighborhood at a time when Blacks around the Jim Crow South were still struggling to secure their civil rights.
Even the FBI, in a statement released for this story, compared the scope of the killings to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that came just three years later in 1963. In that bombing, one victim was permanently blinded while four girls, ages 11 to 14, were killed.
Read more at Shreveport Times