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Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

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Bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, exposes the secret communities and hotbeds of racial injustice that sprung up throughout the twentieth century unnoticed, forcing us to reexamine race relations in the United States. In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, Bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, exposes the secret communities and hotbeds of racial injustice that sprung up throughout the twentieth century unnoticed, forcing us to reexamine race relations in the United States. In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, brings to light decades of hidden racial exclusion in America. In a provocative, sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, Loewen uncovers the thousands of “sundown towns”—almost exclusively white towns where it was an unspoken rule that blacks could not live there—that cropped up throughout the twentieth century, most of them located outside of the South. These towns used everything from legal formalities to violence to create homogenous Caucasian communities—and their existence has gone unexamined until now. For the first time, Loewen takes a long, hard look at the history, sociology, and continued existence of these towns, contributing an essential new chapter to the study of American race relations. Sundown Towns combines personal narrative, history, and analysis to create a readable picture of this previously unknown American institution all written with Loewen’s trademark honesty and thoroughness.


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Bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, exposes the secret communities and hotbeds of racial injustice that sprung up throughout the twentieth century unnoticed, forcing us to reexamine race relations in the United States. In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, Bestselling author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen, exposes the secret communities and hotbeds of racial injustice that sprung up throughout the twentieth century unnoticed, forcing us to reexamine race relations in the United States. In this groundbreaking work, bestselling sociologist James W. Loewen, author of the national bestseller Lies My Teacher Told Me, brings to light decades of hidden racial exclusion in America. In a provocative, sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, Loewen uncovers the thousands of “sundown towns”—almost exclusively white towns where it was an unspoken rule that blacks could not live there—that cropped up throughout the twentieth century, most of them located outside of the South. These towns used everything from legal formalities to violence to create homogenous Caucasian communities—and their existence has gone unexamined until now. For the first time, Loewen takes a long, hard look at the history, sociology, and continued existence of these towns, contributing an essential new chapter to the study of American race relations. Sundown Towns combines personal narrative, history, and analysis to create a readable picture of this previously unknown American institution all written with Loewen’s trademark honesty and thoroughness.

30 review for Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Theophilus (Theo)

    I remember traveling with my family when I was very young. My mother always packed lunches for us. My father would sometimes get perrturbed when my sisters or I would not go to the restroom when he stopped for gas. Little did I know then that there were only certain places he would stop (after consulting family and friends who had made that journey before) only at certain places to avoid putting our family through needless stress while spending long hous behind the wheel driving from Milwaukee, I remember traveling with my family when I was very young. My mother always packed lunches for us. My father would sometimes get perrturbed when my sisters or I would not go to the restroom when he stopped for gas. Little did I know then that there were only certain places he would stop (after consulting family and friends who had made that journey before) only at certain places to avoid putting our family through needless stress while spending long hous behind the wheel driving from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Southwestern Arkansas. After I grew up and joined the Air Force I heard many discussions in the barracks about where we (African Americans) could go off base for some recreation and a meal. The myth of the "Sundown Town" was not a myth, but a reality for African Americans, military and civilian. This book explains in depth where they are, how they got started, how they perpetuate themselves. A fantastic book. A bit lengthy for the recreational reader, but an exceptional learning tool for those who want more than a bit of titillation or escape from reality. This book hits you right in the mouth with reality. I was surprised to find my hometown, Milwaukee discussed therein, but it explained a lot about why there were certain neighborhoods we were warned aginst going into when I was growing up. Read it! You will be affected by it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I recommended this book to a friend during the first part of December last year. She read the description and laughed, “Holiday reading, something to depress me over Christmas.” She has a point. It’s not unlike being hammered with a nailgun. There aren’t any uplifting vignettes just one hard fact after another. It reminded me of Maxine Hong Kingston, “This is terrible ghost country, where a human being works her life away.” I would prefer that it was academic with Loewen citing primary sources in I recommended this book to a friend during the first part of December last year. She read the description and laughed, “Holiday reading, something to depress me over Christmas.” She has a point. It’s not unlike being hammered with a nailgun. There aren’t any uplifting vignettes just one hard fact after another. It reminded me of Maxine Hong Kingston, “This is terrible ghost country, where a human being works her life away.” I would prefer that it was academic with Loewen citing primary sources instead of books. I don’t dispute any of the author's claims. I tracked the reference trail on a few and arrived at United States Census Bureau records. With the US Census as a source, he could directly cite them. They’re readily available. The single most significant takeaway message for me revolved around home ownership. Houses account for 63% of most Americans wealth. Before the Nation Housing Act (NHA) of 1934, a home buyer needs a down payment of 30-50%. Under the agency of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), created by the NHA, a buyer needed a 10-20% down payment for a loan and would also benefit in a tax break thanks to a mortgage-interest deduction (MID). FHA and VA loans largely financed the home-owning boom that followed World War II. Two percent of those loans were to minorities. The Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibited racial discrimination, but the oversight office, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had no power to enforce the law. FHA publications repeatedly listed “inharmonious racial or nationality groups” alongside noxious disamenities as “smoke, odors, and fog.” Again, this was the familiar “blacks as the problem” ideology, and the FHA’s solution was identical to that employed by independent sundown towns: keep “the problem” out. Palen states that loan guarantees by the FHA and Veterans Administration (VA) were the most important single cause of postwar suburbanization and more than 98% of the millions of home loans guaranteed by the FHA and VA after World War II were available only to whites. This was the money that funded the Levittowns and most other postwar sundown suburbs. America became a nation of homeowners largely after World War II, in the suburbs. Indeed, more Americans bought single-family homes in the decade after the war than in the previous 150 years, according to historian Lizbeth Cohen. African Americans were thus not only shut out of the suburbs but also kept from participating in Americans’ surest route to wealth accumulation, federally subsidized home ownership. Federal support for home ownership not only included the FHA and VA programs but also the mortgage interest tax deduction, which made home ownership in the suburbs cheaper than apartment rental in the cities—for whites. Housing prices then skyrocketed, tripling in the 1970s alone; this appreciation laid the groundwork for the astonishing 1-to-11 black-to-white wealth ratio that now afflicts African American families. (35) When the federal government did spend money on black housing, it funded the opposite of suburbia: huge federally assisted high-rise “projects” concentrated in the inner city. We are familiar with the result, which now seems natural to us, market-driven: African Americans living near the central business district and whites living out in the suburbs. Actually, locating low-income housing of cheaper, already vacant land in the suburbs would have been more natural, more market-driven. One of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects, Cabrini Green, lies just a stone’s throw west of an expensive and desirable lakefront neighborhood north of the Loop, separated by the elevated railroad tracks. This is costly land. To justify its price, the Chicago Housing Authority had to pile hundreds of units onto the tract, building poorly devised physical structures that bred a festering, unsafe social structure. The steps taken by suburban developers and governments to be all-white were interferences in the housing market that kept African Americans from buying homes and locked them in overwhelmingly black tracts inside the city. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/... http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002... https://www.npr.org/2017/05/03/526655... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economi... https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/ma...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    This is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but the subject matter. Loewen lays out, in methodical detail, all of the ways white Americans have utterly screwed over black Americans with residential segregation. If you had any illusions about America being "post-racial," they will be shattered by this book. This is absolutely essential reading for every white American. I wish they taught this boo This is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but the subject matter. Loewen lays out, in methodical detail, all of the ways white Americans have utterly screwed over black Americans with residential segregation. If you had any illusions about America being "post-racial," they will be shattered by this book. This is absolutely essential reading for every white American. I wish they taught this book in schools.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Sundown Towns is an anthology of racism that led to towns creating covenants (sometimes unwritten) that excluded minorities from living in these towns, working in these towns, and even in some cases passing through these towns .The book is more generally about the racism directed at African Americans, Chinese and Jewish Americans. There is some coverage of lynchings. Heavy stuff for sure. Most of the focus of the book is on the midwest in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan but there are examples fro Sundown Towns is an anthology of racism that led to towns creating covenants (sometimes unwritten) that excluded minorities from living in these towns, working in these towns, and even in some cases passing through these towns .The book is more generally about the racism directed at African Americans, Chinese and Jewish Americans. There is some coverage of lynchings. Heavy stuff for sure. Most of the focus of the book is on the midwest in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan but there are examples from the west coast and many other states. Although the author’s aims are laudable, the book struggles in a few areas. First off, the quality of the writing is poor. Essentially we see a dense collection of thin paragraphs around lynchings, discrimination and sundown towns. As such the writing is very repetitive. I counted the use of the word sundown no less than 1,809 times in this 500 page book. Imagine reading a book and seeing that word an average of 4 times per page! There were many others. The second area where this book suffers is that there is no real depth to any of the stories. As I alluded to earlier, there is often only a sentence or two to reference the hundreds of towns identified. Since this book is repetitive from the first page of the book, the author is preaching to the choir. I did not need any convincing as I grew up in a town that fit all the parameters of a sundown town and educated people will acknowledge that there is a heck of a lot of racism in this country. However I wanted to learn about the human stories rather than town x did not have any African Americans in the 1930 census. In contrast I think of the great books covering America’s history of racism and they all told compelling stories. On the plus side, I strongly concur with the messaging in the book that pervasive racism led to the formation of sundown towns in the midwest and elsewhere. A lot of racism and discrimination still exists today especially in areas like housing. This is a prescient book since the current president was successfully sued for housing discrimination and the dog whistles from this administration sound an awful lot like the language used by these historical sundown towns.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Vannessa Anderson

    What I learned The Democratic party was the white man’s party and didn’t become everybody’s party until 1964 Nadir 1890-1940 Incubator of Sundown Towns Anna: Ain’t No Niggers Allowed NDLTSGDOY: Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You Boy: adult male African Americans who are less than a man NMNMNN: No Malaria, No Mosquitoes, and No Negroes/Niggers …had Sundown Towns until 2002 Sundown Towns aka gray towns—sunset towns—any organized jurisdiction that for decades (until the 1970s) kept African Americ What I learned The Democratic party was the white man’s party and didn’t become everybody’s party until 1964 Nadir 1890-1940 Incubator of Sundown Towns Anna: Ain’t No Niggers Allowed NDLTSGDOY: Nigger, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on You Boy: adult male African Americans who are less than a man NMNMNN: No Malaria, No Mosquitoes, and No Negroes/Niggers …had Sundown Towns until 2002 Sundown Towns aka gray towns—sunset towns—any organized jurisdiction that for decades (until the 1970s) kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus “all-white” on purpose. --no Negro or Mulatto shall migrate or settle in this state, by a vote of 1,583 to 98. (Sidebar: Mulattos were conceived by black women who were raped by white men). Some famous white people who grew-up in and/or lived in and who might have supported Sundown Towns Teddy Roosevelt—Warren G. Harding—Herbert Hoover—Thomas Dewey—Woody Guthrie—Frank Lloyd Wright—Ernest Hemingway—Edgar Rice Burroughs—Harry Truman—Lyndon Johnson—George W. Bush—Dick Cheney—Joe McCarthy—Emily Post—Edna Ferber—James Jones Even today, whites feel most strongly about differentiating themselves from African Americans, not Jewish, Mexican, Native or Asian Americans. What was invented in Sundown Towns Spam—Kentucky Fried Chicken—Heath Bars—Krispy Kreme—Tootsie Rolls. As I read Sundown Towns what kept coming to mind was how these white bigots came to America, swindled and stole the land from the Indians (stole their heritage, language, freedom, culture, etc.) and claimed the Indians land as their own, and afterwards had the nerve to say who and who could not live on that stolen land. I had to keep reminding myself that this is what people who don’t live in integrity do—what narcissists do—what psychopaths and sociopaths do by any means necessary. These bigots justified what they did as the “white” thing to do because they were superior. Sundown Towns should be required reading by every American a minimum of three times before graduating college: at the middle school level, the high school level and again at the college level. Every non-white adult American should read Sundown Towns to learn their history. Sundown Towns is an essential read for those whites who question why Blacks can’t get over slavery and just move on. And, to learn their ancestry. Never forget White men who raped and impregnated slaves are the original absentee fathers who denied their biological black children the life styles their white children enjoyed. White men who raped and impregnated slaves are the original absentee fathers who did not pay child support and who plunged their biological black children into poverty that many have been unable to rise above to date. White men who raped and impregnated slaves are the ones who denied their biological black children the right to the same education as their biological white children. Even today whites in power are carrying on the traditions of their ancestors.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Ever wonder why all the poor white people live in tiny towns, while poor black people tend to live in the inner city? This book explains that phenomenon-- apparently many poor black people used to live in tiny towns as well, but they were systematically driven out by lynch mobs, housing ordinances, covenants, banks, and real estate agents. The federal government did its part too, denying black families subsidized loans, and requiring white homeowners to buy homes in segregated neighborhoods. Th Ever wonder why all the poor white people live in tiny towns, while poor black people tend to live in the inner city? This book explains that phenomenon-- apparently many poor black people used to live in tiny towns as well, but they were systematically driven out by lynch mobs, housing ordinances, covenants, banks, and real estate agents. The federal government did its part too, denying black families subsidized loans, and requiring white homeowners to buy homes in segregated neighborhoods. This book explains a lot of our current racial problems in terms of residential segregation. There are still places where Blacks are not welcome, and the damage of a century of segregation still affects our race relations. This book helped me to understand the subtle racism that persists in any all-white community, including the past and current discriminatory policies of my own nearly all-white church. Understanding the factors that contribute to this racism is an important part of recognizing and eliminating this shameful part of our culture.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell Pearl

    In 1968, my family moved from Queens to Great Neck, a suburb of NY - one of the only NY suburbs at the time that allowed black people to own houses (as a largely Jewish suburb, it accepted us, because they also had been rejected from most suburbs in NY.) So I knew very personally what happened in the suburban US around redlining, and various other tactics, some quite violent, to keep non-whites from living in them. In 2008, I decided to leave Oakland, and move to Sonoma County, a nice, bucolic ru In 1968, my family moved from Queens to Great Neck, a suburb of NY - one of the only NY suburbs at the time that allowed black people to own houses (as a largely Jewish suburb, it accepted us, because they also had been rejected from most suburbs in NY.) So I knew very personally what happened in the suburban US around redlining, and various other tactics, some quite violent, to keep non-whites from living in them. In 2008, I decided to leave Oakland, and move to Sonoma County, a nice, bucolic rural area, which is not at all diverse. I've lived in other rural areas, also not diverse. I asked myself, why is it that there are so few black or interracial rural or semi-rural communities? I thought perhaps it was because that's not where the jobs are. Or that's just how the demographics played out. What I learned from reading this book made me realize I should have taken the lesson from my youth - there was an active, purposeful purge of non-whites from rural communities all over the country, and policies to keep them away. Did you know there were blacks in every county in Montana at one point? There were significant populations of african-americans in small rural communities all over the US prior to 1900. This book is a great historic overview of what happened to those communities, and how the suburban US was formed to specifically exclude blacks, and often also Jews and others as well. It's extremely well researched, evenhanded, and is a worthy companion to helping to understand the issues that plague us today. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history and social justice.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

    When White Americans are confronted with the topic of affirmative action, voting rights, housing practices, or other programs designed to offset systemic injustice, the most common response seems to be that racism is something from the past and isn’t an issue now or simply that it’s not their problem that Black people are just lazy and can’t get ahead. James Loewen in “Sundown Towns” examines how these beliefs led to the formation of all White towns and suburbs across America that continue to e When White Americans are confronted with the topic of affirmative action, voting rights, housing practices, or other programs designed to offset systemic injustice, the most common response seems to be that racism is something from the past and isn’t an issue now or simply that it’s not their problem that Black people are just lazy and can’t get ahead. James Loewen in “Sundown Towns” examines how these beliefs led to the formation of all White towns and suburbs across America that continue to exist to the present day. First and foremost, this is not an easy read both in the sheer length and scope of the book but also its relentlessly shocking cataloging and analysis of how these towns came into being and maintain themselves. There isn’t enough space in this review to cover all the territory that Loewen details but essentially we discover that prior to 1890, there was a remarkable amount of integration across the North and South. While both areas had their segregated areas, the former remembered Black union veterans in particular and had no malice toward many of them while the latter saw the newly emancipated slaves as a continued source of cheap labor and while still treating them as second class citizens, had little desire to drive them out. With the backlash over Reconstruction, competition for jobs, and the removal of Black representatives from positions of power however, things turned ugly quite rapidly. Black citizens were terrorized or murdered, houses burned, and families driven out of towns who never returned. Once towns became all White, intimidation and quasi-legal methods kept them that way for over a century, with many continuing into the present. These methods included, firebombing homes, lynchings, signs at county lines that read “Nigger, don’t let the sun fall down on you in_______”, a whistle in one town that blew at 6pm to let the Black workers know they had to leave the city limits, and many other similarly vile things. Loewen also details how banks, realtors, and the federal government played a large part in ensyring Black people didn’t move into these towns. Towns that often had 5,000+ people and were adjacent to large Black population centers and yet somehow had no black residents. Loewen ends the book on a hopeful note that as of 2005 when this book was written, some towns had begun to integrate (albeit slowly) and that such integration can only lead to better understanding and less fear of each other. I did some brief research of census data for many of the towns that he references and while indeed some towns Black population has risen to 3 or 4 percent when it was formerly zero, clearly we still have a long, long way to go. As Loewen writes, the first step is acknowledgement of this shameful practice in our past and our present. Speaking the truth is a major first step toward rectifying past wrongs and putting everyone on a path to a more enlightened future. Loewen’s book is a great place to start that journey.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    Aargh! Reading this is just maddening. I hate that sundown towns have ever existed, and I hate that so many segregate communities still exist.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Clarence Cromwell

    I picked this up for research towards an article, and haven't been able to put it down. A few pages into the book I was shocked by the revelation that so many northern cities (hundreds or thousands) prohibited blacks not only from traveling through after dark but from living in them at all. James Loewen did an astounding amount of research towards this hefty and exhaustively detailed book. He spells out a truth that has been hidden in plain sight for decades, but that polite middle class people ne I picked this up for research towards an article, and haven't been able to put it down. A few pages into the book I was shocked by the revelation that so many northern cities (hundreds or thousands) prohibited blacks not only from traveling through after dark but from living in them at all. James Loewen did an astounding amount of research towards this hefty and exhaustively detailed book. He spells out a truth that has been hidden in plain sight for decades, but that polite middle class people never speak about: The all-white suburbs were created, not by accident, but by deliberate, systematic and concerted efforts. The federal government refused to back loans, except in all-white neighborhoods. Homeowners associations created deed restrictions that forbade the sale of homes to nonwhites. More shockingly, when blacks moved into almost anyplace other than a large, multiracial city, they faced the danger of being run out of town or killed. America is the most segregated country in the world, and Americans continue to pretend that this happened by accident, he points out. The racism Loewen discusses did no take place long ago, or in some forgotten pocket of the deep south. The apex of violence, in this war to keep communities white, was reached in the 1980s. Most of the battles took place north of the Mason Dixon Line. Loewen recounts a multitude of shocking stories about cities small and large that intimidated their black residents into moving away, or simply slaughtered them and burned their homes down. Most of these incidents happened in the northern part of the U.S., despite conventional wisdom that racism has been quarantined in The South. He also details how white residents, and most businesses, have abandoned cities or neighborhoods where blacks were able to settle. Lowen goes on to explain that Sundown Suburbs are the cause of problems associated with inner cities (e.g. violent crimes, drugs and poverty). This book can change your perspective on almost everything, because the world looks a lot different when you consider that white neighborhoods were rioting to drive out black homeowners in the 1970s and 1980s. When you know this, it's difficult to even listen to the morons who would oppose affirmative action. And it really should remove the scales from the eyes of people who previously did not understand the reaction of blacks to the Rodney King incident and the O.J. Simpson trial.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Loewen's book is a must read for anyone who lives in the United States. While lacking the more informal format and tone of his books about historic places and textbooks, Sundown towns sheds light on a little known and little acknowledged evil in America's past and current life. This book is more of a formal study , which is understandable because Loewen is in part agruing that Sundown Towns existed. His points about neighborhoods and subarbs are equally valid. While he uses harsh (racist) langua Loewen's book is a must read for anyone who lives in the United States. While lacking the more informal format and tone of his books about historic places and textbooks, Sundown towns sheds light on a little known and little acknowledged evil in America's past and current life. This book is more of a formal study , which is understandable because Loewen is in part agruing that Sundown Towns existed. His points about neighborhoods and subarbs are equally valid. While he uses harsh (racist) language, it is when he quoets from sources and is used to not hid what happened. So he doesn't do it with a thrill or to be simply transgressive. If we are to have a conversation about race and crime and cities, this book is a must read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Johnny D

    An interesting dimension of racism, and American racism in particular, is that when whites are confronted with it, their reaction is often to blame the victims of its injustice for creating racism in the first place. To them, blacks create the racism merely by protesting or highlighting that racism. I have found this to be particularly true with reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement and the counterprotests against the recent ugly resurgence of blatant white supremacy. In fact, I recently An interesting dimension of racism, and American racism in particular, is that when whites are confronted with it, their reaction is often to blame the victims of its injustice for creating racism in the first place. To them, blacks create the racism merely by protesting or highlighting that racism. I have found this to be particularly true with reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement and the counterprotests against the recent ugly resurgence of blatant white supremacy. In fact, I recently heard one conservative activist, Sandy Rios, claim that celebrities raising money for hurricane victims are “stoking the fires of racism.” Perhaps it is racism provoking the fires of racism? Racists have become emboldened by a president whose racism is well-documented and whose dog-whistles provide ample cover for him to retreat from accusations of support for white supremacy. While I was reading this book, Trump launched into one of his rambling monologues, this time in front of the Boy Scouts of America, and talked at length and with great admiration about William Levitt, the founder of Levittown (including the infamous “he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that . . . Should I tell you?” lines). It was interesting for me to read about Levittown’s segregation while at the same time hearing Trump express admiration for the man who forbade the resale of properties to blacks and Jews. Trump’s family also famously refused to sell to blacks, something which the man has never expressed regret or shame for. In short, Trump is one manifestation of the de facto segregation that Loewen documents in this book. While I did learn a great deal from this book, the most interesting thing that I learned was that Sundown Towns were far more common in the north than in the south. That shook up and rearranged a lot of what I thought I knew about this topic. I was fascinated by this book, and its importance cannot be minimized. The links between the nadir, lynching, segregated housing policies, and racism should not be denied. The continued impact these events have had on black/white relations should not be ignored. The narrative that is told by many whites to justify or ignore casual racism is one that tells a story of lazy entitled blacks who lack the drive or knowledge to get themselves out of poverty. This is why they are often heard commenting about how long ago slavery was, implying or stating the need for blacks to “get over it.” Reading a book like this could do a great deal to upend that narrative and allow an open-minded reader to see that black Americans are doing amazingly well despite the barriers they have faced and continue to face. Clearly, and Loewen admits this, more research needs to be dedicated to this area of history. It is a challenging thing to research, given that most towns tend to bury such history and written documentation is scarcer than is ideal. However, honestly and bravely exploring this history could do a lot to move forward in healing the wounds that American racism continues to inflict in the United States.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    This book is one sided in its thinking. The author, Loewen, comes out in his intro and basically states white vs. black. I would like to have seen more about black society and how they treated "others" whether they were white or Asian. Being put into second class status, blacks often had to compete with Hispanics and other minorities for jobs, how did this play a role in segregation or stereotypes? I understand that most of the sunset towns were geared towards blacks, but it would have been nice This book is one sided in its thinking. The author, Loewen, comes out in his intro and basically states white vs. black. I would like to have seen more about black society and how they treated "others" whether they were white or Asian. Being put into second class status, blacks often had to compete with Hispanics and other minorities for jobs, how did this play a role in segregation or stereotypes? I understand that most of the sunset towns were geared towards blacks, but it would have been nice to get a more complete picture of the whole situation. Instead of just writing about whites and blacks and how they acted and reacted toward each other and the social policies of the day. There is a chapter on how these sunset towns affected whites, which Loewen does not do much to differentiate between the whites in racist towns and those being excluded. He also does not give much thought into the fluidity of whiteness, nor talk about how much whiteness, and who was white, has changed over the course of the roughly 100 years that this book covers. He does not go into great detail about segregation and racism against Middle Easterners and non black people coming from Africa. These groups have been coming into the United States for decades, yet there is not a mention of them in this book. Does Loewen mean to tell us that these groups have been openly welcomed by one and all? I do like the fact that Loewen does mention non black sunset towns, though I was hoping for more information about these towns and policies instead of just one or two sentences in each chapter. All this being said I think that Jaspin's book Buried in Bitter Water was much better in regards to the topic of the destruction of black towns and neighborhoods. And Pfaelzer's Driven Out about the Chinese Americans.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bloblo

    Black concentration in large cities is no accident. Other ethnic groups, say immigrants, over time disperse. All white towns, suburbs, neighborhoods, counties...are that way by design. And exist almost exclusively in the north and west of the United States. They are almost non-existent in the traditional south. Whether it was by outright violence, or much more subtle means such as ordinances either written or left unwritten, all white neighborhoods et al, are by design. At times maybe one black Black concentration in large cities is no accident. Other ethnic groups, say immigrants, over time disperse. All white towns, suburbs, neighborhoods, counties...are that way by design. And exist almost exclusively in the north and west of the United States. They are almost non-existent in the traditional south. Whether it was by outright violence, or much more subtle means such as ordinances either written or left unwritten, all white neighborhoods et al, are by design. At times maybe one black or even a few live in housekeepers were allowed to stay, but for the most part African-Americans had to be out of town by sundown, or not even allowed in at all. One interesting story was a college dorm which housed some visiting athletes or soldiers. They were housed in a dorm which had one wing of it over the county line. Real estate, and even federal government policy have had a hand in creating sundown towns. Besides documenting this much hidden history, the author proposes a couple of ways to help end this disgrace. I found this book a more interesting read than the author's "Lies My Teacher Told Me" Maybe because I had already read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" Another book on hidden racism history is "Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II" by Douglas A. Blackmon because the US constitutional amendment outlawing slavery did so, except for punishment of a crime. You can guess the rest of that story.

  15. 4 out of 5

    TLT

    This is an enormously important subject as it rids the reader of any illusions that American racism was & is primarily concentrated in the South. It's clear that Loewen did extensive amounts of research and is to be applauded for even having the courage to tackle this topic. However, as others reviewers have noted he does tend to be repetitive, which took away from my enjoyment of the book. It's still worth the read. I found his suggested solutions at the end to be intriguing - unlikely to ever This is an enormously important subject as it rids the reader of any illusions that American racism was & is primarily concentrated in the South. It's clear that Loewen did extensive amounts of research and is to be applauded for even having the courage to tackle this topic. However, as others reviewers have noted he does tend to be repetitive, which took away from my enjoyment of the book. It's still worth the read. I found his suggested solutions at the end to be intriguing - unlikely to ever be implemented, especially with the current climate in this country - but intriguing nonetheless.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Here are some highlights from the book thus far (first two chapters)>> very important book: Sundown Towns By James Loewen Sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus “all-white on purpose.” (p4) Between 1890- 1968 white Americans established themselves in SDTs across the USA. (p.4) Between 1890- 1940s race relations in America grew worse. After the abolishment of slavery steps were being taken to make things better Here are some highlights from the book thus far (first two chapters)>> very important book: Sundown Towns By James Loewen Sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus “all-white on purpose.” (p4) Between 1890- 1968 white Americans established themselves in SDTs across the USA. (p.4) Between 1890- 1940s race relations in America grew worse. After the abolishment of slavery steps were being taken to make things better for ex-slaves. Republicans were actively involved in improving their lot shortly after the civil war. Between 1865 (when slavery ended) and 1890 there was an anti-racism vibe in the North. It was patriotic to be anti-racist, in fact the Republicans added the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to give the ex-slaves “equal rights.” During this time AAs moved everywhere throughout the North. During this time AAs voted, served in Congress, received some spoils from the Republican Party, worked as barbers, railroad firemen, midwives, mail carriers, and landowning farmers, and played other fully human roles in American society (p.29). The “Fusion” Period, 1877-1890 “With the increasing tenacity and Ku Klux Klan violence, Democrats fought the interracial Republican coalitions for control of each southern state (p.30). The Democrats had control of the southern states, more or less. AAs still voted during this time, though not freely. “In 1890, trying to get the federal government to intervene against violence and fraud in southern elections, the Republican senator from Massachusetts, Henry Cabot Lodge, introduced his Federal Elections Bill. It lost just one vote in Senate. After its defeat, when Democrats again tarred Republicans as “nigger lovers,” now the Republicans replied in a new way. Instead of assailing Democrats for denying equal rights to AAs, they backed away from the subject. The Democrats had worn them down. Thus the springtime of race relations during Reconstruction was short, and it was followed not by summer blooms but by the Nadir winter, and not just in South but throughout the country (p30-31).” What caused the collapse? The three I’s The idealism immediately after the Civil war was fading. By 1890, only one American in three was old enough to have been alive when it ended, and millions more migrated to the US long after the war’s end and played no role in it (p31). The ideology of anti-racism was further strained by three developments>> the three i’s 1) Indian Wars>> The federal government discovered gold and took away and from the Indians that had been promised to them “forever.” If it was OK to take Indian’s land because they weren’t white, wasn’t it OK to deny rights to AAs, who weren’t white either (p.31)? 2) Immigrants>> Irish, Italian, Polish immigrants tended to vote for the Democrats because of the Republicans intolerance of alcohol and Catholicism. These immigrants learned quickly that it was to their advantage to be “white,” in that AAs were in competition for the available jobs. Perhaps Republicans converted to a more racist position to win ethnic votes. Or perhaps their anti-immigrant thinking, manifesting itself in jokes, slurs, and anti-immigrant cartoons, spilled over into increased racism vis-à-vis AAs (pp.31-32). 3) Imperialism>> After 1890, imperialism led the US to dominate Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, and several other Caribbean and Central American nations. Democrats pointed out the inconsistency of denying self-government to these places on the basis of the alleged racial inferiority, while insisting on the equal rights of AAs. The Republicans had no real answer (p.32). Other factors causing the decline of Republican anti-racism… 1) The “Gilded Age”>> capitalist amassed huge fortunes>> many Republicans made this a goal which made it hard to reconcile with the party’s former talk of social justice. 2) Decay of Idealism>> the times were changing, the civil war was in the past. ** ultimately, racism has its foundation in slavery. In 1890 the Confederate South finally won the war. New laws outlawing interracial marriages, lynchings started happening more frequently, and Jim Crow was in full effect. No AA served in Congress again until 1929, and none from the South until 1973. In 1912, Ohioans made it clear that they wanted black voting to stop (pp.33-34). AAs started getting bad press in the newspapers, and AA’s started getting expelled from their occupations. Many AA’s were still at the bottom, and white s began to blame them as the problem (p.38). Many of the generalization white fols had of AA are still held by those living in predominantly white towns today. From 1913-21 Woodrow Wilson became president (racist). He segregated the Navy for the first time. ______________________________________ “Residential exclusion is bad for our nation. In fact, residential segregation is one reason race continues to be such a problem in America. But race really isn’t the problem. Exclusion is the problem. The ghetto—with all of its pathologies—isn’t the problem; the elite sundown suburb—seemingly devoid of social difficulties—is the problem. As soon as we realize the problem is white supremacy, rather than black existence or black inferiority, then it becomes clear the sundown towns and suburbs are an intensification of the problem, not a solution to it. So long as racial inequality is encoded in the most basic single fact in our society—where one can live—the US will face continuing racial tension, if not overt conflict” (p17). check out this link. Dag my home town of Huntington, IN is a historic sundown town... http://www.uvm.edu/~jloewen/sundownto...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    Valuable research here, though I agree with another reviewer that it’s best read in conjunction with other books on U.S. history and race relations (particularly those regarding overarching, oppressive structural changes: a proliferation of racist laws and the growing prison system, for example, or trends in urbanization and employment) after the Civil War. Loewen’s reasons for disintegrating race relations from 1890 onward are absolutely valid, but they feel incomplete. While the sundown towns Valuable research here, though I agree with another reviewer that it’s best read in conjunction with other books on U.S. history and race relations (particularly those regarding overarching, oppressive structural changes: a proliferation of racist laws and the growing prison system, for example, or trends in urbanization and employment) after the Civil War. Loewen’s reasons for disintegrating race relations from 1890 onward are absolutely valid, but they feel incomplete. While the sundown towns were an undeniable – and underexplored – part of this disintegration, they’re an example of a much larger sickness. Part of the issue is the sheer difficulty of editing and organizing such a vast amount of research, but Loewen uses enough examples and empirical data to show that the sundown towns were indeed a nationwide presence. Much of the data is anecdotal, though credible, and the research is understandably incomplete; the task of exploring the racial history of every town across the U.S. is beyond the scope of one person and one text (Loewen encourages readers to research their own towns for themselves and send their findings to his website: http://sundown.afro.illinois.edu/sund...), and many towns’ “whites-only” policies were never officially codified. It certainly made me wonder about my hometown, especially as some of the neighboring towns do have lingering bad reputations (to be fair, a few were notable—surprisingly—for their efforts toward equality, though I came across that information in books specifically related to Ohio). Overall, it’s well worth a read; it gives some great insight into the history and current mentality of some of these small towns and suburbs (the ones some people currently refer to as “the real America,” I believe), and some of the information here is truly shocking. It definitely prompted me to look further into things I’d vaguely questioned but never really explored about places I’ve lived; I expected a dicey history in small-town Northeast Ohio, for example, but have been unpleasantly surprised the more I've researched Oregon, one of the most historically exclusionary states. It’s astonishing how little we – me included – know about our recent history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Armand Rosamilia

    Very technical and very sobering. As a middle aged white male, you assume these places are in our distant past. Then you realize we're still pushing this awful agenda today, and not in just the obvious States you'd think. It's an eye-opening book, a massive volume about racism today and yesteryear. Very technical and very sobering. As a middle aged white male, you assume these places are in our distant past. Then you realize we're still pushing this awful agenda today, and not in just the obvious States you'd think. It's an eye-opening book, a massive volume about racism today and yesteryear.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Smith

    As someone who strives to be an anti-racist, I read as much as I can about the history and background to racism as well as the way it insidiously permeates all aspects of our society to this day. This was a very educational book for me, although I have to admit that I found it hard going at times. By that I mean that the overwhelming evidence and pervasiveness of these so called "Sundown towns" means that we are told essentially the same story over, and over, and over again. This is depressing in As someone who strives to be an anti-racist, I read as much as I can about the history and background to racism as well as the way it insidiously permeates all aspects of our society to this day. This was a very educational book for me, although I have to admit that I found it hard going at times. By that I mean that the overwhelming evidence and pervasiveness of these so called "Sundown towns" means that we are told essentially the same story over, and over, and over again. This is depressing in its own right. It isn't a criticism of the narrative, which is clearly well researched and its abundance increases the credibility and weight on the argument. Rather, it becomes repetitive and one feels as though we have heard it before - especially as the signs themselves are brought up often. It is a shocking account and I must admit I was ignorant of much of this. As JWL mentions, many people assume that the prevalence of such towns would be found in the ex-Confederate south whereas the vast majority are in the North. As much as I have studied the history of racism, it is clear I had and have a great deal to learn. I hadn't appreciated the twist and turns of racist policies outside the macro situation of emancipation, segregation, Jim Crow, Civil rights etc. I had not appreciated the awful rise of blatant, violent and open racism against African Americans from 1890, that is manifested in these despicable towns. This is a relatively old book (written in 2002) so I would be interested to see if the sundown towns that are claimed to exist "today" (i.e. in 2002) have changed at all in 2020. With the current regime in place, I wouldn't be surprised if they were again becoming established. It is clear that, as society became less tolerant of open racism, the signs ("Don't let the sun go down on you in this town") have disappeared, but the attitudes and policies not necessarily. It is hard to read this narrative that doesn't pull its punches. It uses the language that was openly spouted at the time and this is explained in the preface. Nothing is softened into euphemisms such as "the n-word". We get the whole thing here. It is almost as prevalent as reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It is hard to read to be honest. So this is a very educational book and I am certainly much more informed than I read it which is the whole point. However, it took me a long time to read. I found it dense and repetitive although, as I say, that makes the point and points to the extensive research. Maybe it is also preaching to the choir. This is a horrible history and the vile bigotry that was (and is) on display in towns like this is hard for me to see so displayed, but I know full well how it exists to this day. It's manifestation in sundown towns is racism in full view and it certainly deserves to be more widely known.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristie Kercheval

    This was a difficult read. I remember asking my mom when I was kid why there was this neighborhood outside of town that was only black families and she couldn't give me an answer. It was just "there." As were other neighborhoods that were a majority Latino. Sundown Towns gives us the real history of why we still live in mostly segregated communities. If a city or neighborhood is mostly white today, it is not by accident. There is most likely a history of systematic exclusion of people of color. This was a difficult read. I remember asking my mom when I was kid why there was this neighborhood outside of town that was only black families and she couldn't give me an answer. It was just "there." As were other neighborhoods that were a majority Latino. Sundown Towns gives us the real history of why we still live in mostly segregated communities. If a city or neighborhood is mostly white today, it is not by accident. There is most likely a history of systematic exclusion of people of color. There were also federal policies that prohibited blacks from benefitting from FHA loans that went to mostly white people. Even after fair housing laws went into effect local communities still rebelled and the national government refused to enforce their laws. After the civil war, free blacks settled in communities all across the country. But by the 1890s a change occurs and population records show a sudden decline of African Americans in the North. What happened? Where did they go? Loewen traces this tragic pattern that repeats in our history to the present day. Every white person needs to read this book. We need to understand the reality of systematic oppression our country has placed on African American citizens. We need to come to grips with the fact that we largely remain ignorant and that our ancestors for the most part just let it happen. The evidence is overwhelming. And now we see the repercussions but are reluctant to take responsibility first in our own hearts. That's where it is going to need to start. After finishing this book I did a little research on my home town and surrounding cities. It was shocking to read that my little town in California did indeed have policies in place before the 1960s to excluded African Americans from buying property. As late as the 1990s the city tried to use eminent domain to raze another traditionally black neighborhood to expand a shopping mall. Palm Springs, our more famous neighboring city actually used eminent domain to raze a whole section of town that was home to African Americans and forced them to move to another part of town many people lost the personal possessions and were never compensated. This happened in the early 1960s to make way for the Palm Springs convention center. Indian Wells, also near my home town of Indio, is one of the wealthiest communities in the country that also excluded blacks and to this day is still predominantly white. Knowing this is it a surprise that Serena Williams faced racist jeers at the Indian Wells tennis tournament In 2001? At the end of the book Loewen gives some suggestions for moving forward. I'm thankful for his research and bringing this painful subject into the light so we can be more understanding and move in the direction of real change.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I grew up in Peoria, Illinois in the 80's. We all heard stories about Pekin, the little town 10 miles away. That their high school team name and mascot, until a few years earlier, had been the "Chinks". That there had long been a sign at the town limit (unconfirmed by me) saying "N____, don't Let the Sun Set on You Here." It didn't directly impact me much as a white kid in a fairly integrated school system in a fairly integrated mid-size city. I thought that whites-only (or whites-mostly) towns I grew up in Peoria, Illinois in the 80's. We all heard stories about Pekin, the little town 10 miles away. That their high school team name and mascot, until a few years earlier, had been the "Chinks". That there had long been a sign at the town limit (unconfirmed by me) saying "N____, don't Let the Sun Set on You Here." It didn't directly impact me much as a white kid in a fairly integrated school system in a fairly integrated mid-size city. I thought that whites-only (or whites-mostly) towns like Pekin were outliers, isolated cases of institutional racism within a larger continental backdrop of tolerance. I also thought that most problem areas, or "sundown towns", were in the deep South. Then I read this book -- which should be required reading for pretty much everyone -- and discovered that, from about 1890 on, (1) "sundown towns" were ALMOST EVERYWHERE across the country EXCEPT the deep South, and (2) a great majority are STILL unofficially "sundown" and undeniably discriminatory. Practically every engineered suburb, and most that developed organically, and thousands of other towns smaller than 200,000 people, were historically white-only and had a long history of excluding blacks by violence, threats, quasi-legal bylaws and regulations, police intimidation, refusal to accept blacks in schools, and refusal to sell by shopkeepers and real estate agents. The main reason large cities have huge, segregated minority populations is that, historically, those were the only places minorities COULD go to live -- or, the only places they could gather in large enough numbers that a determined mob couldn't run them all out quickly enough to escape national notice. It really puts, say, the county-by-county map of the 2008 presidential election in perspective: Obama handily won the popular vote, but there's a whole lot more red from coast to coast, isn't there? Not saying all or most of the red areas were racist for voting for McCain... but it sure does illustrate that large city populations have a different mindset than small town America. Anyway, this book carefully and methodically portrays the widespread history of hidden racism throughout small and mid-town (and areas of large cities as well) America, how it persists to this day, and what we can do to combat the long-term effects. There are hundreds of books about, say, lynching out there, and only one about sundown towns... though the latter has had just a big an impact, if not greater, on race relations in this country.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Geoff

    The best thing about this book is that it made the geography that I had always accepted as concrete something that was painfully alive. It was striking how many of the deeply segregated towns were familiar to me and helped me realize how pervasive segregation is in the Midwest. His analysis was sweeping and comprehensive, but sometimes felt a bit scattered. He incorporated the ideas of other scholars as well as primary sources, but it often felt blippy. Furthermore, the book already feels dated The best thing about this book is that it made the geography that I had always accepted as concrete something that was painfully alive. It was striking how many of the deeply segregated towns were familiar to me and helped me realize how pervasive segregation is in the Midwest. His analysis was sweeping and comprehensive, but sometimes felt a bit scattered. He incorporated the ideas of other scholars as well as primary sources, but it often felt blippy. Furthermore, the book already feels dated as it fails to mention the dynamic of white, suburban youth moving into previously non-white urban neighborhoods. Finally, in pointing out the worst of the sundown towns, he offers little insight or analysis into towns that have a multiracial population but whose various racial groups have little meaningful engagement. Still, I recommend this book to anyone who grew up in a racially homogenous community and is interested in understanding how this came to be and how it mediates one's life and community.

  23. 4 out of 5

    René

    This book was very eye-opening. I'm glad Loewen wrote it, and I'm glad I read it. I do wish Loewen was a better writer, though. And though I'm from Illinois and this book focuses quite a bit on towns in Illinois (which means I'm familiar with many of them), I wish his focus had been more widespread and included more information about other parts of the country. This book was very eye-opening. I'm glad Loewen wrote it, and I'm glad I read it. I do wish Loewen was a better writer, though. And though I'm from Illinois and this book focuses quite a bit on towns in Illinois (which means I'm familiar with many of them), I wish his focus had been more widespread and included more information about other parts of the country.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    While interesting, with some compelling arguments, it was so poorly written and so repetitive I could barely read it. It could've been half the length. While interesting, with some compelling arguments, it was so poorly written and so repetitive I could barely read it. It could've been half the length.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Teri Pre

    This book made me really look at my hometown and the village where I brought up my kids. Everyone needs to read this and think about, the role of race in the place we live.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Froehlich

    This reviewer was born in Chicago – long known as one of the most racially segregated big cities in America -- and grew up in a sundown town – a working-class, industrial suburb west of Chicago. It was understood that no African-Americans were allowed to live in Franklin Park, even though hundreds worked in the factories every day, and nearby towns had large black populations. James Loewen has written a book that is eye-opening, comprehensive and persuasive. There is a wealth of history detailing This reviewer was born in Chicago – long known as one of the most racially segregated big cities in America -- and grew up in a sundown town – a working-class, industrial suburb west of Chicago. It was understood that no African-Americans were allowed to live in Franklin Park, even though hundreds worked in the factories every day, and nearby towns had large black populations. James Loewen has written a book that is eye-opening, comprehensive and persuasive. There is a wealth of history detailing the grim reality of systematic housing discrimination in the North during most of the 20th Century. In addition to documenting how racial restrictions worked, Loewen connects the dots to explain how segregation causes inequality. Loewen grew up in central Illinois, and started his research in his home state. He initially believed racial exclusion from towns had been limited to a handful of places. He came to realize there was a widespread pattern in northern states. During the first half of the 20th Century, for example, African Americans moved to Detroit, but not to four adjacent suburbs next to the City: Dearborn, Grosse Pointe, Melvindale and Warren. Thousands of blacks who worked at the auto plants in Dearborn and Warren would’ve moved to such close-in suburbs had they been welcome. Dearborn’s longtime mayor, Orville Hubbard (1942-1978), told a reporter that “as far as he was concerned, it was against the law for Negroes to live in his suburb. ‘They can’t get in here. We watch it.’” Whites in the Detroit area were five times more likely than African Americans, controlling for income, to live in the suburbs. At least 47 of 59 suburbs outside Detroit were overwhelmingly white, decade after decade. Based on his research, Loewen concludes that thousands of towns and cities across the North excluded African-Americans from living there from about 1890 until late in the 20th century. This exclusion was enforced either by ordinances warning African Americans and sometimes other minorities to be out of town by sunset, or by informal means such as harassing any blacks who violated the rule. Ordinances in many towns also prohibited blacks from renting or owning property. Ironically, sundown towns were rare in the South, where African-Americans were prevented from voting. “While African-Americans never lost the right to vote in the North, they did lose the right to live in town after town, county after county. Probably a majority of all incorporated places kept out African Americans” outside the South. The fact is that racial exclusion and segregation did not always exist. African Americans lived in many places prior to 1890 where they no longer resided thereafter. Some towns and even counties drove out their black residents and then posted the signs, while some allowed a single black household as an exception to the rule. Most Americans are familiar with the Jim Crow laws and lynching in the South after the Civil War. Far less well known is the fact that many in the North did not welcome African Americans, before, during or after the war to free the slaves. The Illinois state constitution of 1848, for example, provided that the General Assembly shall adopt laws prohibiting “free persons of color from immigrating to and settling in this state.” African-Americans were not the sole victims of racial exclusion. Until about 1884, Chinese Americans lived in virtually every town in the West, but between 1885-1920, dozens of communities drove out their entire Chinese population. There was a great black migration from the South to the North starting about 1915, which makes the absolute declines in black population in many northern counties all the more staggering. In Illinois, there were zero counties in 1890 with no black residents, and only 6 with fewer than ten, but by 1930 there were six all-white counties and 17 with fewer than ten. Missouri went from no counties without black residents in 1890 to 12 in 1930. Nebraska went from 9 to 28; Wisconsin from 8-16, Idaho from 1 to 14. By 1970, when the number of sundown towns was probably at the zenith, there were 671 municipalities in Illinois, and 474 or 71% were all-white. Loewen found evidence (beyond census data) of racial exclusion policies from 146 of the 424 all-white towns larger than 1,000 people, and has confirmed 145 of 146 as sundown towns. Based upon the towns he examined, the probability is that a high proportion of the remaining all-white towns were also all-white-on-purpose. In addition, he confirmed that 50 Illinois hamlets with fewer than 1,000 residents also were sundown towns. It wasn’t just small towns that became more segregated. Big cities became markedly more segregated in housing patterns after 1890 and 1900. Prior to 1890, poor neighborhoods and even some middleclass ones had been racially integrated. By 1940, sharply segregated neighborhoods were the norm and the trend continued. Ethnic cleansing was achieved by violence, intimidation, ordinance, and informal actions by police. Violence was used to force out African Americans abruptly. Decatur in northeast Indiana, for instance, went sundown in 1902 after a mob drove the last black residents out of town. Decatur is the county seat of Adams County, which had not a single black household for decades, and reported only five black residents a century later. Bigger riots directed at nonwhites have been better recorded in history than smaller ones, and occurred in dozens of towns including Springfield, Illinois in 1908, East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917, Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1923 and Lincoln, Nebraska in 1929. The rioters in Springfield, Illinois over two days in 1908 lynched two innocent black men, burned down the black business district and blocks of black homes, and chased about two-thirds of the black residents out of town before the state militia intervened. Not a single perpetrator was ever convicted for murder, arson or other crime against the victims. The NAACP was founded in Springfield in response to these crimes. Two days after the riot in Springfield, whites in Buffalo, 12 miles east, became all-white by threatening to shoot any blacks who stayed in the town, which has remained all white since Aug. 17,1908. Eight were killed in Romeoville, Illinois when whites expelled all the town’s African Americans in 1893. Other race riots in small Illinois towns came in East Alton and Spring Valley (1893), Virden (1898), Pana (1899), Carterville (1901), Eldorado (1902), Anna-Jonesboro (1909), West Frankfort (1920), and Vienna (1954). The increasing frequency of mass “spectacle lynchings” played a role in spreading fear and creating sundown towns. Announced in advance, these events drew hundreds or thousands of spectators to public murders. The lynching of a black man by whites from Toluca and Lacon, Illinois, north of Peoria, in 1898 sparked an exodus of black residents from those towns. Though lynchings are usually associated with the South, the truth is that – controlling for the size of the black population – lynchings were as common in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and California as in southern states. All-white suburbs were no accident. Sundown suburbs, beginning around 1900, achieved racial segregation by design. Elite suburbs built by a single developer kept out African Americans from the beginning, including Park Forest, Illinois, a suburb south of Chicago. Kenilworth, Illinois, two suburbs north of Chicago, incorporated as all-white town; “sales to Caucasians only” was part of the suburb’s founding documents. Jews were also unwelcome in Kenilworth, as well as in Lake Forest, Barrington and Palatine, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Kenilworth didn’t admit Jews until the 1970s. The three Levittowns – in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania – were built by Levitt & Sons, who refused to sell to blacks for two decades after WWII. Consequently, not a single one of the Long Island Levittown’s 82,000 residents was black in 1960. Oak Park, Illinois, which abuts Chicago’s west side, was originally a sundown suburb, as Dr. Percy Julian and his wife, both Ph.Ds, found out when they tried to move there in 1950. By 1970, just 500 black families lived in white suburban Chicago, and most of them were confined to 5 or 6 towns. After 1917, when the Supreme Court dcclared unconstitutional openly anti-black ordinances, most sundown suburbs resorted to racially restrictive covenants, which were part of the deed. Many suburbs refused to approve developments without restrictive covenants. In addition, the FHA refused to insure loans without them. Consequently, covenants covering the entire town were just as effective as ordinances in keeping towns all-white. The Chicago Real Estate Board started using restrictive covenants in 1919, and by 1940, more than 80 percent of the Chicago area was so covered; “across the US, exclusionary covenants were the rule rather than the exception.” The Federal Housing Administration advocated restrictive covenants, its Manual containing a model covenant until 1948, making it clear that the government believed black families were a danger from which whites required protection. .In 1938, the FHA held that to retain “neighborhood stability, it is necessary that its properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.” FHA and VA loans were “the most important single cause of postwar suburbanization.” More than 98% of the home loans guaranteed by the FHA and VA after WWII were available only to whites. . More single-family homes were purchased in the decade after the war than during the previous 150 years. African Americans were shut out of the suburbs and the surest route to wealth accumulation – federally subsidized home ownership – which includes the mortgage interest deduction for owners, not renters. The proportion of African Americans living in suburbia was 4.6% in 1950, and 4.2% in 1970, during the era of explosive suburban growth. The huge modern disparity in median household wealth between whites and blacks – 20 to 1 – can be attributed in large part to housing appreciation that whites enjoyed since the late 1940s. When the feds did spend money on black housing, it was in huge high-rise projects concentrated in the inner city. Vacant land was cheaper in the suburbs. To justify building on higher priced land that needed to be cleared in the central cities, officials piled hundreds of units onto the tracts. Federal policy changed in 1968 with passage of the Fair Housing Act (aka Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act). . This act prohibits racial discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing. But HUD had no enforcement powers, and victims had to litigate themselves. Consequently, discrimination went underground, and involved steering, lying, stalling and creating obstacles for blacks seeking to buy in white areas. “A striking characteristic of sundown towns is their durability,” given the mobility of Americans, including African Americans. That durability is due to a variety of enforcement mechanisms that keep towns all-white decade after decade. White boys and young men would attack or threaten to attack blacks who came through town; in Pana, Illinois, for instance, black porters would hide under the seats when their trains went through Pana. Gas stations refused to sell to black motorists in some towns, such as Mt. Olive and Gillespie, Illinois, where the policy lasted through the 1950s. “Driving While Black” has long been a reason for police to pull over black motorists. Frequently being pulled over and searched makes it uncomfortable for African Americans to live or work in towns where officers know they don’t live and therefore pull them over on sight. Even after the sundown sign was removed in Gillespie, Illinois near St. Louis in the early 1960s, it was still an unwritten rule that black people would not be tolerated in town. After the federal law made it difficult to exclude blacks openly, suburbs did it by controlling the kind of development allowed. Zoning laws typically allowed only single-family housing and imposed minimum lot sizes, such as 5 acres in South Barrington, Illinois. The DuPage County Housing Authority was established in 1942, but had yet to construct a single unit 30 years later by 1972. Some sundown towns passed ordinances requiring public employees to live in town; this made African Americans ineligible for future openings, since they would first have to move in. Violence was also used after ordinances and covenants were struck down, and when steering, discriminatory lending and the town’s reputation didn’t suffice. The most extensive violence occurred in the North during the two decades following WWII. In Chicago during just the first two years after WWII, whites bombed 167 homes bought or rented by African Americans in white neighborhoods, killing four, crippling eight and injuring scores of others. Percy Julian’s home in Oak Park suffered both bomb and arson attacks in 1950. The first black family to enter suburban Deerfield, Illinois moved out of their rented apartment after windows were broken and excrement smeared on the walls. Starting in 1976, however, 5,000 African American families were located into predominantly white communities under the Gautreaux litigation against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). Compared to black families who weren’t selected for the move, black families in white neighborhoods prospered. Some 95% of children graduated from high school and 54% went to college, despite the fact that the Gautreaux families were generally headed by single mothers on welfare, who nonetheless had remarkable outcomes. Researcher James Rosenbaum concluded that residential segregation was the problem, promoting hopelessness and keeping poor black families from contact with the larger society. It is estimated that the quality of life across American cities would improve markedly if housing segregation were cut in half. For some reason, this solution to urban ills never makes the to-do list. The problems of inner-cities are rarely attributed to the impact of sundown suburbs, but are typically blamed upon the relatively powerless ghetto residents. Of 167 sundown towns in Illinois, about 40% still zero black residents as of 2000. In the Milwaukee metro area, an astonishing 96% of all African Americans live in Milwaukee, an indicator that sundown suburbs are still going strong. When sundown suburbs today have a handful of black residents, that may allow denial that the town kept out blacks for decades, and may make it seem “natural” that a town is less than 5 percent or 1 percent black. Token desegregation is also used to claim racism is over. Yet black students are more likely to go to segregated schools today than they were several decades ago. The reality is that African Americans remain underrepresented in suburbia, and those who do live there are concentrated in relatively few towns. Suburban Chicago has a typical pattern: Almost all blacks who moved to suburbs during the 1960s went to just 15 of 237 suburbs. By 1980, 9 of Chicago’s 285 suburbs were 30-50% black, while 117 were less than 1% black. Kane County was about 6% black in 2000, but 96% lived in two towns, Elgin and Aurora. “Sundown suburbs are the key reason why geographer Jeff Crump was able to maintain in 2003 that ‘cities in the US are the most racially segregated urban areas in the world.’” The normal processes of the marketplace would result in a sprinkling of African Americans everywhere, albeit with some areas of concentration, like the distribution of, say, Italian Americans. It would be comforting to believe that racial segregation during the 20th Century was mainly due to freedom of choice, that policies enforcing it were aberrations. The unvarnished truth, asserts Loewen, is that racial segregation has not occurred “naturally” in this country, but is in large part the result of deliberate government policies. Americans today almost universally denounce racism, but they don’t want to discuss racial segregation, even though residential segregation persists at high levels. The status quo is considered appropriate, with all-or-predominately white towns and schools. Northern whites, Loewen argues, are comforted by their misapprehension that discriminatory laws were the exclusive province of Southern racists. Americans typically ignore the effects that discriminatory laws have had in creating ghettoes, preferring to blame the poor for their poverty. It’s easier to ignore the fact that residential segregation keeps black students out of better suburban schools, and it isolates African-Americans from job opportunities, which have grown in white suburbs much faster than elsewhere. Segregation also isolates blacks from social networks where jobs openings are discussed. Detroit – the nation’s most segregated metro area in 2000 – illustrates the harm caused by hyper-segregation. Detroit was 82% black in 2000, surrounded by sundown suburbs. Some would try to attribute segregation to simple economics, arguing it’s not race discrimination that kept blacks out of suburbs, but the high cost of housing. That may be true for a handful of elite towns such as Kenilworth, but it doesn’t explain why blue collar towns with affordable housing and factory jobs, like Cicero or Franklin Park, Illinois had no black residents for many decades. Controlling for income, fewer than half the expected proportion of blacks live in most suburbs. Besides, economics hasn’t kept poor whites and Latinos from living in suburbia. So what should be done now? Loewen recommends the following: * Create Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to investigate how towns and counties became and remained all-white. * Enact a Residents Rights Act, modeled on the 1965 federal Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court struck down in 2013. * Apologize and compensate to remedy for the real harm government caused in promoting segregation. * Sanction recalcitrant towns that persist in exclusionary policies. None of that will happen so long as most Americans deny there is or has been any harm done. The problem today, says Loewen, is that towns don’t admit they are all-white on purpose. Most Americans today, even conservatives, agree with the landmark Brown decision that desegregated the public schools. As the Supreme Court said in that decision, when whites segregated schools, they were implying black inferiority. This made the segregated school inherently unequal. Americans have never applied that logic to segregated towns, preferring the comfortable fiction that stark racial separation in housing is merely a function of choice and income. “Until we solve the problem of sundown neighborhoods and towns,” writes Loewen, “we do not have a chance of solving America’s race problem.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    David

    I had never heard of sundown towns until recently. Chalk it up to poor education. Maybe white privilege. Historical amnesia. Whatever it is, I am certainly not alone. Sundown towns are surprisingly not well known, which is why James Loewen wrote this book. Up front, this book is thorough. Loewen did tons of research to document sundown towns. This is both a benefit and a curse. It is a benefit because it is the first (only?) major book on sundown towns. The curse is that it is long, dry and at ti I had never heard of sundown towns until recently. Chalk it up to poor education. Maybe white privilege. Historical amnesia. Whatever it is, I am certainly not alone. Sundown towns are surprisingly not well known, which is why James Loewen wrote this book. Up front, this book is thorough. Loewen did tons of research to document sundown towns. This is both a benefit and a curse. It is a benefit because it is the first (only?) major book on sundown towns. The curse is that it is long, dry and at times a bit repetitive. I doubt as many people read it as probably would a shorter, more popular level book (case in point, I am the first person in a decade to check it out of our library). Regardless of any flaws though, this is a book that must be read and a story that must be told. I mean, we all know the story Americans like to tell ourselves, right? Our country is progressively improving. We're the bulwark of freedom in the world. Sure, we've had problems in the past but once we overcome them we just get better and better. Loewen shows this story is a myth. Race relations in America were better in 1885 then in 1930. Immediately after the civil war, during the time of reconstruction, black people were in a better place then they were during slavery. Then in 1890 everything changed. But even here, the story tends to focus on the south. Federal troops were removed from the south, southern whites quickly took over, any blacks who had been elected or gained position of power were tossed out. Loewen shows that racism grew in the north and midwest. There were not really sundown towns in the south. To some degree, southern whites were used to living around blacks. Why throw your servants out of town, southern whites would wonder? It was in the rest of the country where blacks were kicked out of towns, signs were put up warning all blacks to be gone by sundown (some towns even sounded a whistle at 6 PM warning blacks to leave!). Loewen goes into detail for the variety of reasons that even towns that had supported the northern cause and freeing the slaves became racist (the reasons are many and varied). Its interesting that by ignoring sundown towns, northerners can see racism as a southern problem. Even books about the civil rights era and the great migration, Loewen shows, tend to focus on the south. Further, the phenomenon of sundown towns affects us down to today. Loewen talks about how many Americans just assume black people like living in cities, which is why many urban areas are more populated by blacks. But historically, this was not the case. After the civil war, blacks were moving all over the place. It was only when small towns expelled them, and cities pushed them into certain neighborhoods, that this idea connecting black people to urban areas developed. The same goes for all or mostly white towns today. Loewen talks about asking people in a town - whether in Illinois, Ohio, Oregon or Arkansas - why no black people live here. The response is often simply, they don't want to. Maybe even some would say they never did. Yet Loewen shows from census data that they did once, they were kicked out and never came back. Or when they tried to come back, they were harassed, beaten, had rocks thrown and their houses burned down. There really is so much here. He talks about integrated sports teams visiting sundown towns and having to schedule the game early enough they could be out by dusk. He speaks of the harassment such teams faced. He even writes of how the occasional white person who would hire or defend a black employee or friend would face attacks. Sundown towns were not limited to blacks, though blacks were the majority, but in places also expelled Mexicans, Chinese, Jews, gays and others. I've been thinking a lot about race in America lately. I've certainly grown up with white privilege. My hometown might have been a sundown town, it was pretty much all white after all (and Loewen would argue such demographics rarely happened by accident). That story of progress is powerful, in which we assume through Civil War to Jim Crow to Civil Rights we are forever improved. But the stories Loewen tells are not the distant past and still affect us today. I'm not sure what the solution is (though Loewen mentions some), but I think more confession, admission of past evils and reconciliation (even reparations) is a good start. Overall, read this book if you want to learn about a dark and not well known part of American history. Even if you have to skim at points (I did!) it is worth it to get a feel for this story.

  28. 5 out of 5

    David

    Eye opening! In fact, I would add this title to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City as ESSENTIAL reads for anyone wanting to know the realities of life as a present-day and recent past African American. This 2004 book by james Loewen is apparently the first general book to discuss this subject: how small towns (not a few, but over a thousand(!)) in virtually every state in the country took a moment sometime betwee Eye opening! In fact, I would add this title to The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City as ESSENTIAL reads for anyone wanting to know the realities of life as a present-day and recent past African American. This 2004 book by james Loewen is apparently the first general book to discuss this subject: how small towns (not a few, but over a thousand(!)) in virtually every state in the country took a moment sometime between around 1890 to 1964 or so to remove all African-American citizens either by physical force, emotional manipulation, legislation, or simply an unwritten covenant...making towns that are all white by design and making it illegal for any African-Americans to be in town after sundown. In other words, while some towns would let them work there (but not all of them), they couldn't live in town, couldn't eat dinner, couldn't get gas, couldn't partake of the town in any way. Being in town after dark was in many cases a death sentence. Now, here's the kicker. All these towns must be mainly in the South, right? No! Well, there are some all over the South, but in spite of the racial relation problems that have been well documented in Southern history, there were far more integrated towns than sundown towns. On the other hand, Illinois, Indiana and other Midwestern states were FULL of them! Loewen's book is very comprehensive. He spares no details on some of the more violent actions from history, but he describes the history of racial relations between 1865 and 1890 that led from an actual optimism of these races getting along to a complete disintegration that Loewen dubs as the start of the Nadir period. He describes the various causes and methods by which sundown towns were formed, how they were enforced for decades, how white people who grow up in such towns are effected on a sociological and psychological level (I have an acquaintance who is ridiculously conservative and racist. I looked up her hometown on the link I'll post at the end. No surprise. She is from a confirmed sundown town.). He gives the effect that sundown towns have on their surrounding regions. Finally, he offers recent history and continued suggested remedies. Oh yeah. Kicker # 2: As of 2004, the date of this book, sundown towns were still active all over the country, reduced from 50 years earlier, but still there. Some entire counties were "sundown". In larger cities like Chicago, there were sundown suburbs such as Oak Park, where violence did occur to preserve its status. Some cities used legalese to form zoned segregation. If you're more progressive minded, and just can't understand the 2016 election, the facts of this book might just clear things up. There may very well be more people in this country who grew up in or within the sphere of influence of a sundown town than those who didn't among people born in the mid-20th century. Kicker #3: Many people who grow up in sundown towns don't even know that they're in one, that it's by design. They notice an absence of black residents, maybe, but attribute it to other causes. Kicker #4: This is not a conspiracy theory. Many towns have confirmed the facts of this book. This is real history, and you probably didn't know about it. ESSENTIAL READING! Below is a link if you want to check out the author's list of every city he's researched. Click on the city name for details as some cities are confirmed, and others are only probable. https://sundown.tougaloo.edu/content....

  29. 4 out of 5

    John Defrog

    Mr Allen Young tipped me off to this book, which chronicles the rise and existence of American “sundown towns” – towns and suburbs where African-Americans (and often other non-white, non-Christian minorities) were not allowed to live, or even stay after dark. The book covers a lot of ground, providing a capsule history of the Nadir of racism that enabled sundown towns, how they came to be, and their effects on both whites and blacks. The two biggest surprises for me were: (1) sundown towns are Mr Allen Young tipped me off to this book, which chronicles the rise and existence of American “sundown towns” – towns and suburbs where African-Americans (and often other non-white, non-Christian minorities) were not allowed to live, or even stay after dark. The book covers a lot of ground, providing a capsule history of the Nadir of racism that enabled sundown towns, how they came to be, and their effects on both whites and blacks. The two biggest surprises for me were: (1) sundown towns are not really a Southern thing – in fact, you’re more likely to find them outside of the South, and (2) some of them are still sundown towns today (though not obviously so), while others that no longer are only dropped such practices as recently as the 1990s. Which brings up one problem with the book (albeit one that Louwen frequently admits) – the US Census makes it easy to identify all-white towns and suburbs, but not all of them are that way intentionally, and determining which ones are requires a lot of on-the-scene legwork and interviews. While Loewen estimates there are thousands of such towns, only a fraction had been verified when the book was published in 2005. So it’s best to approach it as a starting point rather than a complete history. (For the record, Loewen’s research is ongoing, and he has a website that invites people to help with more research identifying and confirming sundown towns.) Anyway, I highly recommend this to anyone who wants/needs valuable perspective on the scope of the racism problem in America, especially in light of current events.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie Butcher

    “To end our segregated neighborhoods and towns requires a leap of the imagination: Americans have to understand that white racism is still a problem in the United States. This isn't always easy. Most white Americans do not see racism as a problem in their neighborhood. We need to know about sundown towns to know what to do about them.” ― James W. Loewen, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism Damn. Everyone needs to read this book. Now more than ever. The writing is solid and readable “To end our segregated neighborhoods and towns requires a leap of the imagination: Americans have to understand that white racism is still a problem in the United States. This isn't always easy. Most white Americans do not see racism as a problem in their neighborhood. We need to know about sundown towns to know what to do about them.” ― James W. Loewen, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism Damn. Everyone needs to read this book. Now more than ever. The writing is solid and readable, occasionally amusing (a treat, given the otherwise heaviness of the subject matter); the research and interactive follow-up is unique and outstanding. I live in a sundown town. I fear it is, still. Is yours? Check here: https://sundown.tougaloo.edu/content....

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