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Sundown Towns
Cover of Sundown Towns
Sundown Towns
A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
“Don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.” We equate these words with the Jim Crow South but, in a sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, award-winning and bestselling author James W. Loewen demonstrates that strict racial exclusion was the norm in American towns and villages from sea to shining sea for much of the twentieth century.

Weaving history, personal narrative, and hard-nosed analysis, Loewen shows that the sundown town was—and is—an American institution with a powerful and disturbing history of its own, told here for the first time. In Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, sundown towns were created in waves of violence in the early decades of the twentieth century, and then maintained well into the contemporary era.

Sundown Towns redraws the map of race relations, extending the lines of racial oppression through the backyard of millions of Americans—and lobbing an intellectual hand grenade into the debates over race and racism today.
“Don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.” We equate these words with the Jim Crow South but, in a sweeping analysis of American residential patterns, award-winning and bestselling author James W. Loewen demonstrates that strict racial exclusion was the norm in American towns and villages from sea to shining sea for much of the twentieth century.

Weaving history, personal narrative, and hard-nosed analysis, Loewen shows that the sundown town was—and is—an American institution with a powerful and disturbing history of its own, told here for the first time. In Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, sundown towns were created in waves of violence in the early decades of the twentieth century, and then maintained well into the contemporary era.

Sundown Towns redraws the map of race relations, extending the lines of racial oppression through the backyard of millions of Americans—and lobbing an intellectual hand grenade into the debates over race and racism today.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 25, 2005
    According to bestselling sociologist Loewen (Lies My Teacher Told Me
    ), "something significant has been left out of the broad history of race in America as it is usually taught," namely the establishment between 1890 and 1968 of thousands of "sundown towns" that systematically excluded African-Americans from living within their borders. Located mostly outside the traditional South, these towns employed legal formalities, race riots, policemen, bricks, fires and guns to produce homogeneously Caucasian communities—and some of them continue such unsavory practices to this day. Loewen's eye-opening history traces the sundown town's development and delineates the extent to which state governments and the federal government, "openly favor white supremacy" from the 1930s through the 1960s, "helped to create and maintain all-white communities" through their lending and insuring policies. "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," Loewen points out. The expulsion forced African-Americans into urban ghettoes and continues to have ramifications on the lives of whites, blacks and the social system at large. Admirably thorough and extensively footnoted, Loewen's investigation may put off some general readers with its density and statistical detail, but the stories he recounts form a compelling corrective to the "textbook archetype of interrupted progress." As the first comprehensive history of sundown towns ever written, this book is sure to become a landmark in several fields and a sure bet among Loewen's many fans.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2005
    Loewen (sociology, emeritus, Univ. of Vermont)", "who received the American Book Award for "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong", here offers a passionate and encyclopedic first account of the towns, suburbs, and neighborhoods throughout the United States that enforced the exclusion of minorities within their borders. Focusing on African Americans during the 20th century, Loewen shows in enormous detail that hundreds of localities, either formally or informally, prevented blacks from living in their municipalities or even appearing in them after dark. He discusses the nature, causes, and long-term impact of these practices and concludes that although signs no longer appear at city limits warning blacks to get out before dark, the sundown attitudes remain too common among many Americans. Although this book is too long by half and relies too much upon hearsay evidence, it belongs in most libraries, especially those in former sundown towns! -A. O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN

    Copyright 2005 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Sundown Towns
A Hidden Dimension of American Racism
James W. Loewen
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