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

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

From Maine to California, thousands of communities kept out African Americans (or sometimes Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, etc.) by force, law, or custom. These communities are sometimes called "sundown towns" because some of them posted signs at their city limits reading, typically, "Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On You In ___." Some towns are still all white on purpose. Their chilling stories have been joined more recently by the many elite (and some not so elite) suburbs like Grosse Pointe, MI, or Edina, MN, that have excluded nonwhites by "kinder gentler means." When I began this research, I expected to find about 10 sundown towns in Illinois (my home state) and perhaps 50 across the country. Instead, I have found about 507 in Illinois and thousands across the United States. This is their story; it is the first book ever written on the topic.

Sundown Towns in the United States

Search the Sundown Towns Database

Goshen, Indiana, Pledges To Transcend Its Sundown Town Past

On March 17, 2015, the mayor and city council of Goshen, Indiana, passed a resolution to acknowledge and transcend its past as a sundown town. Between 1890 and 1940, more than 200 towns and counties in Indiana became sundown towns -- places that were "all-white" on purpose. Goshen was one of these towns. To be sure, it stopped enforcing its ban both formally and informally some years ago, but this resolution clearly moves Goshen beyond its sundown past. I recommend it as a model for other former (or persisting) sundown towns in Indiana and across the United States.


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Population Files for Towns in Selected States

Here I share Excel files of town populations by race for selected states. Some are much more complete than others. If you develop such a file for a state not included here, or a more comprehensive file for a state that is included here, kindly email it to me and I'll post it below for other researchers to use. Thank you. My email address is jloewen@uvm.edu.

Racism Curve

Sundown Towns in the Arts

"Sundown in Southern Illinois"

"Sundown Town" in Fayetteville, AR

"No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs" in Northern Virginia

Al Franken's art about being in sundown neighborhoods and suburbs of southwest Chicago.

A One-Person Show About Moving Into a Sundown Town (among other things)

Ry Cooder sings about sundown towns, hoboes, and other Americana

View the Graphic Summary of Sundown Town Talk to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Part One [JPEG] by Kim Love, Graphic Recorder

View the Graphic Summary of Sundown Town Talk to the Annie E. Casey Foundation Part Two [JPEG] by Kim Love, Graphic Recorder


Click on image to learn how

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Sundown Towns in the News

"Loewen answers attack in Champaign News-Gazette, suggests steps for "recovering" sundown towns in Champaign County to take."

"Discussion of interesting interracial town near Waverly, OH, contains first-hand information on Waverly as a notorious sundown town."

"Sundown Towns Documentary Airs on Injustice Files"

"Sundown Towns Documentary"

"Keith Beauchamp Films Sundown Town Sign in Tennessee"

Washington Post, "Darkness on the Edge of Town"

Washington Post, "When Signs Said Get Out"

Does My Town Have a Racist Past?

The Dallas Morning News found sundown towns in Texas

Forgotten story of America's whites-only towns

"Talking History," a program of the Organization of American Historians, interviewed Jim Loewen about Sundown Towns.

Loewen attacks bad history in nomination statement of Kenilworth, IL, as "most endangered historic site"

Loewen asks Honda why it chose Indiana sundown town for huge new factory

Elliot Jaspin discussing Sundown Towns

Jean Pfaelzer discussing Sundown Towns against the Chinese in California

Washington Post, "Darkness on the Edge of Town"

Sundown Towns in Texas

Sundown Towns in Indiana

Sundown Towns in Wisconsin

A book selection of...

Samples from Sundown Towns

The Introduction to Sundown Towns [PDF]

Sundown Town Slideshow

Information About Sundown Towns

Check out the Wikipedia Article on Sundown Towns

Read an encyclopedia entry about Sundown Towns by James Loewen

Have James Loewen Speak on Sundown Towns

Students Make Documentary About Sundown Towns in Ohio, Win First in National History Day

Read about books that Mention Sundown Towns

Read about books that Should Mention Sundown Towns, but DON'T

Learn about Future Research Areas

Learn How To Confirm Sundown Towns

Learn How To Confirm Sundown Towns from David Neiwert

Read an essay on how to Assess Historical Sources

Play a trivia game about the Nadir of Race Relations

This site was created by Matt Cheney and is copyright James W. Loewen 1997-2015.