Books: Non-Fiction

Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism

Book — Non-fiction. By James Loewen. 2018. 592 pages.
Documents the history of towns across the United States that exclude African Americans (and other racial/ethnic groups) after sundown.

Time Periods: 20th Century
Themes: African American, Reconstruction, Racism & Racial Identity

“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 towns and villages across the United States, 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 20th 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. [Publisher’s description.]

“From Maine to California, thousands of communities kept out African Americans (or sometimes Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, etc.) by force, law, or custom. 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, Michigan, or Edina, Minnesota, 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 more than 440 in Illinois and thousands across the United States. This is their story; it is the first book ever written on the topic.” — James W. Loewen

Read the Introduction to Sundown Towns.

Find the sundown towns in your state and/or submit more information to the author using this map:

ISBN: 9780743294485 | The New Press