Sundown towns: effects of racial exclusion long-lasting

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If you were an African American in one of a number of predominantly white, Detroit-area towns in the late 1890s, you probably knew the tacit rule: Get out of town before sunset.
Today you'll still see the legacy of these so-called sundown towns, thousands of which sprang up all over the United States after Reconstruction and flourished through the civil rights era.

Such towns have been documented by sociologist James Loewen in his 2005 book "Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism." "I thought I'd find a few hundred across the country, but I found thousands," he said.

One of those towns was Wyandotte.

In 1955, when librarian Edwina DeWindt published her history of Wyandotte, the chapter labeled "Negro" didn't make the cut. But her research establishing the city as a sundown town remains on file at Wyandotte's Bacon Memorial District Library.

"It includes about 50 pages of oral histories, along with local newspaper accounts and minutes from City Hall," said library director Janet Cashin. "I think the publishers may have said, 'We don't need that chapter in the book because it doesn't shed the right kind of light on the city.' "

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