James Loewen: Wants to pressure Sundown Towns to change

Historians in the News

As many of you know, I have been working since 1999 to learn about, write about, and cause social change in sundown towns. Sundown towns are communities that for decades were — and some still are — all white on purpose.

My book, Sundown Towns, debuted in the fall of 2005 and is now available in paperback (Simon & Schuster) and recorded form (Recorded Books). As Sundown Towns shows, a community can be a sundown town even though it has a few African Americans. These people might be in institutions such as a university or prison. Or they might be servants in white households. Sometimes one family may have been allowed as a known exception. Some towns kept out other groups — Native Americans, Asian Americans, Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and in the suburbs, Jews.

At my website, http://www.uvm.edu/~jloewen/sundowntowns.php , I am developing a clearinghouse for research on sundown towns. Many people, from middle-school students to at least two Ph.D. candidates, are now doing research on sundown towns. Important questions in sociology, economics, psychology, and other social sciences can be researched by comparing sundown towns with neighboring multiracial communities. Moreover, simply identifying all towns with this policy, today or in the past, is an important research project.

My intent is to identify and publicize every sundown town in the U.S., hoping to get each of them to take at least the following three steps:

1. Admit it. ("We did this.")
2. Apologize. ("We did it and we're sorry.")
3. Change. ("We did it, we're sorry, and we don't do it any more" — and with teeth in that last statement, so everyone knows it's true.)

Then a "recovering" sundown town can work on second-generation sundown town problems, such as an all-white teaching staff in the public schools or lack of economic diversity in its residential inventory.

Today I would like to announce a new step in sundown town research: a newsletter, The Sundown Town Newsletter. Volume 1 #1 is available for your perusal at [SOURCE link above].

I hope you will read the newsletter, spend some time looking around at the website, and join this enterprise.

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