Hidden Racial Tensions in 'Sundown Towns'

Some use the phrase to refer to Midwest towns where black people "aren't welcome after dark." A legacy of racial persecution has left majority-white places where black people feel their outlier status.
April 26, 2017, 12pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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In Midwest towns in states like Indiana and Ohio, the issue of race rarely comes up. Unless you're not white, that is. Jack Shuler covers the debate around "'sundown towns'–towns where black Americans knew they were not welcome once the sun went down."

"In sundown towns across the Midwest, black Americans were denied housing, persecuted, or violently evicted during a period from the 1890s to the 1940s, leaving a homogeneity that has defined the towns for much of the past century." The result is a disparity between whites, many of whom don't see any racial issues, and the black minority, who often live lives defined by race.

For those researching American demographic history, written records can only tell part of the story. As a result, "the very concept of sundown towns is debated. The historian who has looked deepest into the phenomenon, James Loewen, contends that there were once thousands stretching from coast to coast. Critics of his work say he relies too much on oral history."

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Published on Monday, March 27, 2017 in Christian Science Monitor
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